The Most Underrated Player In Baseball

Yesterday, the venerable Joe Posnanski sent out this message on Twitter.

Posanski’s right about Alex Gordon being better than people think, as his arm makes him a real weapon in the outfield and he’s developed into a pretty good hitter after a disappointing start to his career. There’s no question that Gordon is an underrated player, as his particular set of skills aren’t as sexy as some others, and of course he plays in relative obscurity in Kansas City.

But, at the same time, Gordon simply falls in line with the typical formula of underrated players. Small market, bad team, good but not great hitter, strong defense at a corner position – these types of players are always underrated. So, in that sense, it’s not really Gordon that’s underrated as much as it is his particular combination of skillset and geography. And for me, that’s a little less interesting. If we knew that Gordon would get more press if he simply played for a winning team or in a more prominent market, then Gordon isn’t so much “the most underrated player” as he is a victim of the media coverage of lousy midwest franchises.

In thinking about Posnanski’s tweet, I wondered if we could tease out the geography and team record aspects, and try to find out which player is perhaps the most underrated based simply on his own merits, rather than because he plays in obscurity due to the failings of his teammates or because of his current zip code. What we’re looking for is a good player who doesn’t get much recognition for his value despite playing on either a winning team or in a major media market with significant television exposure and national coverage.

Looking through the list, there are some decent candidates. People still don’t give Adrian Beltre his due credit, but he did sign a $90 million contract with Texas and has made three straight All-Star teams, so he’s getting a decent amount of recognition. There seems to be less talk about Hiroki Kuroda than you might expect from a guy who has had an excellent — if somewhat brief — career in Los Angeles and New York, so he’s in the conversation. Shane Victorino is another good candidate, having been overshadowed by bigger names on the Philies, but he finished 13th in the MVP voting last year and has gone to a few All-Star games, so he’s not a total unknown either.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized there’s one guy who fits the bill perfectly. He’s played for three teams in his seven year career, each of whom play in a major media market. He’s currently a vital cog on a first place team, and yet his performance has gone mostly overlooked. He’s one of the better available pieces in the often disparaged class of 2013 free agents, but MLBTradeRumors hasn’t written about him since June. He’s a really good player on a winning team who has spent his entire career playing in front of large audiences, and yet, he’s still off most people’s radar. In terms of production in environments where that should garner you some recognition, there is perhaps no player in baseball more underrated than Angel Pagan.

Over the last four years, Pagan has accumulated just over 2,100 plate appearances and produced +12.9 WAR, or an average of +3.7 WAR per 600 PA. Some other players in MLB who have averaged between +3.5 and +4.0 WAR per 600 PA over the last four years: Mark Teixeira, Jay Bruce, and Curtis Granderson. I think you might hear a little bit more about them than you do about Pagan.

This isn’t even a case like Gordon’s where a lot of his value is tied up in league-best fielding marks by UZR – Pagan’s UZR over the last four years is just +8 while splitting his time between all three outfield positions, so his value has come despite being regarded as just as slightly above average defender. In reality, Pagan is just a good all-around player who produces value in every aspect of the game.

His 110 wRC+ this year is an exact match for the average he’s put up over the last four years, which puts him ahead of the likes of Michael Bourn (108) and B.J. Upton (105), the two center fielders who get the most attention for their upcoming free agency this winter. It also puts him in the same territory as guys like Adam Jones (111) and Derek Jeter (113), both of whom are recognized as valuable contributors because of their ability to produce offense at an up-the-middle position.

In addition to being an above average hitter and an above average fielder, Pagan is also an excellent baserunner, which is an area that is often overlooked in producing value. Since the start of the 2009 season, he’s stolen 106 bases — 7th most in the majors — while only getting caught 30 times, a success rate of 78%. He’s also added +11 runs in baserunning value aside from his SB/CS totals, ranking him in the top ten in the majors over the last four years.

He’s an above average hitter, an above average fielder, an excellent baserunner, a switch-hitter who can produce from both sides of the plate, and he’s currently one of the main reasons the San Francisco Giants are in first place in the NL West. And yet, Angel Pagan continues to toil in relative obscurity. For those reasons, and with all due respect to Alex Gordon, I nominate Pagan as the most underrated player in baseball today.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


115 Responses to “The Most Underrated Player In Baseball”

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  1. maxjusttyped says:

    Currently? Gordon certainly has a case. In this “era” of baseball though, it has to be Mark Buehrle. There’s a very realistic chance he finishes his career with 70+ WAR.

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    • MauerPower says:

      I guess it depends on which WAR you prefer. I prefer BR WAR for pitchers, and based off that he has 48.5 WAR. Still good, but not 65-70 WAR good.

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    • ASURay says:

      Buehrle has definitely been consistent throughout his career, but his career FIP is pretty average, and he just got paid to the tune of $58 million over four years. At his current performance level, he stands to fall short of giving the Marlins their money’s worth. In order to get to 70 WAR, he’d have to maintain his 2009-2011 production level until he’s 39 or 40. Unlikely.

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      • Michael says:

        Who cares about his FIP? The man’s pitched about ~2650 innings in the majors, if his FIP doesn’t match his ERA, that’s a skill. The end. You cannot write off that many innings as an aberration.

        If the model diverges with reality, there’s something wrong with the model, not with reality.

        Further, he’s never been to the DL, never missed a start, and has pitched into the 6th inning and given his teams quality starts in an insane percentage of his starts.

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      • ASURay says:

        Buehrle has made around $30 million in his career, which another $40 million or so in guaranteed money yet to come. Pagan stands at around $6 million. Buehrle has averaged 3.9 WAR/ season for his career and holds an ERA-/FIP- of 84 and 93, respectively. Pagan, meanwhile, has posted an average of around 3 WAR per season (I tried to account for all of his partial seasons), while posting a wRC+ of 105. Buehrle has performed better, but has also been recognized for it in terms of money and accolades (4x AS, 3x GG, once in the Top 5 in CY voting). Pagan has never been voted an AS/GG, despite the fact that his best year (2010), wasn’t that far off from Buehrle’s best (2005).

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      • payroll says:

        See RA9-wins

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      • The Ronin says:

        If the model diverges with reality, there’s something wrong with the model, not with reality.

        Absolutely love this line!!!! I think all of us statistically inclined people need to remember this from time to time.

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      • NS says:

        The man’s pitched about ~2650 innings in the majors, if his FIP doesn’t match his ERA, that’s a skill. The end.

        No, not the end. Not even a beginning. That is not an argument.

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/a-random-walk-with-fip/

        If the model diverges with reality, there’s something wrong with the model, not with reality.

        Begging the effing question. The assumption here is that ERA=reality, which is just absurd. It blows my mind that someone could write these words without realizing it.

        ERA is – wait for it – a model. And if it’s adjusted RA you’re talking about (e.g. rWAR), that’s an even more complex model.

        Want to make a case that one model is superior to the other? Go ahead. It can certainly be done and it makes for very interesting discussion. But spare everyone your hollow, circular, and self-defeating lists of conclusions.

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      • diegosanchez says:

        I wasn’t aware that this was the personal attacks section of fangraphs.

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      • NS says:

        Which part of that was a personal attack? The characterization of his conclusions? That’s personal?

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      • pebohead says:

        Whoa, a post saying that ERA is superior to FIP has +33?? Did Fangraphs get bought by bleacher report?

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    • ASURay says:

      I respect Dan’s work, but I’m confused as to why he would say that. Buehrle has averaged 3.5 WAR/yr. over the past three years (using Fangraph’s WAR). Going back five years, he’s averaged 3.76 WAR. He’s on pace to finish at around 2.3 WAR this year, which would put him around 48.2 WAR for his career. He would need another 21.8 WAR to get to 70. Even using the more optimistic 3.76 value, he’d need to pitch 5.76 more seasons while maintaining that level of production. He’ll turn 34 during spring training next year. Assuming some age-related decline, he’ll probably have to stay productive into his 40s to get to 70 WAR. As to his value, using a $5 million / WAR criteria, he’ll need to average 2.9 WAR per season to give Miami their money’s worth. His projected 2.3 WAR total for this year doesn’t exactly put him off to the greatest start.

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  2. lester bangs says:

    Not long ago it was Yadi Molina, but it’s caught up.

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  3. Justin says:

    No love for Martin Prado?

    Dude is versatile, an above average hitter, and a good fielder.

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    • Zach says:

      How valuable is versatility? Seriously, I want to know. Has anyone here ever written about that? How would one quantify that? It clearly does provide something, but I guess a lot of it depends on the team environment such a player falls in.

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      • Shane says:

        Ask the Rays how valuable versatilty is. Ben Zobrist tied for 2nd best WAR in MLB 2009-current. Keppinger has been great. Even Sean Rodriguez still has a roster spot.

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      • Marshall says:

        Yeah, that’s a study that I want to see, as well. By being even an average bat/glove at two or more positions, you increase the likelihood of utilizing platoon advantages. Instead of needing a good right/left bat that can play a given position, you instead need a good right bat that can play one position, and a good left that can play another. You basically get a 2-position platoon with 3 players instead of 4.

        As the other commenter indicated, the Rays used this with Zobrist in RF/2B for quite some time.

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      • Detroit Michael says:

        Ben Zobrist is also my candidate for most underrated player. He’s been among the top 10 AL players two of the last three years and, except in early 2009 when his power surge was new, one seldom reads about him.

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      • schlomsd says:

        The problem with Zobrist is that so much of his Fangraphs WAR is tied up in his defense which may or may not be accurate.

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      • KDL says:

        The other (weird) problem with Zobrist is fantasy baseball. 20 years ago Zobrist would be a prime candidate for being little known and little respected. But his offensive numbers, versatility (esp. at thin offensive positions) has put him on many, many people’s radar.

        He’s still under-rated, for sure. But I just don’t see him anywhere near the bottom of the list. Because of his value in a weird, popular game, he’s much better known than he would be otherwise…and much more highly (accurately?) rated.

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      • Ben Hall says:

        “The problem with Zobrist is that so much of his Fangraphs WAR is tied up in his defense which may or may not be accurate.”

        I think you’re overstating this. First of all, his defensive contributions over the last four years have been roughly 2, 1, 1, and 1 wins. The two might be high, but he’s clearly a very good defender. Nobody’s really arguing about that, are they? One win is not excessive.

        Beyond that, he’s been worth 8.7, 3.9, 6.6, and is on pace for over 5 WAR this year. He’s a very, very good player, but because his value comes from walking, hitting doubles, playing good defense, playing some of that defense at an important defensive position, and running the bases well, he’s definitely not recognized as such.

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      • Jon L. says:

        I think most sabermetric models would value Ben Zobrist less highly because he plays many of his games at a position that is not especially difficult to play, and where there are some good offensive players. In reality, he’s immensely more valuable because of his ability to play that position.

        Likewise, a player who can play either first or third is valued much lower if his team has a primary third baseman than if his team has a primary first baseman, even though his skills remain the same. But versatility is difficult to value. How much value is there in a team not needing to use a roster spot for an emergency shortstop or center fielder? How do you credit a versatile player when the 6th or 7th guy out of the bullpen (who otherwise wouldn’t be on the team) contributes to a victory? I’d love to see an article on this.

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  4. Will H. says:

    Good choice. But also consider Danny Espinosa. His own team’s most rabid fans still don’t seem to think he’s much of a value.

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  5. Ben says:

    I wonder if you could find an accurate measure for media/fan mentions/attention. Google results and Twitter mentions divided by WAR? Someone has to have some sort of tool that measures a given public figure’s presence.

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  6. Rod says:

    6 separate DL stints for a total of 389 days on the DL in his career. I understand quality over quantity but sometimes quantity is underrated.

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  7. Paul Sporer says:

    I’ve got Allen Craig. Doesn’t give much D value, but definitely one of the most underrated hitters in the game and possibly THE most underrated.

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    • gabigool says:

      I think the love caught up this season, and maybe has even gone a little far.

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      • Paul Sporer says:

        How do you figure? I don’t see it having really caught up thus I obviously don’t see it having gone too far. He has the 11th-best OPS+ among those w/400+ PA and he certainly isn’t mentioned the esteem of the group:

        Trout, Cutch, Miggy, Posey, Braun, Melky, Prince, EE, Stanton, Wright and then Craig tied w/Pujols & Willingham.

        EE and Willingham aren’t exactly household names, either, but their seasons are getting much more run than The Wrench’s. Craig needs to show some health for a full season, that’s for sure, but he’s one of the best hitters in the game and he isn’t acclaimed as such.

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      • Keith says:

        You’re trying to call Craig underrated for killing the ball in what equates to abotu a full season’s worth of plate appearances (622). In 124 plate appearances before that (the only other 124 PA of his career), he hit .246 with a wRC+ of 88.

        The reason Allen Craig is not being acclaimed as something like the 11th-best hitter in baseball is because of the short length of time in which he has done it.

        You know who was 19th in wRC+ last season? Alex Avila (at 140), who is now hitting a robust .243 with a wRC+ of 100. Last season, the now-underrated Alex Gordon was 17th, at 141 wRC+.

        How about 2010? Who was 13th in wRC+ then? Aubrey Huff. And 17th? Luke Scott. The fact is, Craig’s got one season if plate appearances spread over 2 season here, becuase he hasnt’ stayed healthy. He’s just now figuring it out in the majors at 27/28 (partially from being blocked defensively), and one season isn’t enough to really praise him.

        I have the guy on my fantasy team, and I love playing him at second this season, but I’m not ready to call him a top-15 hitter.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        Maybe it’s because I live in Missouri, but I’ve rarely heard of an underrated Cardinal. Their fans are vocal enough that they all eventually get noticed.

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      • NPM says:

        Keith, the small sample size argument doesn’t hold up as much for Craig because he’s been raking at every level since 2007. And go ahead and throw his 47 2011 Postseason PAs of 1.013 OPS in the pile with his minor league numbers, too.

        Alex Avila and Luke Scott comparisons are not apt, a pretty flimsy argument.

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    • I have Allen Craig listed in the Top 10 hitters so far this season. My rankings are based on consistency. You can download my full leaderboards at my blog.

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  8. Alana Evans says:

    I think Brett Gardner is the most underrated player in MLB. The case is similar to Pagan’s from an offensive standpoint but the difference is that Gardner has played elite level defense. The point in Pagan’s favor would be that Gardner has only done it for 2 years, not 3.

    Gardner produced fWAR’s of 6 and 5 in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Cano was the only Yankee position player who out-fWAR’d Gardner in 2010. Gardner had the 3rd highest fWAR of Yankee position players in 2011. And Gardner had the 2nd highest fWAR on the team when you combine the two years, once again only trailing Cano. Gardner produced a 111 wRC+ over that two year span with perhaps the best defensive LF performance in all of baseball. And of course he received absolutely no MVP or All-Star support and very little buzz as a snub either.

    The Yankees are really missing him this year. He is so underrated that even Joe Girardi has no clue how valuable he is; he was benching Gardner in favor of Eduardo Nunez and/or Andruw Jones back in April prior to Gardner’s injury. No other team would bench their 2nd best position player in favor of those highly-flawed players.

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    • Max says:

      A good option, but not to the same extent as Pagan.

      Commenters bring up solid alternatives, but I think Dave nailed it. The combination of solid play across the board and relative unknown-ness is just greater with Pagan than with any of the other players mentioned.

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      • Cliff says:

        How so? His offense is just as good and his defense is much better, making him not just a very good player but an elite one. Yet no one talks about the damage his injury has done to the Yankees’ season.

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      • henry says:

        @cliff yeah, but gardner gets much more press than pagan. seriously, pagan is never in the news, ever.

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      • wobatus says:

        Pagan’s fielding was atrocious his last year in NY. His UZR ain’t lyin’. Overall he just wasn’t that good in 2011, which is a shame, because he had been pretty good and is pretty good again. The Torres/Ramirez trade for Pagan didn’t go down too well for Sandy Alderson.

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    • Atari says:

      I agree but you can’t make that argument for this year considering he has missed so much time.

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    • Paul Sporer says:

      Underrated, but far from the most underrated. Great defender, but an average bat. A speedy slap hitter with good on-base skills.

      I think Pagan is a good measure better than Gardner.

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    • DZCox says:

      I definitely agree that Brett Gardner is extremely underrated. A co-worker of mine looked at me like I was insane when I said Gardner is my favorite player. He kept saying that Gardner is mediocre at best. And I mean, granted, Gardner doesn’t hit for a high average or have much power. But he has excellent speed, top shelf defense, and very good on-base skills. The guy is an absolute artist in the outfield, and he hasn’t even won a Gold Glove (though he does have two Fielding Bible awards). He might not be the MOST underrated, especially since he missed basically the entire season this year, but he’s got to be in the discussion.

      And I love Alana’s point about even his own manager not recognizing his value. It always infuriated me when Girardi benched Gardner in favor of Jones, even though Gardner hasn’t had a terrible platoon split for his career and is obviously far superior defensively.

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    • Davidoff says:

      I agree that Gardner is underrated, but would still slightly vote for Pagan over Gardner.

      Gardner is an elite baserunner and an elite outfielder. While his arm may be a 7 or 8 out of 10, his range is a 10 out of 10. He should have easily won a Gold Glove last year, and the Fielding Bible backs it up as pointed out before. His BA/OBP are slightly above average, but will stay consistent or slightly improve for years. He is a 3.5/5-tool player with everything except power.

      Of course, you want more power from a corner outfield position, but Granderson provides the traditional corner outfield power in center. If we switched Gardy and Grandy, the power/speed numbers would seem more traditional. Gardner would more than likely be a centerfielder on most other teams, but the Yankees will let Granderson stay in center for the prestige aspect of that position and because he possesses 80-90% of the glove/speed ability of Gardner. So we won’t see a noticeable difference.

      Anyway, Gardner has been very good, but after being sidlined this year, he will have to reprove himself in 2013. His 2011 season was his first year big enough to propel him into serious consideration for a GG and establish himself as a legitimate ML starter. It’s too bad he could not build on that in 2012. Now, the doubters will want to see it for 2 more years to be convinced.

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      • Davidoff says:

        I should add that as a Yankees fan, I would still prefer Gardner over Pagan on the Yankees. With a team that has as many other players with power potential, his baserunning and speed add an attribute that few other players have. On the Giants, Pagan is more valuable than Gardner. Pagan has slightly more power, a better OBP, and his defense and baserunning are nearly as good to justify him being better as an average player for most teams. However, I think Gardner is the perfect complement to a Yankees team where most other players are slower and more powerful. I agree with the many people who said the Ichiro trade tried to fill the roster void left by Gardner’s injury. Ichiro is about 3/4 the player that Gardner is at this very moment. In his prime , Ichiro was much better of course – I’m not trying to take anything away from the 2001 AL ROY/MVP and all-time single-season hits leader.

        To be honest, I think we could start another thread on how underrated Ichiro has become. Who knows what kind numbers he would have put up if he started in the USA? He is easily the most underrated All-Star, or something of that vein.

        I say at least 3,500 hits. More likely 3,800+.

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  9. Tim says:

    Many people aren’t going to agree with me, but I think Adam LaRoche is extremely underrated. Yes he plays a position where lots of offense is expected, and he’s definitely not a top 5 first basemen, but I feel like he’s perceived as a bad baseball player. He’s been been on 5 different teams in 9 years, never secured a long term contract, and every fan base always seems disappointed when their team acquires him to play first. LaRoche has a career OPS of .819 and WRC+ of 111, both above average. He’s been outstanding this year hitting 28 home runs, and there’s no way the Nationals would have the best record in baseball if without his contributions.

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    • dirtbag says:

      I don’t think I’ve every heard anyone saying that LaRoche is a bad baseball player, just that he’s not the kind of 1B you need to carry you to greatness. (Fortunately, the Nats has several other guys to do that.) And he’s having a career year this season.

      And saying that ” there’s no way the Nationals would have the best record in baseball if without his contributions” isn’t exactly controversial given that they only have that record by one game. That means that WAR says that you could say the same about Roger Bernadina, Jayson Werth and his 56 games, and Steve Lombardozzi.

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    • Fetus Flusher says:

      Yeah a wRC+ of 111 is above average, but is it above average for a 1B? Here are some wRC+ of the entire universe of 1B over the course of LaRoche’s career:

      2012: 106
      2011: 112
      2010: 112
      2009: 114
      2008: 109
      2007: 110
      2006: 113
      2005: 112
      2004: 109

      I think LaRoche needed to do more to stand out from that group.

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  10. Greg says:

    He’s underrated because we didn’t know he was good until this year. Was he the 2010 Angel or the 2011 Angel? Was 2010 a fluke? I think this year is revealing he is closer to the 2010/2009 version than the 2011 version.

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  11. Average_Casey says:

    Dave,

    Don’t tell people about Angel Pagan anymore please. I want him on the Mariners next year and if he doesn’t get any attention, there is a decent chance he’s attainable for a relatively low price. Great piece, but please stop. The Mariners need someone like him.

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  12. Until they make a national holiday out of his birthday, Mike Trout will be the most criminally underrated person in all of sport.

    And I do mean criminally, all you doubters should be in jail, breaking rocks with your obstreperous heads.

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    • Tim says:

      Mike Trout’s birthday is also the birthday of the Holy Roman Empire, the Purple Heart, Don Larsen, the US offensive in World War II, the programmable calculator, the Lincoln penny, the Ivory Coast, the Barry Bonds career home run reign, and Sidney Crosby.

      Coincidence?

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    • mo-rod says:

      Trout is a great player, but he got more recognition than God this year. Hard for anyone to say Trout is underrated in any mannner,even if you were just joking. If you want to talk rookies, most of whom are underrated because their full potential is yet to be realized, you’ve got to consider Sal Perez the most underrated. Few fans in baseball even know who he is. As recent as one year ago he wasn’t even considered a top-10 prospect in the Royals system. Now, pretty sure possibly every GM in baseball would trade for him 1-up for their catcher. He might be 9 months away from being the best catcher in baseball.

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  13. mettle says:

    The fans in pacbell know how great Pagan is.
    He’s one of those players that even look better live than on TV or on the statsheet.

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  14. Dave G. says:

    What a bad trade that was by Alderson. When you factor in the Wheeler for Beltran trade, maybe the 2 even out a little more. Pagan led the Mets in position player WAR in ’09 and ’10, they should’ve held onto him.

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    • sturock says:

      No kidding. Torres and Ramirez have been absolute busts.

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    • Dunston says:

      Pagan was a revelation in 2010, but I cannot begin to describe how dismal he was last year. He was absolutely brutal in the field (as his -14.3 UZR can attest), and his offensive numbers dipped as well. In retrospect, it’s not a great trade, but there weren’t a ton of Mets fans clamoring for Alderson’s head when he pulled the trigger.

      If you factor in the Wheeler trade, then Alderson looks like a genius, and it’s not even close. For two months of Beltran (and without any draft pick compensation), the Mets got a top-10 pitching prospect.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      It turned out very poorly for them, but there were serious doubts about him before this season. Yeah, he was very good in ’09 (half season) and ’10, but he’s always had injury problems, he was a bad player last year, and he has virtually no baseball IQ. The last issue is seemingly why they ditched him. Much of his value was taken from defense/baserunning, but he was awful in CF last year (-14.3 runs in 123 games). He could’ve easily had a Torres-like season this year and nobody would have been surprised.

      But yeah, in retrospect that does look pretty bad. Not devastatingly bad, but it was pretty lopsided.

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  15. AF says:

    The problem with “underrated” or “overrated” player discussions is that how a player is “rated” is vague and ambiguous. Does it mean underpaid? Overlooked for awards such as the All-Star game, GG, and MVP voting? Not “talked about” by the press? Not cheered by the fans? Not touted by the fantasy baseball or stathead communities (which are becoming increasingly mainstream)? Without more clarity about what is meant by overrated and underrated, these discussions are never going to be very satisfying.

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  16. TX Ball Scout says:

    Headley, Gordon, Zobrist.

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    • Kellin says:

      How can one of the most talked about trading options also be under-rated. It seemed like every contending team was at some point making offers for Headley, and the Padres at the same time didn’t find any of them to be good enough. Seems like a guy who’s value is pretty recognized.

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      • Bip says:

        But the media still has no idea who he is. I think that as more and more teams wake up to what makes players valuable, it will become very difficult to find player that are extremely underrated by those in baseball. However, as long as the media is comprised mostly of dinosaurs, players like Headley will be totally unheralded. I think the point of this post though was to find players that should get attention because they play for contenders in big markets but are still underrated.

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  17. AF says:

    Oftentimes the different meanings of “overrated” and “underrated” point in different directions. For example, Ben Zobrist is underrated in the sense that he seems to be less famous than his WAR totals suggest he should be. But he is adored by the growing stathead community and hasn’t been notably snubbed by MVP voters or AS selectors (made it in 2009, selected for final vote in 2011).

    Another point is that it’s common and basically legitimate for good-but-not-great players such as Pagan to get little or no recognition in the form of awards such as AS, GG, or MVP votes. Pagan hasn’t got any, but that’s because he didn’t really deserve them (he may have been an end-of-year AS in 2010 but not at midseason). For players like him, it’s even harder to determine how they’re “rated.”

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  18. Terence says:

    Obviously this is such a difficult conversation because we can’t quantify ratedness, but if we could score hype/fame/name recognition versus 2012 production, I think Lucas Harrell would show up high on that list. Here are the pitchers and hitters with the most similar WAR to Harrell at the moment:

    Halladay, Weaver, Wilson, Capuano, Cahill, Jackson, Burnett, Moore, Lynn, Latos.

    Texeira, Swisher, Infante, Lawrie, B.J. Upton, Butler, Kendrick, Ross.

    One of these things is not like the others.

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    • Sp says:

      Quantify? Why do we word drop to make ourselves sound smarter. I could pick a few words that fit better, but quantify.… so distinguished!

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  19. Baltar says:

    Jose Molina. He moves a ball caught 10″ from the strike zone into the zone so fast it can’t even be caught on film. No wonder the umpires call it a strike.

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  20. Atari says:

    I vote for Edwin Encarnacion.

    I don’t think his name has even been brought up yet.

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  21. Ben says:

    I think you could actually make a pretty compelling argument for Matt Holliday or Michael Bourn.

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  22. Thank God I’ve been hit towards Pagan! I want to taste some grass!!!

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  23. In all seriousness, I love Pagan but his defense leaves alot to be desired. Poor routes, poor coming in on shallow flies. Otherwise, he hits and fields really well to the left and right

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  24. Nick O says:

    Chase Utley was probably the second best player in the game for a five-year stretch where he was thought of by many as the third best player in his own infield. Even in his past 2 campaigns where he’s managed only 650 PAs, he’s tossed up 5.3/5.6 fWAR/bWAR.

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    • ben says:

      Chase Utley is good, and rated as such.

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      • Jim says:

        Chase Utley is thought to have been good, but a lot of his value (and the $ for it) was wrongly attributed to Ryan Howard, who got megabucks for being a pretty good offensive 1b who had an all-world 2b constantly on base in front of him.

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      • Nick O says:

        I don’t think most people realize that he’s still good, i.e. a 5+ WAR player over his last 161 games.

        And when he was great, I don’t think many people thought of him as the best or second best player in baseball (John Dewan did an analysis that had him as the best player in baseball from 2005-2009, beating Pujols and lapping the rest of the field). http://www.billjamesonline.com/stats51/

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  25. rogue_actuary says:

    I would like to respectfully submit Neil Walker for consideration. His WAR has climbed from 2.0 in 2010 to 3.0 in 2011 to 3.3 in 2012 YTD. Pagan’s line is 5.5, 0.9, 3.6.

    And, according to the Fld metric, Walker’s defense has seemingly improved from -10.7 to -3.2 to 1.2, whereas Pagan, again, has been all over the board. 15.4 to -14.3 to +0.2.

    The Pirates don’t play on national TV very often and they haven’t been successful in a long time. So, in terms of both fame and performance, my vote is for Neil Walker.

    (As an aside, that 29.7 drop in fielding runs from one year to the next might be some kind of record for guy who registered back-to-back qualifying seasons. Adam Dunn went +34 from 2009 to 2010, which seems like it might be the biggest one-year increase.)

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  26. KCDaveInLA says:

    Great article. I want to agree with Joe P. though (God knows he needs the love right now after Paterno). I think even if KC were winning, Gordon would still be undervalued.

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  27. Chase Headley says:

    Couldn’t you have done this article about a month ago?

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    • Bip says:

      Your team’s record and market size lumps you in with Gordon and kind of disqualifies you from the scope of this article.

      As a side note, the Dodgers are bringing a lot of attention back to them. If you ever feel undervalued where you are, we’d love to have you in LA.

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  28. Bip says:

    If AJ Ellis continues to produce at this level — and given that he’s done it all this year and managed an excellent OBP in his stints in 2010 and 2011 I think it’s likely — then in a few years he’ll be an excellent candidate for this type of article, especially if Don Mattingly continues to bat in 8th.

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  29. Chrisatuselessbay says:

    One of the few bright spots for the Mariners is John Jaso at wRC+ 138..he is my vote for most underrated. We have to win something this year. What a find he was for Jack Z. Can’t believe Rays let him go…but grateful !!!

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  30. Jeff says:

    How about Darwin Barney? He is unbelievable at second base defensively. He is also a good base runner. His offense leaves a lot to be desired, but how many people even know that he is probably the best defensive second basemen in the league?

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  31. The Ronin says:

    Based on an article I read today I am gonna have to go with Dante Bichette

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  32. Jason H. says:

    I consider the most overrated players to be those for whom their perceived value is largely tied up in a defensive metric, and the most underrated players to be the ones who are considered poor or mediocre because of their unusually low defensive metrics. I think this because the defensive metrics are largely just random error.

    The most overrated players are Alex Gordon, Brett Gardner, Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist.

    The most underrated player is, hands down, Derek Jeter. Jeter is pretty much great every year, and all you ever read about the guy is how he kills the team.

    I know, I know, let the thumbs down begin….

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    • Scraps says:

      “All you ever read about”? Never mind thumbs down; are you serious? Yes, lots of saberheads are down on Jeter, but mostly the opinion is very positive, both the fans and the writers. Maybe “controversial” is what you are looking for. Maybe.

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    • KDL says:

      If I cared enough I assure you I could find 15 articles/blog posts written in the last two weeks talking about how amazing Derek Jeter is.

      It is nonsense like your Derek Jeter paragraph that fuels a lot of the less rational Jeter-hate (probably the cherry-picked articles you’re thinking of). It is not a slight to say 39 yr-old SS, who is HOF bound doesn’t cover much ground. It’s both the truth, and inevitable. It wasn’t a slight to talk about his low slg % when he was hitting almost all singles.

      The worst part is…is these Jeter apologists often pretend as if their standing up for the truth. When the truth is, he’s very good. One of the best SS ever. But not a flawless player. Yet any time his flaws get looked at the Jeterites start crying about him being under-rated. If they think he’s perfect, and the consensus is that he’s not…I can see how that seems like he’s under-rated to the Jeterites. But, even #3 for the Yanks wasn’t perfect. So, until the Jeterites start seeing him as less than flawless, I’m not going to take their judgments on Jeter’s rating very seriously.

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  33. MauerPower says:

    I still say Denard Span.

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  34. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    “He’s played for three teams in his seven year career… He’s currently a vital cog on a first place team, and yet his performance has gone mostly overlooked. He’s one of the better available pieces in the often disparaged class of 2013 free agents…. He’s a really good player on a winning team who has spent his entire career playing in front of large audiences, and yet, he’s still off most people’s radar.”

    I miscounted the number of teams and number of years in his career and immediately thought “he’s Edwin Jackson!”

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  35. Tim says:

    This year? Jon Jay. You think I’m joking? Look up the numbers.

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  36. Matt says:

    A couple of guys that I think are great players that I never seem to hear all that much about from the media are Miguel Montero and Corey Hart. I guess you can make that small market argument here, but I bet the fans of the DBacks and the Brewers appreciate these guys a lot more than the rest of us.

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  37. Nate says:

    How about Tim Hudson?

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  38. simo says:

    I would probably say ben zobrist, but many of the ideas on the comments/article are equally good(although I didn’t bother reading many of the comments). I like the idea of corey hart, miguel montero, hiroki kuroda, alex gordon etc.
    However, my main problem with this article is shane victorino. Victorino is overrated in my opinion, not underrated. Even with a very good fielding rating, Victorino’s average WAR has been 3.7. That is not close to being a superstar or even necessarily an allstar, yet as Dave mentions, hes been an allstar and an MVP candidate. With a career wOBA of .344, Victorino is not THAT great of a hitter, and he has a .283 wOBA vs. righties this season, which basically makes him a great platoon candidate versus lefties but a horrid hitter versus righties, not an allstar. The hype he gets is huge, yet he has been far from a superstar. I love the work on fangraphs and agree wholeheartedly with most Dave says, but Victorino is certainly not underrated in my opinion.

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  39. Rippers says:

    Chone Figgins.

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  40. wrinklebump says:

    Wade Miley? Dude is putting up better numbers this year than some big names — Yu, Sale, Hamels.

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  41. I think it’s Jason Heyward. Basically no one talks about him or writes about him, and he’s putting up one of the best seasons in baseball for a good team. Probably because his sophomore slump ruined the narrative baseball people wanted to talk about.

    I second the Headley nomination.

    And also Elvis Andrus. He’s probably the best shortstop in baseball right now (though not as good as a healthy Tulowitzki,) basically a 5 WAR player, and the only time people talk about him is about how they should jettison him for a 19 year old prospect. I know that prospect is great, has more offensive potential, and is as potentially good defensively, but Andrus is 24, his career is on a steady upward arc, his best year’s are likely ahead of him, and there’s already talk about trading him for 70 cents on the dollar. This is a player with six or seven WAR potential, and is a good bet to remain solidly in the 4 or 5 range for the next 6 years.

    Do I understand why people are talking about what to do with him? Yes. But that’s far from the only conversation that should surround Andrus.

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    • seth says:

      I agree. Jason Heyward might be one of the top 5 best players in the game and he barely gets talked about. He hits for power has speed and is really one of the toughest outs in baseball right now all at a young age. Pitchers do not want to face him.

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  42. Glenn Danzig says:

    Pagan? Pretty Boy Pagan is afraid to get dirty or mess up his hair.hope the giants trade him.

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  43. Gore says:

    What do you guys think about Jonathan Lucroy? Surely he is an underrated piece to the Brew Crew’s puzzle.

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  44. snoop LION says:

    “ERA is – wait for it – a model. And if it’s adjusted RA you’re talking about (e.g. rWAR), that’s an even more complex model.

    Want to make a case that one model is superior to the other? Go ahead. It can certainly be done and it makes for very interesting discussion. But spare everyone your hollow, circular, and self-defeating lists of conclusions.”

    The mans got a point, I mean ERA is just a model for how good a pitcher is.. how bout the fact he gives up more unearned runs than the average pitcher. just because these are unearned doesn’t mean it doesn’t contribute to “wins”.

    Even the intangibles such as; being able to start consistently every season, not hitting the DL, maybe even the advantages of having worked with a great pitching coach etc… these things may definitely contribute to “wins” (or not) but these things are not quantified.

    Saying a FIP is broken as a model by comparing it with ERA which is also a model is irrational. Personally I, like the general concensus, do think FIP and other projections are “broken” but that is because none of these models can truly cover all the things that obviously have a contribution to how well a team performs in a season.

    There is practically no way a suitable experiment could be done with the appropriate sample size with multiple high calibre players in the MLB environment. Hence why I Fangraphs and sabremetrics so fascinating.

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  45. snoop LION says:

    An experiment to get find a correct model that is. Ranting and baked trying to type this. Tough.

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  46. James says:

    I still don’t know why the mets traded Pagan

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  47. dlk1100 says:

    Jon Miller just quoted this article on the KNBR Giants-Dodgers radio broadcast tonight. Minutes earlier, Dave Fleming referenced yesterday’s Marco Scutaro hardly-ever-swings-and-misses article. Someone feeds them Fangraphs info. Love it.

    Now if we could just get them to stop bringing up small-sample-size AVG-vs.-pitcher, etc., especially Dave…

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  48. seth says:

    Angel Pagan has seriously stepped up his game offensively. I think the reason why he has gone unnoticed or unappreciated in the past is his tendency to do some silly bonehead things. Earlier in the year he would get frustrated and give away at bats and argue with the umpire all the time. Also his defense is below average for a center fielder even though he has terrific speed. A lot of routine balls fall in while he tries to make the spectacular play. One thing is for sure he has had a huge impact offensively in the last couple months. A lot of big time hits and runs scored. But he is on a torrid pace right now while you have written this article. He isnt and has not really been a consistent player as Mets fans will tell you especially defensively. Defense is definitely important at ATT park.

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