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The Winn Of The IF

After yesterday’s post on Randy Winn, I thought to myself “which infielder is the Winn of IFs”, and it didn’t take long for me to come to the conclusion that the underrated good-at-everything, great-at-nothing guy was Placido Polanco – the underappreciated infielder.

Now, Polanco is probably held in slightly higher regard than Winn – he was in all-star in 2007, after all. However, when people talk about the best second baseman in the AL, you usually hear names like Roberts, Kinsler, and Pedroia, all fine players in their own right. But we can’t overlook Polanco.

He’s a career .306/.350/.417 hitter, which is basically built upon a foundation of contact hitting and gap power – he’s aggressive at the plate, rarely walks, and won’t crack double digits in home runs most years, but he racks up the singles with his bat control. The approach works, too, as he’s racked up a career 4.24 WPA/LI mark, and that’s weighed down by a poor start to his career with St. Louis. Over the last seven years, his average WPA/LI per season is right around 0.8, putting him just under a win better than a league average hitter per season.

But like Winn, Polanco really shines defensively. The Fielding Bible had him at +5 plays in 2006, +10 plays last year, and already at +12 plays this season. Polanco is, by pretty every metric, one of the best defensive second baseman around, adding close to a full win to his team every year with the glove.

The combination of his bat and glove serve to make him close to +2 wins above an average player, or almost +4 wins above replacement. That’s a heck of a ball player.

He might not be Chase Utley, but he’s right there with the second tier of major league second baseman. Don’t overlook Polanco in discussions of the game’s most underrated players.