Most Overrated Players in MLB History

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2012

Most Overrated Players in MLB History

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    What makes a baseball player overrated? It's really all in a baseball fan's perception of the player and how he ranks among others at their position and their contemporaries.

    Some players become a fan favorite and wind up overrated in the eyes of history, some players undeservedly wind up in the Hall of Fame and are forever lumped in with the greatest of all time where they don't belong, and still others wind up overrated for different reasons altogether.

    Here is my take on the most overrated players in baseball history, from under achieving Hall of Famers many of you may have never heard of to some of the bigger names in baseball history who fall short of their legendary reputation upon further look at their numbers. 

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and may the debate begin. 

C Rick Ferrell

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    One of the most durable catchers in baseball history, Ferrell held the record for most games caught at 1,806 for nearly 40 years and currently sits 12th on the all-time list.

    However, that should not have been enough to make him a Hall of Famer, and he did little else during that lengthy career to warrant a spot in the Hall. In fact, he was not even the best catcher in his own league during his playing career, as that honor went to either Mickey Cochrane or Bill Dickey.

    In 15 seasons, he never posted a single-season WAR over 2.9, he topped the .300 BA mark only four times, had little-to-no power and was average at best defensively.

C Ray Schalk

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    A light-hitting backstop, Schalk never batted over .300 during his 18-year career and finished with a slash line of .253/.340/.316, which somehow earned him Hall of Fame induction.

    He managed just 11 career home runs and only topped the 50-RBI mark five times while playing 17 of his 18 seasons with the Chicago White Sox.

    A decent defensive catcher with a career 13.7 dWAR, Schalk would have been the equivalent of Brad Ausmus if he played today: a borderline offensive liability who stayed in the starting lineup for his ability to handle a pitching staff.

C Jason Varitek

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    There is no denying the intangibles and leadership that Jason Varitek brought to the Red Sox, and I would not be at all surprised to see him as a big-league manager sooner rather than later.

    However, the fact of the matter is some view him as a legitimately great catcher, and from a production standpoint that simply is not the case.

    Statistically, his career best compares to current Rockies catcher Ramon Hernandez (h/t Baseball Reference) with former A's catcher Terry Steinbach also ranking as a comparable player.

    He enjoyed a solid run from 2002-2005 where he was a legitimate asset offensively, averaging a .279 BA, 19 HR, 72 RBI line, but aside from those seasons he averaged a line of just .244 BA, 11 HR, 43 RBI.

    He was an important part of two World Series titles in Boston, and his exposure in a large market certainly factors into him being highly thought of, but there is no question he is overrated.

1B Jim Bottomley

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    In his prime from 1923-1930, Bottomley posted an average line of .325 BA, 20 HR and 118 RBI and won an MVP award in 1928.

    However, his career line of .310/.369/.500, 219 HR and 1422 RBI leaves him well short of being a Hall of Fame-worthy first baseman. Good numbers, but not Hall worthy at a premium offensive position.

    A solid power hitter, Bottomley likely would have been an All-Star in today's game, but he would have fallen well short of being a premier player. Also, he was a horrendous fielder with a -15.8 dWAR for his career.

1B George "High Pockets" Kelly

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    A member of the New York Giants for 11 of his 16 big-league seasons, Kelly enjoyed a very productive seven-year stretch from 1920-1926 when he averaged a line of .306 BA, 17 HR, 106 RBI and 84 runs.  

    However, outside of those seven years, he did little to nothing to warrant Hall of Fame induction, and a seven-year stretch of that caliber is not nearly enough to be considered one of the best to ever play the game.

    His career OPS+ of 109 is the same as the likes of Bill Mueller and Sean Casey, among others, and simply put doesn't cut it for a first baseman in general, let alone a Hall of Fame one.

1B Tony Perez

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    One of the integral members of the Big Red Machine, Perez spent 16 of his 23 big league seasons with the Reds and made seven All-Star teams during his time in Cincinnati.

    Hitting in the loaded Reds lineup, he tallied two seasons of more than 30 home runs and seven seasons with over 100 RBI. Over his 14 seasons as an everyday player, he averaged 24 HR and 98 RBI.

    When all was said and done, he had a career line of .279 BA, 379 HR and 1,652 RBI, which equates to a great career, but not an all-time great one. He's a Hall of Famer not on merit but on name recognition and the team he played for, and with career numbers comparable to Harold Baines and Dave Parker (h/t Baseball Reference), there is little question he's overrated.

2B Johnny Evers

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    For the most part, the Hall of Fame has done a good job with second basemen, but Evers is clearly the weak link of the group. He was a decent hitter and a very good fielder, but he compares better to someone like Luis Castillo than anyone of his fellow Hall of Famers at the position.

    His involvement in the famous Tinker-Evers-Chance double-play combination is his most notable career achievement, although he did win NL MVP in 1914 while playing for the Braves.

    With a line of .279 BA, 1 HR, 40 RBI, 81 R and 5.1 WAR, his season was the definition of an above average dead-ball era season, but was far from MVP-worthy, just as he is far from Hall of Fame-worthy.

2B Bill Mazeroski

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    Widely regarded as the best defensive second baseman in baseball history, Mazeroski is best known for hitting one of the biggest home runs in baseball history.

    However, in today's game, where second base has become a much more offensive-minded position and premier defense no longer has as much value placed on it, one has to wonder if Mazeroski would even be an everyday player nowadays.

    With a .260 career average and an on-base percentage of just .299, he likely would have been little more than a utility infielder in today's game.

SS Rabbit Maranville

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    Nicknamed "Rabbit" due to his size (5'5", 155 pounds) and terrific speed, Maranville spent 15 of his 23 big league seasons with the Braves.

    He brought a good deal of intangibles to the field, and he was recognized for his abilities with a third-place MVP finish in 1913, a second-place finish in 1914 and six other appearances in the MVP voting.

    However, his .258/.318/.340, 28 HR, 884 RBI and 1,255 R stat line is well below average for a Hall of Famer, let alone an everyday infielder who played 23 seasons.

SS Phil Rizzuto

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    A fan-favorite both as a player and announcer, "Scooter" had the benefit of playing alongside some of the all-time greats during his 13 seasons with the Yankees.

    He spent the full 15 years on the ballot following his retirement, but never garnered higher than 38.4 percent of the vote. It was not until 1994 that he was inducted thanks to the Veteran's Committee.

    Aside from his MVP season of 1950 when he hit .324, Rizzuto never hit over .300 and his defense may have been his biggest asset. Even then, he was nowhere near the level of Ozzie Smith, Omar Vizquel and others.

3B Freddie Lindstrom

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    With the election of Ron Santo, there are now 11 third basemen in the Hall of Fame, making it by far the hardest position to earn a place. However, somehow Freddie Lindstrom earned admission.

    Lindstrom played just 13 seasons in what accounted to about nine seasons worth of games. While he was very good from 1928-1930 with an average line of .353 BA, 17 HR and 101 RBI, three seasons does not a Hall of Fame resume make.

    He never received above 4.4 percent of the vote while on the ballot, but was elected by the Veterans Committee in 1976, and his case remains one of the weakest for any Hall of Fame position player.

3B Graig Nettles

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    Nettles was one of the best third basemen of the 1970s, where he was in the prime of his career and starred for the New York Yankees.

    However, it is that time with the Yankees that leads to him often being overrated as he had plenty of exposure. In his 11 seasons with the Yankees, he slugged 250 home runs, made five All-Star teams, won two Gold Gloves and won a home run title.

    Some argue that Nettles is Hall of Fame worthy, and that is where he becomes greatly overrated. With a career line of .248 BA, 390 HR and 1,314 RBI, he enjoyed a solid career, but one of that is on par with guys like Gary Gaetti and Ron Cey, not some of the all-time greats.

LF Chick Hafey

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    A talented young hitter, Hafey looked on his way to being the next great hitter after three straight .330 BA, 25-HR and 100-RBI seasons leading up to his 26th birthday.

    However, a persistent sinus condition greatly affected his vision, and his production fell off dramatically before he retired at the age of 34 after not producing a good season for three years.

    While his numbers would have likely been Hall of Fame-worthy if he had stayed healthy and at least played into his late 30s, he should not be rewarded for the numbers he could have put up, but instead judged by the numbers he did produce which are far from HOF-worthy.

LF Bo Jackson

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    Perhaps the most physically gifted athlete in sports history, baseball or otherwise, Jackson was just that on the baseball athlete.

    He had the tools to be great, but between playing football and a number of injuries, he remained a raw talent throughout his career.

    Even as a raw talent, he managed to hit 107 home runs over a four-year span as an everyday player with the Royals. However, he is largely overrated as people often fail to look past his god-given talent to his less-than-stellar production.

LF Carl Yastrzemski

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    A legitimate MLB legend and a hero in Boston, Yastrzemski spent his entire 23-year career playing for the Red Sox.

    For a four-year span from 1967-1970, he was undoubtedly one of the best in baseball as he averaged a line of .302 BA, 37 HR and 102 RBI and posted baseball's last Triple Crown with a .326 BA, 44 HR and 121 RBI line in 1967.

    Outside of those four seasons, Yaz was a solid hitter but far from the all-time great he is often portrayed as. Over the remaining 19 seasons of his career, he averaged a .281 BA, 16 HR and 81 RBI line and never again topped the 30-HR mark and only twice topped the 100-RBI mark.

CF Lloyd Waner

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    The younger brother of fellow Hall of Famer Paul Waner, Lloyd teamed with his brother to make the Pirates offense go in the 1920s and 1930s. While Paul put up Hall-worthy numbers, his brother simply did not.

    He played 18 seasons and was an above-average player to say the least. He never had the dominant prime that most Hall of Famers did, instead hitting around .300 each season and doing little else to speak of.

    He wasn't a base stealer, had little-to-no power, but could rap out singles with the best of them as 2,033 of his 2,459 career hits were one-baggers. Think Juan Pierre without the speed.

CF Hack Wilson

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    It's hard not to think highly of someone who holds the single-season RBI record, as Wilson put together a magical 1930 season when he hit .356 BA, 56 HR and 191 RBI for a Cubs team that also had future Hall of Famers Kiki Cuyler and Gabby Hartnett in the lineup.

    Wilson in fact had a terrific five-year stretch from 1926-1930, as he posted an average line of .331 BA, 35 HR and 142 RBI while leading the league in home runs four times and RBI twice.

    However, his career spanned just 12 seasons and aside from those five years he hit just .273 BA, 67 HR and 355 RBI over the remainder of his career. Unimpressive at best.

RF Dante Bichette

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    Perhaps the single greatest example of the Coors Field effect during the early 1990s, Bichette posted shocking splits of .360 BA, 136 HR and 537 RBI at home versus .267 BA, 65 HR and 289 RBI on the road during his seven seasons with the Rockies.

    He enjoyed a career year in 1995, hitting .340 BA, 40 HR and 128 RBI to finish second in the NL MVP voting. Of that impressive line, he contributed .377 BA, 31 HR and 83 RBI of it playing at Coors Field.

    A four-time All-Star, Bichette would have been little more than an average outfielder at best without the luxury of playing in Colorado, and instead he is often viewed as one of the better outfielders of his era.

RF Chuck Klein

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    From 1929-1933, there were few more prolific sluggers in the game than Klein, as he had an average line of .359 BA, 36 HR and 139 RBI.

    He led the league in home runs four times and RBI twice during that span, and he won the NL Triple Crown in 1933 when he hit .368 BA, 28 HR and 120 RBI, a year after winning the NL MVP.

    However, the rest of his career was average at best, as he finished with a line of .320 BA, 300 HR and 1,201 RBI and he did all of this while playing as a left-handed hitter in the Baker Bowl. Just 280 feet down the right field line and 300 feet to right-center, it was the ideal situation for inflated numbers if you were a left-handed slugger.

RF Roger Maris

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    The career of Roger Maris will forever be tied to his 61-HR season in 1961, as he broke one of the baseball's most hallowed records and stood as the home run king.

    Maris joined the Yankees prior to the 1960 season, and won the AL MVP that year as well with a .283 BA, 39 HR and 112 RBI line playing alongside superstar Mickey Mantle.

    In total, Maris played 12 seasons and put together a line of .260 BA, 275 HR and 850 RBI and by all accounts he was a great guy. However, it's hard for him to not be overrated when his career is forever tied to the breaking of one legendary record.

RF Ross Youngs

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    An everyday big leaguer by the age of 21, Youngs hit at least .300 in all but one of his seasons in the majors. The trouble was, he only played 10 seasons.

    Of those 10, he appeared in seven games in one year, and 95 another, so it was more like nine seasons. While he was among the top contact hitters of the 1920s, his career simply didn't span long enough.

    He was inducted by the Veterans Committee in 1972 after failing to receive higher than 22.4 percent of the vote while he was on the ballot, and his presence in the Hall of Fame is among the top arguments for the enshrinement of short-career guys like Don Mattingly and Smoky Joe Wood.

SP Don Drysdale

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    Pitching alongside Sandy Koufax, Drysdale gave the Dodgers a potent one-two punch throughout the 1960s as he won three World Series and appeared in two more during his time with the team.

    Drysdale won double-digit games each season from 1957-1968, but only topped the 20-win mark twice and enjoyed the best season of his career in 1962 when he went 25-9 with a 2.83 ERA.

    Aside from that season, he went just 184-161 with a 2.96 ERA (119 ERA+), which are solid numbers but far from the picture many paint when they think of Drysdale's career.

SP Jesse Haines

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    Perhaps the least-known pitcher in the Hall of Fame, Haines spent 18 seasons with the Cardinals and was in his prime during the 1920s.

    He had 11 seasons with double-digit wins, but just three where he won over 20 games, as he was a solid starter but by no means an ace.

    His career line of 210-158 and his 109 ERA+ are far from Cooperstown-worthy, and he was actually used often as a reliever as just 386 of his 555 career appearances were starts.

SP Waite Hoyt

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    Hoyt paired with Herb Pennock to front the rotation for the great Yankees teams of the 1920s, and from 1921-1928, he went 145-87 with a 3.38 ERA, winning at least 15 games in all but one season.

    However, a 237-182 career record and 3.59 ERA (112 ERA+) make him a solid pitcher, but not one of the best of his era and certainly not worthy of Hall of Fame recognition.

    Overrated is nothing new for players on the Yankees during the 1920s not named Ruth or Gehrig, and Hoyt was one of the biggest beneficiaries of accolades thanks to the roster around him.

SP Catfish Hunter

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    Playing in an era where marquee pitching reigned supreme, Hunter made eight All-Star appearances and won the 1974 AL Cy Young.

    From 1971-1975, he won at least 20 games each season, and he helped lead the A's to three straight World Series victories before becoming the first marquee free agent when he signed with the Yankees.

    However, he won just 224 games during his career, and his ERA+ of 104 is the second-worst of any Hall of Fame pitcher. His career compares very well with Kevin Brown, who is a great example of a pitcher who was good but not great.

SP Rube Marquard

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    Never the ace of any staff he was on, there may be no more puzzling Hall of Fame selection than Marquard.

    He won 20 games just three times in his 18-year career, his 103 ERA+ is the lowest of any Hall of Famer, and perhaps most surprising of all, he finished only 197 of his 407 career starts.

    To put it bluntly, Marquard was the definition of an average pitcher during the 1910s, and he has absolutely no business even being in the discussion for the Hall of Fame, let alone being enshrined.

SP Denny McLain

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    The last pitcher in either league to win 30 games, McLain won back-to-back Cy Young awards in 1968 and 1969 as he went 55-15 with a 2.37 ERA over that span.

    He was not nearly as dominant the remainder of his career though, as he went 76-76 with a 3.94 ERA over the other eight seasons of what was a relatively short career.

    Being the last pitcher to win 30 games will always boost his career in the eyes of baseball fans, but the simple fact is that McLain was an average starter outside of two terrific seasons.

SP Jack Morris

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    The Hall of Fame case for Jack Morris has emerged as a major talking point over the past few years, as his voting support rose to an all-time high of 66.7 percent last season.

    The winningest pitcher of the 1980s with 162 victories, Morris racked up 198 wins in 14 seasons with the Tigers to open his career. However, he'll always be best remembered for his 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

    That impressive single-game performance and sustained success over a fairly weak decade have left Morris overrated. His 254 wins and 3.90 ERA (105 ERA+) are well short of Hall of Fame-caliber, but it is looking more and more like he'll be enshrined in the years ahead.

SP Charles Nagy

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    Nagy piled up 121 wins during the 1990s as the ace of an Indians team that had some of the best offensive lineups in recent memory.

    During the decade, he won at least 15 games six different times, making three All-Star teams and finishing in the top 10 in Cy Young voting three different times.

    However, his ERA for the decade was 4.20 and it was below 3.00 just three times in 10 seasons. He is one of the best recent examples of why wins don't always necessarily paint the most accurate picture of how good a pitcher is.

SP Jim Palmer

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    Palmer is a deserving Hall of Famer and was the unquestioned ace of an Orioles team that made the postseason eight times during his time with the team.

    He won 186 games in the 1970s, including eight 20-plus win seasons and a trio of Cy Young awards, and as a result he is often lumped in with the likes of contemporaries like Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Fergie Jenkins and Gaylord Perry.

    The simple fact of the matter is that his numbers do not quite stack up with those guys, and while he was great in his prime, he did not have as impressive a career as the above-mentioned guys.

SP Herb Pennock

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    Pennock came to the Yankees from the rival Red Sox in 1923 and had the good fortune of pitching for a team that featured Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and a number of other future Hall of Famers.

    He did have eight seasons with 15-plus wins and was an impressive 5-0 with a 1.95 ERA in 10 postseason appearances, but his career numbers fall short of being Hall of Fame-worthy.

    His career line of 241-162 is good, but with a 3.60 ERA and 106 ERA+, he was little more than a slightly above-average pitcher benefiting from a great team.

SP Fernando Valenzuela

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    One of the most popular pitchers of the 1980s, Fernandomania was in full swing during his first full season in the Dodgers rotation in 1981.

    He went 13-7, 2.48 ERA and 180 Ks during what was his rookie season, as he won the NL Cy Young and NL Rookie of the Year honors and helped lead the Dodgers to a World Series title.

    He continued that success over the first six seasons of his career, going 97-68 with a 2.97 ERA as he made the All-Star team each season. From there on though, he went just 74-85 with a 4.23 ERA as he was far from a staff ace from there on. For the most part though, all fans remember are those first six years.

SP Early Wynn

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    Wynn enjoyed a terrific nine-year stretch with the Indians from 1949-1958, as he went 163-100 with a 3.27 ERA (118 ERA+) and led the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts.

    He would go on to win exactly 300 games in his career, going 300-244 with a 3.54 ERA during his 23-year career as became a sure-fire Hall of Famer in reaching the 300-win plateau.

    However, a closer look at his peripheral numbers (1.329 WHIP, 107 ERA+) show that he fails to stack up to the rest of the 300-game winners. His longevity is impressive and his wins are nothing to scoff at, but he is no doubt overrated as many don't look beyond him reaching the 300-win mark.

SP Cy Young

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    When the award for each season's best pitcher in each league is named after you, it's safe to say that you had a fairly decent career on the mound.

    Young went 511-316 with a 2.63 ERA and 2,803 Ks in 7,356 innings of work over his 22-year career, retiring as the game's all-time leader in wins, starts, innings, complete games. However, he is also the game's all-time leader in losses and his career ERA ranks just 59th all-time.

    There is no question Young is a legend and one of the better pitchers to ever play the game. However, because the award is named after him he is often viewed as the best ever, and with the likes of Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson out there, that simply is not the case.

RP Lee Smith

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    The all-time saves leader when he retired following the 1997 season, Smith has since been passed by both Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera.

    While his 478 career saves are impressive, he was rarely if ever the best closer in baseball during his career as he led the league in saves just four times and topped the 40-save mark three times.

    His 3.03 ERA, 1.256 WHIP and 3.4 BB/9 marks are all far from dominant numbers, yet he continues to watch his Hall of Fame voting support rise, to an all-time high of 50.6 percent last season. Very few relievers are Cooperstown-worthy, and in my mind Smith is not one of them.

RP Bruce Sutter

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    Credited with the development of the splitter, Sutter used his signature pitch to save 300 games, leading the league in the category five times.

    While his development of the pitch earns him a place of significance in the game's history, the question remains as to whether his results during a short 12-year career warrant Hall of Fame recognition.

    Relief pitchers have been largely overlooked by the Hall of Fame thus far, and in terms of what he achieved on the field there are at least a dozen closers better than Sutter, who never even sniffed enshrinement.