most underrated players

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i think Wagner's HOF case will be made in the coming years. if he can move up on the all time saves list (he's - um, 6th right now?) he could make it in as long as he stays productive for a few more years. the only person ahead of him still pitching well is Rivera (as Hoff seems to have lost it this year).


oreo speed wiggum (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Friday, 20 August 2010 16:54 (nine years ago) link

somebody wrote a column abt this today, will link later

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Friday, 20 August 2010 17:01 (nine years ago) link

back to the thread topic, i think the prototype 'underrated players' in terms of WAR are the guys who are consistently worth 3-5 WAR each year but aren't flashy enough to build a reputation as great players

david dejesus and nick markakis are the first two that come to mind

ciderpress, Friday, 20 August 2010 17:13 (nine years ago) link

Markakis has slid a fair amount this year tho.

oreo speed wiggum (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Friday, 20 August 2010 17:23 (nine years ago) link

i think Wagner's HOF case will be made in the coming years. if he can move up on the all time saves list (he's - um, 6th right now?) he could make it in as long as he stays productive for a few more years.

Doesn't Wagner plan to retire at the end of the year? We could have seen Wagner, Cox, and Chipper making one last run at a WS and retiring together at the end of the year, that's the kind of storyline that sportswriters love, and it could have turned into a huge deal that would cement reputations (it still might happen, sans Chipper). WmC's question is interesting, because it could be like Mussina winning 20 games in his final year, where you've got an underrated guy and people think he needs to achieve a fairly meaningless milestone to make or break his HOF chances.

I think the answer is "no" ... there's not much talk about Wagner's possible retirement and the Padres have stolen the Braves' buzz.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Friday, 20 August 2010 21:20 (nine years ago) link

there mustn't be because i never heard about his impending retirement!

oreo speed wiggum (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Friday, 20 August 2010 21:25 (nine years ago) link

Yeah, he said in April that this will absolutely be his last season. I believe I remember the Braves booth guys talking about his reasons -- apparently the nerves stress of being a closer has never gotten easier for him, and he just doesn't want to deal with the pressure of living or dying by the 9th inning any more after this year.

My totem animal is a hamburger. (WmC), Friday, 20 August 2010 21:32 (nine years ago) link

I'm not finding a lot of corroboration for that on the web, but I swear that's what Joe Simpson said one night, and he's not at all a loose-lipped gossipy type.

My totem animal is a hamburger. (WmC), Friday, 20 August 2010 21:37 (nine years ago) link

Tim Salmon had to have one of the best careers and never make an All Star game.

Ron Cey was pretty solid, but the 70s-80s was probably one of the most deep periods for really good third basemen. I know Bill James had him along with Bobby Grich and Brian Downing as being pretty under-rated players for their period either in that decade recap or in their player profile.

I don't know if Billy Wagner is a Hall of Famer, but good lord when that dude was young and in his prime with the Astros, the guys' fast ball was insane. He would be over or near 100 mph every pitch.

The guy that the injuries took away his chance at greatness that was perhaps the most freakishly amazing athlete in baseball I saw play was Eric Davis. The guy was built like a sprinter and his athletic combination of power and speed was over the top. His frame couldn't take the punishment, but I almost still would say the guy was still one of the best all around players I watched and followed on a regular basis.

Lance Parrish and Ted Simmons are both pretty underappreciated catchers. They both were good catchers for a long time.

earlnash, Friday, 20 August 2010 22:42 (nine years ago) link

In an era of big offense, I never thought Salmon was great, but I agree that it's a major surprise he never made even one All-Star team. I looked at his splits on, and he even hit 173 of his 299 career homers in the first half (he hit for a higher average in the second half). I'm guessing he had a much better career than a few one-season flashes and cellar-dweller picks that got into All-Star games ahead of him.

I also think that there will always be underrated players ... Neyer and Posnanski and BP are a really small piece of the pie. Chase Utley hit five homers in last year's WS and was STILL underrated -- everyone talked about ARod becoming a "true Yankee" and the "Yankee Four" and Pedro and by the last game, Matsui.

Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but I'm not sure that's the same as being underrated. The media's always going to focus on easy-to-understand soap-opera stuff--in the case of A-Rod and Martinez, variations of the "big comeback" story. But in general, I think there's a greater awareness today of Utley's stature as one of the best all-around players in baseball than there would have been had he played in the '60s or '70s. Neyer and the rest are a small piece, I agree, but I think their stuff filters down through the media in a way that it didn't when James was writing about, say, how underrated Jose Cruz was in the early '80s. I mention Joe Rudi a lot, but I first started watching baseball in the early '70s, he was the media's poster-boy for underrated players. I look at his stats today, and the only explanation I can come up with is that he nudged his batting average over .300 a couple of times. I don't think writers miss the mark by that much today; if a player's legitimately underrated by the public at large, before long, I think the word gets out.

clemenza, Saturday, 21 August 2010 00:34 (nine years ago) link

So maybe what I'm saying is that it's much harder to stay underrated today.

clemenza, Saturday, 21 August 2010 00:47 (nine years ago) link

i would agree with that.

oreo speed wiggum (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Saturday, 21 August 2010 04:29 (nine years ago) link

also pondering a guy like Paul Konerko

Me too. He's pulling a Fred McGriff in reverse. For the first few years of his career, McGriff's 35 homers a year were meaningful enough that he was considered one of the very best hitters in baseball; after he moved over to the NL, his power dipped a bit, everyone else surged past him, and he fell off the radar. Konerko averaged about 30 homers a year for his first decade with the White Sox, and while he did get some MVP votes for three of those years, I don't think he got a whole lot of attention at a time when there were a number of people hitting many more home runs. (I know I didn't take him very seriously myself.) Now he's having his best all-around year ever, the league has pulled back in his direction, and he's sitting on 350 home runs at age 34. It's a longshot, but I don't think you can rule him out for the HOF if he stays healthy for another five or six years and continues to play well.

clemenza, Saturday, 21 August 2010 14:43 (nine years ago) link

Konerko's having his best season at age-34, and unless he has another four or five career years from ages 35-39, he's not getting anywhere near the HOF. McGriff was a legit offensive force during his career (he had a great OPS+ nearly every year) and was considered just a step below elite status by the writers (he was never the best player in his league, rarely was even in the top five, but had six top-ten MVP finishes, even if he never finished higher than sixth. That's a borderline HOFer. He's basically a poor man's Jim Thome, and even JIM THOM isn't considered a lock for the HOF (although he should be).

Konerko is nowhere near those numbers -- 16 points below McGriff in OPS+, and just one top ten MVP finish (6th, in 2005).

NoTimeBeforeTime, Saturday, 21 August 2010 16:54 (nine years ago) link

Just to clarify: if Thome had retired at the end of last year, then he'd be in danger of falling off the radar for the HOF ... he'd probably get in eventually, but not on the first ballot. His era is stacked with guys with similar numbers, especially first basemen, and like McGriff, he was never considered to be one of the league's very best hitters (even though he was, and had more great seasons than just about any of his contemporaries, e.g. McGwire, Raffy, Giambi, Delgado (not saying that all these guys are HOFers, just that they usually got more attention and respect than Thome did).

Actually, Thome was prob underrated and deserves a mention on this thread. But of course if he keeps hitting for a couple more years and cracks 600 homers then it could be a different story.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Saturday, 21 August 2010 17:01 (nine years ago) link

Like I say, a longshot. I'd put Konerko at about 5% right now. But if he continues on as he is this year for another five years--highly unlikely--I still think he'd have about an even chance at the HOF. Not first ballot by any means, but somewhere down the road. Thome is definitely underrated with regards to his contemporaries. If, that is, he's clean.

clemenza, Saturday, 21 August 2010 17:35 (nine years ago) link

you know what i always love is how columns discussing certain candidates' lack of HOF qualifications tend to invariably mention a low number of all-star game appearances and low placements on MVP/cy young ballots, which is always funny to me considering how fundamentally stupid the voters are. like thome's lack of top 5 mvp placements (save one season), missing in '97 because voters decided that randy myers was a worthy MVP candidate (#4 to thome's #6), seeing his own teammate juan gonzalez place a couple spots ahead of him in '01 despite thome's insane season, and in his truly all-time great season of '02 placing behind not only behind tejada, a-rod, and giambi, but also soriano, garret anderson, and torii hunter.

('_') (omar little), Saturday, 21 August 2010 17:44 (nine years ago) link

the AS game argument is funny too. it's not like a higher number of AS games helps other guys that much. i feel like dave stieb and steve rogers were starting pitchers in the game facing off against each other like 32 times.

('_') (omar little), Saturday, 21 August 2010 17:46 (nine years ago) link

One possible difference in how we view this: I'm not ready to write off 500 HR as a benchmark. For most of the players associated with PEDs, yeah, the 500 HR doesn't seem to mean much when they come up for HOF voting--not yet, anyway. But if you eliminate all of them, there aren't as many players crossing the line as everyone seems to think. Bagwell and McGriff fell short, Chipper's not looking good, and Delgado's still very iffy. PED players who've made it: Bonds, Sosa, A-Rod, McGwire, Palmeiro, Ramirez, and Sheffield. If you put them aside for a second, the only players who've exceeded 500 HRs since Eddie Murray did it are Thomas, Thome, and Griffey, and, other than Pujols, I don't see any other sure things on the horizon. So if Konerko were to exceed 500 HRs, I still think that counts for a lot. There's a growing perception out there that 500 HR has lost its exclusivity. To me, it depends on whether or not you count the PED guys.

clemenza, Saturday, 21 August 2010 17:53 (nine years ago) link

I really like Bill James' Keltner Test for the HOF, so ASG and MVP voting do help in singling out the guys who were considered the best players of their day. And besides freakish years like 2002 and 1999 (which I won't try to defend), in most years you can't reasonably argue that Thome was one of the top five players in the league. In 2001, for instance, you had Giambi putting up superior numbers in every category (while playing the same position), two insane seasons by second basemen (Alomar and Boone), a shortstop hitting 52 HR (A-Rod) -- all four of those guys were clearly better than Thome that year. In 1997 he finished sixth (yeah, behind Randy Myers, which was a joke), but he also finished ahead of Nomar, Edgar, Clemens, and Johnson, who all had better years, and he deservedly finished behind Griffey and Thomas. So maybe he was the seventh best player in the AL that year. And so on.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Saturday, 21 August 2010 18:47 (nine years ago) link

Konerko doesn't even seem in the HOF discussion. more like the Hall of the Very Good, like Rusty Staub or Al Oliver (if PK lasts that long).

Then again Staub and Oliver were both better than Jim fuckin' Rice.

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 21 August 2010 19:30 (nine years ago) link

For what it's worth, neither Wagner nor Konerko was even on my own HOF radar a week ago; it's only their getting mentioned on this thread, and then taking a closer look at their career boxes, that made me realize how quietly they've been piling up some numbers, and that the HOF wasn't completely out of the question one day. That's all--Konerko, especially, would still have to do a lot in the next five years. But if there's a point where you can say of a player that it's 100% sure he's not going into the HOF, I don't think either one of them has yet reached that point.

The Hall of the Very Surly: Steve Carlton, Dave Kingman, Albert Belle.
The Hall of the Very Profane: Hal McCrae.
The Hall of the Very Unkempt: John Kruk.

clemenza, Saturday, 21 August 2010 21:02 (nine years ago) link

thome is pretty much the kind of dude who clearly deserves to get into the HOF, which is basically what i'm saying. he's not pujols or bonds, but he's had exactly one season that's been anything less than really good, and that was due to an injury. i think he gets undervalued b/c of the batting average and the Ks and probably for defense (i think his rep on that was poor? i don't remember...) but w/r/t the sabermetric stats he's had a pretty insane career. not like some konerko level of piling up solid numbers, but in and out season after season being one of the top hitters in the game (if never actually *the* top.)

('_') (omar little), Saturday, 21 August 2010 21:33 (nine years ago) link

adam dunn's probably gonna reach 500 HR unless he falls of a cliff. he'd be the most interesting test case for that benchmark because he's not a PED case but has never been considered a great player by media

ciderpress, Saturday, 21 August 2010 21:38 (nine years ago) link

dunn with 347 currently and is only 30 years old this season, for reference

ciderpress, Saturday, 21 August 2010 21:42 (nine years ago) link

Dunn is totally Dave Kingman: The Next Generation. I remember rooting hard for Kingman to get to 500, just before he was colluded out of the game--I really wanted to see how baseball would handle him come HOF time. I don't think he ever would have got in. Similarly, for Dunn, I think the bar starts at 600 HR for him to even have a chance. Massive amounts of strikeouts (not a factor for Mickey Mantle or Reggie; for him, I think it would be), low RBI totals, .251 career average, almost zero MVP support.

All this HOF talk has inspired me to do an update on my page of some projections I made a few years ago.

clemenza, Saturday, 21 August 2010 22:19 (nine years ago) link

Guys like Konerko and Johnny Damon aren't really on the HOF radar but by the time they retire they'll have piled up the kind of career stats that will convince some people that they were great players, when in fact they were just really good for a long time. Like Morbs said, those kinds of players don't deserve to be HOF's (although they probably tend to be underrated).

NoTimeBeforeTime, Saturday, 21 August 2010 22:48 (nine years ago) link

there's a pretty huge difference between kingman and dunn though:

kingman: career .302 OBP
dunn: career .381 OBP

dunn is far, far more valuable, especially now that they've gotten him out of the outfield where he was giving back a lot of his value with shitty defense

ciderpress, Sunday, 22 August 2010 02:32 (nine years ago) link

He has his hilarious moments at 1B too, but fewer of them I guess. Loved his throw into left field the other day trying to start a double play.

My totem animal is a hamburger. (WmC), Sunday, 22 August 2010 03:08 (nine years ago) link

They're pretty comparable in terms of home-run rate, batting average (guessing that Dunn's .251 will move in the direction of Kingman's .236 as time goes on), and strikeouts, but you're right, Dunn's walk advantage is huge.

Here's a far-fetched conspiracy theory I've carried around for years: that not only was Kingman colluded out of the game (even at 38, I have to believe there was somebody who could have used a DH coming off three consecutive 30 HR seasons), but that the desire not to have to deal with the possibility of him reaching 500 HR was part of it. In 1987, that number was still sacrosanct; I recall that there was a feeling at the time among some writers that even Reggie had diminished the number's aura. Kingman was 58 HR and two full seasons away. I realize that it's Dave Kingman we're talking about here, but I've always had this feeling that him reaching 500 HR was just too weird to contemplate, and that that was part of his odd exit.

clemenza, Sunday, 22 August 2010 03:59 (nine years ago) link

i've never heard anything about Kingman's exit. why would all the owners get together and decide he's not going to make to to 500 hrs?

oreo speed wiggum (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Sunday, 22 August 2010 17:28 (nine years ago) link

As I say, far-fetched. But as I tried to explain above, I don't think the baseball establishment (whatever that means) was looking forward to the prospect of Dave Kingman hitting 500 home runs--not in 1987, when there were probably half as many player with 500 than there will be 5 or 10 years from now. It would have been something of an HOF dilemma at the time; it wouldn't be today. By "odd exit," look at what Kingman had done in his last three years--I can't think of anyone offhand who ever left the game coming off three consecutive 30-HR years. Having said all that, the counter-arguments are obvious: 1) Kingman's contribution to a team beyond the home runs was zilch; 2) he was widely considered to be a jerk; 3) he was 38 years old; 4) the owners were colluding against everybody at the time.

I'm currently in negotiations with Oliver Stone to make a movie about all this (Oliver Stone's Kong), so I'll have more to say at some later date.

clemenza, Sunday, 22 August 2010 18:22 (nine years ago) link


oreo speed wiggum (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Sunday, 22 August 2010 18:23 (nine years ago) link

the owners were colluding against everybody at the time

would like to hear more about this.

oreo speed wiggum (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Sunday, 22 August 2010 18:23 (nine years ago) link

The owners got dinged for about 100 million towards the end of the '80s:

I don't remember all the specifics, but I think their treatment of Raines was exhibit A at the time.

clemenza, Sunday, 22 August 2010 18:31 (nine years ago) link

things they could have colluded on:

• Kingman
• Twins winning the world series lolwtf
• construction of the baseball-playing-android known as BA-8000-T (later renamed Darryl Strawberry)
• assassination attempt of Ronald Regan
• making Pete Rose the fall guy for Bowie Kuhn's gambling ring
• Jeff Reardon's beard
• Bart Giamatti's "heart attack"

xpost - oh!!!

oreo speed wiggum (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Sunday, 22 August 2010 18:34 (nine years ago) link

Kingman was such an abominable outfielder

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 22 August 2010 18:50 (nine years ago) link

For sure. At that point he was an American Leaguer and full-time DH, though.

I don't mean to go on about Dave Kingman, who has nothing to do with this thread. Last thing: I googled "Kingman + collusion" and found this page, where a bunch of people debate "What exactly was 'wrong' with Dave Kingman?" Quite a bit, apparently...

clemenza, Sunday, 22 August 2010 19:04 (nine years ago) link

Also: read that Wikipedia account of collusion, and it was 300 million the owners had to pay out, not 100 million.

clemenza, Sunday, 22 August 2010 19:08 (nine years ago) link

Here's something a little more on-topic, a question posted on Bill James's site today:

Bill, in your book "Whatever Happened To The Hall of Fame?" you discuss how you felt Dwight Evans was one of the most underrated players in baseball history. Do you currently still feel this way and what do you feel his chances are of EVER being voted in through the Veterans Committee in which he becomes eligible in 2012?
Asked by: Patrick Languzzi
Answered: August 22, 2010

I still think that Dewey was one of the most underrated players of all time. I would predict that, over time, more evidence will emerge to demonstrate his value, and that there will be wider understanding of this. Whether that will be enough to carry him into Cooperstown...who knows. What is he, now...58? 58 and in great shape; he's got 30 years to work on it, anyway.

It was lost in the shuffle of Fisk's home run, but he made probably the greatest catch I've ever seen in Game 6 of the '75 Series.

clemenza, Sunday, 22 August 2010 19:33 (nine years ago) link

yeah people like to point out that if you take defense and OBP into account properly, Jim Rice was only the 3rd best outfielder on the 70s sox after Dewey and Lynn

ciderpress, Sunday, 22 August 2010 22:51 (nine years ago) link

rice's obp was slightly better than evans' during the 70s, it was the second half of his career when dewey put up better numbers while rice was on the decline

casual link (buzza), Sunday, 22 August 2010 23:00 (nine years ago) link

Kingman hit .210/.255/.431 at age 37 in his last season (as a DH). you don't need sabermetrics to conclude that's not a guy you want to sign for the next year.

ciderpress, Sunday, 22 August 2010 23:01 (nine years ago) link

yeah rice had a huge peak but dewey and lynn had more career value, is the point. baseball writers obviously tend to value guys who had a few mvp-level years and lots of mediocre ones over guys who were good to great every year but never had the monster season.

ciderpress, Sunday, 22 August 2010 23:02 (nine years ago) link

guys who were good to great every year but never had the monster season

I don't think that describes Lynn--wasn't he the exact opposite? He was brilliant in '75 and '79, otherwise he was either injured or, through most of the '80s, just treading water. I guess you could make a case that his career stats are the equal of Rice's (.298/.352/.502 for Rice, .280/.360/.484 for Lynn, with Lynn playing most of his career somewhere other than Fenway), but Rice intuitively feels much more like a Hall of Famer to me. I know that's not very scientific. I think Evans (.272/.370/.470, plus eight Gold Gloves) was, on balance, a better player than both of them.

clemenza, Monday, 23 August 2010 01:10 (nine years ago) link

yeah i agree w/ all that

ciderpress, Monday, 23 August 2010 01:22 (nine years ago) link

It's a bit of a stretch to put Adam Dunn down at Dave Kingman's level. Dunn's not great, but as a hitter his career OPS is closer to Jim Thome than Kong (.904 Dunn, .961 Thome, .780 Kingman). Dunn hasn't played on any good teams which probably underrates him a bit and the guy is so big (6-7 probably close to 300 pounds) he looks really odd and very ungraceful on the field. I think Dunn would be a good fit for an AL club and it never really made sense why the Angels never looked him up, considering they needed power. I'd think the White Sox or the Rangers might be where he ends up if he leaves the Nationals. The old owner of the Rangers tried to trade for him a couple of times when Dunn was in Cincy. I think a question on Dunn is whether he will hit the wall like Richie Sexton did, who is probably one player that is somewhat similar to Dunn (although he didn't draw as many walks). Sexton was pretty consistently decent, losing only one season to injury and he hit age 32 and he was finished. Don't know if this will be the fate of the Big Donkey or not, but it could be.

earlnash, Monday, 23 August 2010 02:22 (nine years ago) link

I will always be a fan of Dunn & JD Drew, if only because they're hated by the right people.

a cross between lily allen and fetal alcohol syndrome (milo z), Monday, 23 August 2010 05:55 (nine years ago) link

Also, Adam Dunn doesn't like baseball.

Mark C, Monday, 23 August 2010 11:48 (nine years ago) link

brian giles

Karl Malone, Monday, 30 March 2020 23:55 (four months ago) link

1998: .396
1999: .418
2000: .432
2001: .404
2002: .450
2003: .427
2004: .374
2005: .423

Karl Malone, Monday, 30 March 2020 23:58 (four months ago) link

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