MLB Power Rankings: The 8 Most Overrated Power Pitchers in Baseball
As spectators, we tend to glorify fastballs, as well as pitchers that strikeout a lot of hitters.
Even though a strikeout is usually no more beneficial to a pitcher than a ground out or a fly out, it is a significantly more dramatic and overpowering way for a batter to be retired. Because of this, pitchers that are able to throw fastballs in the mid-to-high 90s and strikeout a lot of batters are often more hyped and talked about than finesse and off-speed pitchers.
As a result, there are several power pitchers that are either overpaid or who gain considerably more recognition than they truly deserve.
Here are the top eight.
8. Jake Westbrook, St. Louis Cardinals
A lot of players were handed ridiculous contracts over this past offseason, but perhaps the least explainable was the three year deal that Westbrook signed with the St. Louis Cardinals back in November.
Normally, when a pitcher signs a deal worth at least $25 million, he is a) in his 20s, b) has just come off a great season, or c) has pitched very well overall over the previous three seasons. Westbrook exerted none of those qualities.
Jake Westbrook was 33 years old at the time of the deal. He was also coming off a rather mediocre 2010 season (10-11, 4.22), and worst of all, he won a grand total of just 17 games between 2007-2010.
St. Louis may have been hoping for the old Westbrook when they signed him in November, but it is not like Westbrook has ever been great. After all, he made his only All-Star appearance in 2004 and has a career WAR of just 12.2.
Since signing the deal, Westbrook has an awful ERA of 5.34 with St Louis in 97.2 innings.
7. Javier Vazquez, Florida Marlins
Vazquez was one of the most underrated pitchers during the early part of his career, but he has long since been one of the most overrated.
An Expo from 1998-2003, Vazquez won 64 games with Montreal and was consistently among the NL leaders in innings, strikeouts and whip. However, in the eight years since, Vazquez has earned at least $7 million every season, yet has been very mediocre.
In the past seven years, Vazquez has spent time with the New York Yankees (twice), the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Chicago White Sox, the Atlanta Braves and the Florida Marlins. That alone should tell you that he has not been consistently reliable. But in that time, Vazquez has been paid more than $80 million, while being named to just one All-Star team.
Vazquez, who is having a tough season with the Florida Marlins (5-8, 5.23), will turn 35 years old in July. He is set to be a free agent after the season, but his run of earning $7 million for eight straight years may finally be coming to an end.
6. Fausto Carmona, Cleveland Indians
Carmona has only had one particularly good season during his career, but it was enough to make him a rich man.
A Cleveland Indian throughout his entire six-year career, Carmona pitched very well in 2007, going 19-8 on the year and an ERA of 3.06. Carmona finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting that season and was rewarded soon afterwards with a four year, $15 million deal with options for the following three years worth the upwards of $33 million more.
Unfortunately for the Cleveland Indians, Carmona is just 30-43 since that 2007 season with an overall ERA above 5.00.
He redeemed himself a bit with an All-Star season in 2010. However, his numbers still weren't great, as Carmona finished the season with a record of 13-14 and a mediocre wins above replacement total of 2.0.
Carmona (4-10, 5.78 ERA) has had a terrible 2011 season and is in danger of being taken out of Cleveland's starting rotation.
5. Zack Greinke, Milwaukee Brewers
Greinke's career has been full of ups and downs, but he is best remembered for his high point.
Back in 2006, one year removed from a season in which Greinke led the AL with 17 losses, he was diagnosed with social anxiety and depression. Fortunately, he was able to get through it.
Greinke pitched well in 2007 and 2008, then had a season for the ages in 2009. That year, Greinke was 16-8 with an unbelievable ERA of just 2.16, as he earned AL Cy Young honors for the 97-loss Kansas City Royals.
However, Greinke followed his Cy Young campaign with an inconsistent 2010 season, in which he finished 10-14 with an ERA of 4.16. He was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers during this past offseason and still hasn't been able to reach the level of dominance that we saw from him two seasons ago.
Greinke, 27, will have plenty of opportunities to redeem himself. However, as of right now, he is just 67-70 overall during his career and has only had more than 4.2 wins above replacement in a season just once.
He is owed $13.5 million this season, as well as next season, so it will be interesting to see how he pitches during the next year and a half.
4. Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs
Zambrano has had a great career, but he is unquestionably overrated.
A Chicago Cub throughout his entire career, Zambrano may have peaked too early. From 2003-2006, when Zambrano was between 22-25 years old, he had an overall record of 59-32 with a great ERA of 3.14.
Then, during the middle of the 2007 season, Zambrano signed an extension with the Cubs that guaranteed him $91.5 million through the end of 2012. While Zambrano has pitched relatively well since signing the extension, he has undoubtedly gotten worse over the last four years, not better.
This season, Zambrano's ERA is 4.34, which is higher than the league average. And since the start of 2008, his overall ERA is about 3.83, which is certainly not worthy of more than $18 million per year. Zamrbano's innings have also decreased over the last several years, leaving the Cubs with a No. 2 or No. 3-type pitcher disguising himself as an ace.
3. John Lackey, Boston Red Sox
Lackey pitched consistently well for the Los Angeles Angels, but he was overpaid considerably by the Boston Red Sox.
With the Los Angeles Angels, Lackey won 102 games in eight seasons. During that stretch, he won at least nine games each year, but only had one particularly impressive season. That came in 2007, when Lackey was 19-9 with an ERA of 3.01, as he finished third in AL Cy Young voting.
After two more decent seasons in 2008 and 2009, the Boston Red Sox handed Lackey a five year, $80 million deal. The extensive contract appeared to be a direct result of the five year, $80 million deal that the New York Yankees offered to AJ Burnett just a couple weeks prior.
Since coming to Boston, Lackey has been anything but dominant. He has an ERA of 5.05 with the Red Sox in 294 innings, including a dreadful overall WAR of 0.5. He has also seen his strikeouts per nine innings steadily decline from 8.6 back in 2005 all the way down to 5.9 this season.
Lackey, who is just 6-8 in 2011 an ERA of 6.84, is owed $45.75 million after this season, which is about $30 million too much.
2. Brad Penny, Detroit Tigers
If you were to simply take a glance at Penny's career resume, you would think that he has had a very successful career. After all, he has won 20 more games in his career than he has lost, he is a two-time All-Star, and he once beat the Yankees twice in a single World Series.
However, when you dig deeper, you realize how extremely overrated he is.
For a starting pitcher that has drawn interest from perennial contenders like the Dodgers, Red Sox,Giants, Cardinals and Tigers in recent years, Penny has done very little to impress.
Since 2002, when Penny was just 24 years old, he has pitched at least 145 innings, while posing an ERA below 3.90, just once. And while Penny can throw as fast as just about any starter in the game, he has never struck out more than 154 batters in a season.
Now 33 years old, Penny has already been paid almost $50 million during his career and will likely earn more before he is finished.
1. AJ Burnett, New York Yankees
Burnett has never been an All-Star, but the New York Yankees paid him a few years ago as if he was a perennial superstar.
Prior to the 2009 season, Burnett signed a five year, $80 million deal with the New York Yankees. While it may be true that the Yankees tend to dramatically overpay players, Burnett's deal might just take the cake.
One of the most inconsistent pitchers in the game, Burnett can appear dominant at times, but extremely vulnerable at other times. As a result, nearly every season of Burnett's career could be classified as somewhere between average and solid.
After all, he has yet to post a WAR above 3.8 for a single season and has never finished among the top ten leaders in ERA.
Burnett is not an ace and would be a weak No. 2 starter on most teams, but you would never know it by looking at his salary and the respect he receives from the media.