The Most Underrated Player in Baseball, Again

Usually, these things tend to go in one direction. We talk about a player who seems underrated, and then, in time, that player becomes rated more or less appropriately. We’ve seen this happen with, say, Jose Quintana, who used to be considered a nobody even while he was pitching out of his mind. A lot more people now know how good Kyle Seager is. People know how good Starling Marte is. People have even figured out how good Kevin Kiermaier is, basically. Obligatory Ben Zobrist mention. Great players don’t stay hidden too long. I should note that I’m open to the argument Mike Trout remains underrated, but that’s different, because his ability is impossible for humans to understand.

You don’t see many players go from underrated to understood to underrated again. Such a sequence ordinarily wouldn’t make any sense. Yet, sometimes, there are just atypical circumstances. Of course there’s no infallible metric for underratedness. I know that I can’t prove anything, so we can get that out of the way up front. But I’m just here to remind you about A.J. Pollock. Pollock was once criminally underrated, and then, as time passed, he was recognized as one of the greats. Then he missed almost an entire baseball season. Out of sight, out of mind — that is how we work. So Pollock is back to where he was, preparing for camp as Arizona’s neglected star.

There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding Andrew McCutchen, which is among the primary reasons he hasn’t been traded. McCutchen is right around 30 years old, and two seasons ago, he was a six-win outfielder. Then he dropped to being a half-win outfielder. Uncertainty exists because McCutchen was a below-average player over 153 games.

Pollock is right around 30 years old, although he’s a year younger than McCutchen is. Two seasons ago, he was a six-win outfielder, and then he dropped to being a half-win outfielder. But where McCutchen was worth almost nothing over 675 trips to the plate, Pollock was worth almost nothing over 46. By now, you probably remember seeing clips of him fracturing his elbow while sliding early last year. Pollock isn’t a bounceback candidate in the way McCutchen is. We haven’t actually seen A.J. Pollock be bad.

It’s not particularly good to miss a season. We’d all be more comfortable if Pollock were just a healthy Pollock all of the time. But the injury Pollock sustained shouldn’t have a lasting impact, beyond the 2016 season it helped to tank. In a similar vein, maybe you’d want an article like this to be written about Michael Brantley, who was a six-win outfielder in 2014. Brantley, though, has had major shoulder problems, and it’s far from guaranteed he’ll ever get his old swing back. We can’t know what we’ll get from any player, yet Pollock feels safer than Brantley, and he feels safer than McCutchen, too.

I don’t have a good reason for the timing of this post. A.J. Pollock hasn’t been in the news more than usual. Even with his return, I don’t expect the Diamondbacks to make a push for the playoffs. It’s just — do you remember how good Pollock has been? This is a reminder, showing Pollock’s percentile rankings out of all players with at least 1,000 plate appearances since 2013. Note that playing that often over the past four years already selects for talent. So.

Pick a skill, and Pollock has been better than average at it. Running the bases? He’s been awesome. Playing center field? He’s been awesome. Knowing the zone? He’s been fine. Making contact? He’s been great. Hitting for power? He’s gotten only better and better. We’ll come back to that, but as far as all this goes, Pollock is one of those across-the-board contributors, kind of similar to Mookie Betts. So by WAR/600, we get Pollock at 5.5. For reference, Betts is at 5.4, and Manny Machado is at 5.3. Miguel Cabrera’s at 5.2. When he’s been on the field, Pollock has been more valuable than almost anybody. It’s just been a while since he could play every day. He’s back, now, and he’s 100%.

It’s easy to have forgotten, or just not known, that Pollock is another one of those swing-change guys. This gets into that power development I referred to earlier, as Pollock was never expected to become so good. Pollock debuted in the majors in 2012, and this is what his swing looked like:

A year later, you can see that Pollock added the familiar leg kick:

And here’s a 2014 swing. It looks similar to the 2013 swing, only with a lowering of the hands. This swing has stuck with him ever since, and he’s pushed ISOs close to .200.

Just to keep up the .gif barrage, here’s a glimpse of what Pollock looked like in the most recent season, since 2014 was a while ago.

Do the swing and follow-through ring any bells?

Josh Donaldson’s swing is more visually aggressive — Donaldson looks more like he wants to actually hurt someone. He raises his knee up higher. But you get a similar leg kick, you get a similar coil, and you get similar activity in the bat. Pollock hasn’t figured out how to lift the ball quite like Donaldson has, but these are two of the premier swing-change guys from the last few years, and this side-by-side isn’t coincidental.

A.J. Pollock is 29, which is too young to be aging. Although he just missed basically a whole year, he missed time with the sort of injury that shouldn’t hold him back anymore, now that it’s healed. The last we saw Pollock, he was one of the game’s better defenders at a premium position, and that should still be true. I can’t imagine he’s forgotten how to run the bases. And to go with his high contact rates, Pollock has learned how to more consistently drive the ball all over the place, just like so many of the other swing-changers on other rosters.

Because of the time missed, I’ll grant there is uncertainty. Yet I prefer the Pollock path over the McCutchen path, and as the Diamondbacks look to turn the page, Pollock is going to be absolutely critical to any 2017 chances they might go on to have. It’s not that you didn’t know A.J. Pollock is good. It’s just that it’s easy to forget about players when they don’t get to play. A.J. Pollock is again an active player, and all around, he’s one of the best at what he does. It was nice of other players to keep the leaderboards warm.

We hoped you liked reading The Most Underrated Player in Baseball, Again by Jeff Sullivan!

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Lows005
Member
Lows005

Great article. I am keeping Pollock @ $17 in my keeper league. I drafted him for $2 a few years back and stashed him on my DL last season. I think $17 is a steal. I’m guessing he would go for $25+ at auction in our league (7×7 roto with 15 owners).

Lows005
Member
Lows005

LOL?. More “vote downs”…? Jesus Christ. What is wrong with this community?

Shirtless George Brett
Member
Shirtless George Brett

Internet Rule #321: Nobody cares about your fantasy league.

Stevil
Member
Stevil

To be fair, you’re part of the problem with a username that invokes fantasies for some of these fans.

Dooduh
Member
Dooduh

the whole up/down vote thing is ridiculous. it leads to a pack mentality like we see here. jumping all over this guy for what..?

Travis L
Member
Member
Travis L

It allows other readers to indicate the comment does not meet the standards of the community.

If you read the comments on CNN or YouTube, or most other sites on the internet, you’ll understand how bad it can be.

Dooduh
Member
Dooduh

“Standards of the community”? Please. Why are people alleged to be progressive this intolerant of views that may be somewhat outside their own? We are not talking life and death in here. Ease up with the pack mentality. If there is an objection to a post, express it with words. Then move on.

As someone said below, down votes add nothing to the community.

Otoh, there may be some value to up voting something.

JUICEMANE
Member
JUICEMANE

If you didn’t care you wouldn’t take the time to write a negative post

imachainsaw
Member
imachainsaw

pretty sure theyre still uninterested in their fantasy league

Moranall
Member
Moranall

You realize that fantasy baseball is only a small subset of this website, right? Generally speaking, the articles in the left column (“FanGraphs”) are broader and directed at baseball analysis in general. Especially Jeff Sullivan, who repeatedly informs his readers that he doesn’t do fantasy and can’t offer advice for fantasy. “Rotographs” (located in the middle on the front page) is generally where the fantasy content is going to be located.

But consider this: you posted on an article that was purely analysis in nature and didn’t discuss anything in fantasy. Specifically, it didn’t even really get into any real stats. You then posted about your personal team in your personal league that (almost) no one else on this site is a part of. I mean, it’s cool that you got Pollock at $2 and had him on your DL last year, but why does that matter to the rest of us? That’s why you’re being downvoted.

Lows005
Member
Lows005

Moronall,
Considering a previous comment was posted to a Rotograph article and was downvoted to hell, I’m assuming most of the community are assholes. Also, your condescending reply speaks volumes. I’m sure 0 to 1% of the readers have employment related to baseball…so, why are you here? Just reading some deep baseball analysis for the heck of it? If so, that’s awesome and you’re awesome…but the analysis of apparent “fake stats”,(because he didn’t get into any “real stats”) is one of the many tools I use when building my team. Sometimes I just like certain players based on their numbers and I don’t get to see them play very often…articles like this one give me a sense of vindication. If that is worthy of some hate, so be it.

si.or.no
Member
Member
si.or.no

Another fangraphs sin: extrapolating from a too(2) small sample size

johansantana17
Member
johansantana17

Downvotes are not “hate”.

harperhill
Member
harperhill

Let’s take a quiz. What’s more mean-spirited, (a) clicking a thumbs down icon, or (b) saying most of this community are assholes?

Luy
Member
Luy

@Lows005
People like fantasy baseball on this site. People are interested in fantasy baseball.
People are not interested in YOUR fantasy baseball team.
Your comment was not about baseball. It was not anout fantasy baseball generally. It was about YOU. And no one came to this article to learn about Lows005
What are you not getting about this?

Also, I don’t think anyone cares enough about your comment to hate it. The downvotes are meant to discourage this kind of comment in the future. Subsequent downvotes are likewise trying (and failing) to discourage your hi-jacking of the comment section. (Notice a comment about you, followed up by a comment about how you feel has nothing to do with baseball?)

In my experience this is a community that values comments that others can learn from, or ask a question that can lead to others re-thinking a topic.

What information have you provided that is useful to another person? Nothing. That’s why you get the down votes. You’re not contributing anything to anyone else with your comment. It’s pure narcissism to think the rest of the world should care about your comment, when it provides them no insight, no information of value, no humor, no interesting story…just you stating a fact about something that is only relevant to you (and 9-11 other people, though I bet most people in your league don’t even care about your fantasy team).

Lows005
Member
Lows005

Oh, hey! Thanks, bud. I will admit my initial comment was totally void of substance…it was merely me thinking out loud. I had some downtime at the office and just dropped a quick thought. I was then bombarded by down-votes because, ya know, everyone likes to fit in. It was never my intention to hijack the comment section but as you stated, the down-voting and other comments were not productive in just “moving on”. Look, I’m not one to engage strangers on the internet looking for a fight, so, I’ll just leave it at this…If you don’t like someone’s comment, or post, just scroll down. It’s THAT easy.

erikfanclubpres
Member
erikfanclubpres

Follow your own advice.

JUICEMANE
Member
JUICEMANE

WARrior
Member
Member
WARrior

I see many comments on these articles that don’t really add any information, e.g., someone says, nice article, without elaborating, or says, such and such player is awesome, which everyone knows. Should they be down-voted?

I don’t expect every comment to have valuable information. Sometimes people are just expressing how they feel. I don’t have a problem with this.

kenai kings
Member
kenai kings

“hi-jacking the comment section”. I would say that those who are acting as the police here are the ones guilty of this. The fellow was perhaps naive to think we cared, but to rip on him is petty. MHO

DBA455
Member
Member
DBA455

“why are you here? Just reading some deep baseball analysis for the heck of it?”

If I had to sum it up in a sentence, that’s as good as any!

Not sure that makes me awesome, but I’ll take it.

tuna411
Member
Member
tuna411

I down voted him because he complained about receiving down votes.

Dooduh
Member
Dooduh

and then there’s this…. eyeroll

DD
Member
DD

‘Merica.

JUICEMANE
Member
JUICEMANE

People on this site like fantasy baseball, why it that weird? and why does it have to matter to the rest of you? News Flash! you’re nobodies…

imachainsaw
Member
imachainsaw

who said that??

RonnieDobbs
Member
RonnieDobbs

Preach! Just kidding, down-votes are petty. Up-votes may have some value in identifying a valuable post, but down-votes are only relevant to one’s FG-based self-esteem.

WARrior
Member
Member
WARrior

I can understand that most people here aren’t interested in discussing fantasy, neither am I. But that just means I read a comment about fantasy, and go, glad it worked out for him, though I really don’t care. But why would I bother to down vote him? I will down vote a post that i think is obnoxious, mean-spirited or factually incorrect. The above post was none of those.

kenai kings
Member
kenai kings

lecture not needed

MarsupialJones
Member
MarsupialJones

If went to a NASCAR site and praised yourself for getting a good deal on a used Civic I’m sure you would get a similar reaction.

RonnieDobbs
Member
RonnieDobbs

I’m not sure about that. It all depends on the overall health of the community. There is absolutely an elitist culture here.

John Morgan
Member
John Morgan

Wow. That analogy does not make sense, and, if it did, would be abusive argumentation. If you wrote as much in Bolivia, I’m sure peccaries would gore you with their tusks. See? That so many people see reason here is disquieting.

The response to Lows005’s comment was hugely disproportional. At worst he violated a petty, made-up taboo. The community very much piled on. And, clearly, it made Low005 feel unwelcome and crapped on.

This comment section exposes an ugly, exclusionary vein in the FanGraphs community. Yuck. I’ll be staying away.

carter
Member
carter

Used Civic? Lets not get carried away. He is like a used Lincoln.

Baltar
Member
Member
Baltar

I gave you a thumbs up just to try to even things up a little. I’ve been flamed like that for some harmless comment.
Just ignore those thumbs down from those who have nothing useful to do.

Lows005
Member
Lows005

Thanks, Tampa. I’m not overly annoyed with it, just a bit concerned. I thought this community would be a little more welcoming and mature. I’ve been visiting this site for awhile and rarely, if ever, comment. When I have, it feels worse than a reddit full of adolescents.

Luy
Member
Luy

Try making comments that relate to the article. That have information useful to others. That raise a question that is useful to others. That someone other than you could find value in. See if you get better results.

The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot
Member
Member
The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot

As RonnieDobbs commented above, there is most definitely an “elitist” vibe to this website.

Shirtless George Brett
Member
Shirtless George Brett

Really??

You made a comment that really had nothing to do with the article and only applied to like 10 people on the planet. The result was a few down votes. That is it. Instead of saying “Oh. Maybe people did not like that comment. I guess that is not something people want to read” You instead proceeded to basically insult the entire community and the further result was, not surprising, more down votes.

No one personally attacked you or insulted you or swore at you and told you to go away. In fact several people politely pointed out WHY you got the reaction you did when you appeared confused.

But yeah, its clearly the fault of the community that you A) posted something completely irrelevant to the conversation, and B) overreacted to mild disapproval by repeatedly talking shit about everyone and refusing for even a second to consider that maybe you were at fault to begin with. *rolleyes*

Original Greaser Bob
Member
Original Greaser Bob

Black Mirror, Nosedive episode in real life.

JUICEMANE
Member
JUICEMANE

RAZZBALL.COM is a great FANTASY baseball website with a fun community of readers, no elitist douchebags that think they have the statistical expertise to write their own articles in the comment section of an internet message board.

Serbian to Vietnamese to French is back
Member
Serbian to Vietnamese to French is back

RAZZBALL. COM baseball’s place large pictures with joy community readers, no jerks bags elite who think there is a statistics expert to write a note in the “Notes” for banning internet messages.