MLB Power Rankings: The 10 Most Overrated Players in Baseball
Tonight is the 2011 MLB All-Star Game, in which baseball's best players compete for league pride on national TV.
At least, in theory.
In practice, it's not the most deserving players who make the Midsummer Classic—it's the biggest names and the most recognizable stars who the fans, players and managers send to the All-Star game.
And so, with hours remaining before the first pitch in Phoenix, this seems like an appropriate time to consider the most overrated players in baseball.
In this slideshow, for your consideration, are my picks for the 10 most overrated players in the game.
If these guys were stocks, you'd want to sell high now.
No. 10: Mark Teixeira, Yankees
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No doubt Mark Teixeira is a good player, and there aren't many teams that wouldn't be happy to stick him in their lineups. Yankees fans aren't the only ones who consider him one of the game's elite first basemen.
Except, if you look at the numbers, he really isn't.
Since 2009, Teixeira's .892 OPS and 135 wRC+ put him eighth among MLB first basemen. His 11.4 WAR ranks him seventh, behind—surprise, surprise—Kevin Youkilis.
This year, Tex is actually being somewhat undervalued (his .244 average is the product of a .218 BABIP). But on the whole, he's still overrated.
No. 9: Billy Butler, Royals
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Butler is a popular pick for the most underrated player in baseball, to the point where many analysts are grossly overvaluing his skills.
Since 2007 (when he made his MLB debut), Butler has accumulated 5.8 WAR for an underwhelming pace of 1.4 WAR/150 games.
Over the last five years, his .815 OPS puts him 19th among first basemen with at least 1,000 plate appearances, and he ranks 20th on the first-base WAR leaderboards in that time. Even in 2010, his best year, he managed only 2.8 WAR.
Sure, he's suffering from playing for a small-market team, but it's not like he's much of a star anyway.
No. 8: Josh Beckett, Red Sox
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Beckett made a name for himself when he was MVP of the 2003 World Series and again when he won 20 games for the Red Sox in 2007. His reputation has been living off it ever since.
Even before his collapse in 2010, Beckett was somewhat overrated. He was good (29-16, 3.93 ERA) but far from elite, and he was still called the ace of Boston's staff long after Jon Lester established his superiority.
Somewhat underrated after a bad-luck-fueled slump last year (5.78 ERA, 3.86 xFIP), Beckett is overvalued again now that his ERA is down to 2.27 despite nearly identical peripheral numbers to last year.
No. 7: Torii Hunter, Angels
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The five-year, $90 million deal Hunter signed with the Angels in 2007 looked like an overpay at the time. It looks even worse now.
Many still see Hunter as an intimidating hitter despite his below-average 97 wRC+. But of course, the real attraction to Hunter is his glove.
Remember that catch he made in the 2002 All-Star Game? Of course you do. It's one of the best plays most of us are likely to see in our lifetimes. A catch like that on national TV will give anyone's reputation a boost.
The problem is, that's how everyone still sees Hunter, even though he hasn't finished a season with a positive UZR since 2005 and hasn't deserved a Gold Glove since 2003.
No. 6: Robinson Cano, Yankees
Al Bello/Getty Images
Some of the hottest debates in the wake of the 2011 MLB All-Star selections have revolved around Cano. I've seen many people assert that he's the best second baseman in the game, but he doesn't even deserve a spot in the Midsummer Classic.
Look at Howie Kendrick, the AL team's backup second baseman, and you'll see that he's better than Cano. Check out snubs Ben Zobrist, Ian Kinsler and—yes, New Yorkers—Dustin Pedroia's statistics, and you'll see them blow Cano out of the water.
All five of those players are roughly even offensively, but Kendrick, Zobrist, Kinsler and Pedroia are all much better fielders and baserunners than Cano.
If you think Cano is the best second baseman in the league, you're either basing your opinion solely on last year, completely ignoring defense or a Yankees fan.
No. 5: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
This year marks the third consecutive season in which Molina has been named to the NL All-Star team. It's also the third straight year he hasn't deserved it.
Molina is a decent enough hitter (for a catcher, at least), but he's seen as one of the best backstops in the game for his allegedly invaluable defense. But while he's great at controlling opposing baserunners, that's not enough to put him on par with, say, Miguel Montero and Chris Iannetta.
Many will tell you that Molina is exceptionally skilled at calling games, but research has shown that catchers' influence on pitchers is dramatically overstated, if it exists in significant amounts at all.
In other words, the quality that makes Molina special is at least exaggerated and may be an illusion. That suggests that his perceived value is pretty inflated.
No. 4: Adam Jones, Orioles
Darren McCollester/Getty Images
A good contact hitter with solid pop and decent wheels, many people see Jones as one of the best young outfielders in the game.
These people are wrong.
His .276 career average is nice, but his contact ability is negated somewhat by his terrible plate discipline (his career walk rate is under five percent). While his power has looked impressive (.169 isolated power since 2009), that's partly because of ISO's bias towards contact hitters. As a result, he's actually been a slightly below-average hitter (98 wRC+) for his career.
His much-ballyhooed fielding prowess is greatly overstated too. He posted -7.6 UZR when he won an inexplicable Gold Glove in 2009, and this year he has a -18.8 UZR/150.
No. 3: Paul Konerko, White Sox
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Another popular pick for the game's most underrated slugger, Konerko is even worse a choice than Butler.
Over the course of Konerko's 15-year career, he has a 121 wRC+. That's certainly good, but it's far from elite for a first baseman, and he's never been among the best at his position.
Last year, his age-34 season, was the first time Konerko ever posted a wRC+ over 136, and even then his terrible defense and baserunning stopped him from reaching four WAR.
Konerko's good, and over the last couple years he's been a great hitter. But the reason he's not a star isn't that he's underrated—it's that he's not a star.
No. 2: Ryan Howard, Phillies
Howard is living proof of the importance of first impressions.
The 2005 Rookie of the Year slammed 58 homers en route to the NL MVP award in 2006 and then mashed 140 dingers over the next three seasons.
Then, in 2010, something changed. Over the last two seasons, he's slugged just .494 with 49 homers in 233 games. With a 124 wRC+ he hasn't been an elite slugger by any stretch, and that doesn't cut it when you're a first baseman who can't run or play defense.
He's posted just 2.6 WAR in that span, putting him beneath such marquee names as Michael Cuddyer and J.D. Drew.
Yet he's still seen as one of the best power hitters in the game—yesterday on ESPN, Aaron Boone said he was second only to Jose Bautista. Clearly the perception hasn't faded, even though Howard's skill has.
No. 1: Derek Jeter, Yankees
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He's had a great career, and the most recent Mr. 3,000 is a no-questions-asked Hall of Famer. But that doesn't mean he's not wildly overrated.
This year, Jeter has an OPS under .700 and less than 1.0 WAR to his name, yet the fans voted him the starting shortstop on the AL All-Star team. It's not just biased Yankees fans who are deluded—his selection was immediately praised by Cal Ripken Jr. and Dennis Eckersley, two guys who know a thing or two about baseball.
It's not just this year either. Jeter's been one of the worst fielders of all time, and anyone who says he deserves his Gold Gloves is demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding about the meaning of defense.
He's praised as a postseason hero, even though his 124 playoff wRC+ is exactly the same as his career mark. He's also talked about in reverential tones in which similar-caliber players like Craig Biggio and Lou Whitaker are never mentioned.
Plus, Jeter is overrated off the field. He's constantly praised for his sportsmanship, yet his crybaby act when he pretended to get hit by a pitch last September, while legal, was undeniably an attempt to gain an illicit advantage in the game. It's also hard to make a case for his humility when he thought he was worth more than $100 million last winter.
That doesn't make Jeter a bad person. His actions are understandable, and it's hard to blame him for wanting to help his team or maximize his paycheck.
But can we stop pretending that he's a saint?
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