Baseball's 10 Pleasant Surprises of 2009
These are the guys the scouts say, "Oh, he will be an average player." And they go above and beyond expectations.
They are the youngsters who no one knows that have their breakout year.
The fourth or fifth starter, who ends up being a little more than that.
These are the 10 pleasant surprises of 2009.
The stats that I mainly use are going to be the sabermetrics, mostly WAR value, RAR value for pitchers, and the UZR/fielding ratings. Although occasionally I will use the traditional stats, too.
Without any further rambling, here are baseball's biggest surprises...
10: Jason Bartlett
The Rays shortstop has been a very solid player since coming over from Minnesota. However, in 2009, he really stepped up his play.
His batting average jumped to .320, from its .286 last year. His WAR value was 4.8 this year.
People don't notice the young talent plays short for the Rays: He will be great for years.
9: Ubaldo Jimenez
Ubaldo Jimenez came in as the Rockies' ace. No one expected him to do what he did.
He was one of the leagues better aces, going 15-12 with a 3.47 ERA.
His WAR vlue was an incredible 5.7.
The guy was utterly amazing.
8: Chone Figgins
The "average" versatile third baseman had a little more than an average year. His batting average was the highest of his career at .298. His WAR value skyrocketed to 6.1. His UZR was an incredible 16.3.
The season got him the big bucks when he hit the market. He was signed by the Mariners for a substantial amount of money.
7: Pablo Sandoval
We saw flashes of him in 2008. We saw all of him in 2009.
The young Gaints' giant catcher had a great year. A 5.2 WAR value, a .330 average, and 25 home runs. The guy is incredible.
No one knew of him before the season, now he is loved all around.
6: Shin-Soo Choo
The Indians acquired him for practically nothing. Just a struggling minor leaguer and a backup first baseman, and now he is among the premiere outfielders in the league.
He batted .300 with 20 homers this year, his WAR value a very high 5.0.
No one really saw this coming...
5: Nyjer Morgan
I love this guy. The way he plays the game, his skills, everything seems perfect about him.
And the stats prove it.
When he came up this year with the Pirates, the expectations for him weren't too high. But he took full advantage of his call-up, batting .277 in 71 games with 18 steals. He played some great D, and was always a factor with his speed.
He finished the season with a .307 average, and 42 steals. His WAR value was 4.9.
He is sure to have a great career.
4: Carl Pavano
Very few people knew if Pavano would even pitch this year. He had just finished a three year stint with the Yankees in which he had only pitched 144 innings.
However, the Indians took a risk, and signed him to a one year deal. When the Indians were out of contention, he was traded to Minnesota, and helped them in their playoff run.
His 37 RAR value is pretty good for a starter.
His 4.64 ERA with the Twins wasn't too shabby, especially considering his past. He finished 14-12, and scored a two year, $7 million deal from the Twins this offseason.
He may have turned his career around.
3: Joel Pineiro
Joel came to St. Louis a broken man. Their great pitching coach, Mr. Duncan, fixed him up.
A 3.49 ERA, and a 15-12 record don't lie.
His 4.4 WAR value is very good.
His season was good enough to earn him a two-year, $16 mil deal. The only thing is that away from Duncan and back in the AL, he might not be as good, but 2009 was a great season for him.
2: Franklin Gutierrez
Guti was part of the Putz trade, and came over to Seattle from Cleveland. Until this year, no one knew who he was.
Now, I hope you know his name.
If you go by WAR value, he is the best outfielder in baseball. He is a pretty good hitter, however, it is his defense that sets him apart. An amazing 29.1 UZR.
He is very good, and his hitting will continue to improve.
Remember his name.
1: Ben Zobrist
He was amazing.
An 8.6 WAR value was the best in the league.
And the best part is that no one saw it coming.
A .297 average with 27 homers. What a season. Plus a 26.4 UZR...
Matt Kemp - Scouts had predicted a great year.
Troy Tulowitzki - Previous years were fairly similar to 2009.
Justin Verlander - Has had seasons like '09 before.
That's it. Feel free to comment.