Kevin Youkilis and Each MLB Team's Most Overrated Player
Bias has run amok in Red Sox Nation.
In other news, water is wet, the sky is blue and the sun burns hot on a bright summer day.
My good friend and Bleacher Report colleague Lewie Pollis recently wrote an article entitled "The 10 Most Overrated Players in Baseball," in which he discussed such icons of overvaluation as Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira and, of course, Derek Jeter.
Not surprisingly, this piece has unleashed a firestorm of criticism from fans of those players, and at last check Lewie's article has received an astounding 397 comments.
Interestingly, though, while Lewie took it upon himself to assail three different New York Yankees, this dyed-in-the-wool Red Sox fan failed to observe a simple truism:
The most overrated player in baseball is none other than Red Sox icon Kevin Youkilis.
Such bias cannot stand. And so it is that we now take a look at the most overrated player on each team in Major League Baseball.
This way, everyone gets to gripe.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Chris Young, CF
Five years ago, at the age of 23, Chris Young very nearly went 30/30 as a rookie (32/27) and finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Five years later, Young has made almost no progress as a player. He still has decent power, decent speed and plays good defense in center field.
But he also has a tendency to take seasons off away from Chase Field, taking what he can get at home and phoning it in on the road.
In 2011, Young has 11 home runs and 17 doubles at home, along with a .263 average and an .845 OPS.
On the road, he has just 10 doubles, five home runs and a .238 average to go with his .707 OPS.
Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward, RF
We love this kid, absolutely love him. Heyward has unrivaled raw talent and ability, and he carries himself like a major league veteran.
At the same time, that talent has not developed into on-the-field success just yet, and sometimes baseball commentators and fans seem to overlook that simple fact.
He will be great someday, but he is not there yet.
Baltimore Orioles: Mark Reynolds, 3B
The Dave Kingman of the modern era.
Reynolds will probably have 30 home runs when the season ends, which will allow a lot of people to overlook a lot of deficiencies in this guy's game.
Boston Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis, 3B
Kevin Youkilis has a reputation for being one of the game's great pure hitters. As a right-handed hitter playing in Fenway Park, though, we should know to be at least somewhat skeptical of him.
As it turns out, baseball fans should be entirely skeptical of Youkilis's accomplishments. His career .292 batting average is built upon a .309 average at home compared with a .276 average on the road, and in 2011 Youkilis' batting average away from Fenway Park is an abysmal .193.
Of Youk's 28 doubles this season, 23 have come at home.
How did Lewie Pollis miss this guy?
Chicago Cubs: Starlin Castro, SS
Yes, Starlin Castro is only 21 years old, and yes, he damn near hits .300.
At the same time, he is a horrendous defender with a rare combination of bad range and lots of errors. He is also an empty average whose high batting average belies his low on-base percentage, and—big shock here—his numbers are inflated by Wrigley Field, one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball.
As just one example of this inflation, all eight of his triples in 2011 have come at Wrigley.
Chicago White Sox: Ozzie Guillen, Manager
Has anyone ever gotten more "Great Manager" cred out of a single World Series win than this guy?
Cincinnati Reds: Aroldis Chapman, RP
Do you agree with me?
Then HA! This was a trick and an excuse to talk about Aroldis.
In 30 innings this season, Aroldis Chapman has allowed nine hits and struck out 45 batters.
Both of those numbers are PREPOSTEROUS. Absolutely absurd.
Anything less than 30 hits in 30 innings would be solid, and anything more than 30 strikeouts in 30 innings would be very good.
But nine and 45?
Now, obviously Chapman needs to walk slightly fewer than 25 guys every 30 innings, but he's working on it.
Since returning from the minors after being demoted to retool in May, Chapman has struck out 30 batters and walked only five in 17.1 innings.
Cleveland Indians: Grady Sizemore, CF
The story on Grady Sizemore is that when healthy, he is a dynamic player who has an impact upon every aspect of the game.
It is the "when healthy" part that really sticks out, obviously, as Sizemore has not played a full season since the Bush administration.
Colorado Rockies: Carlos Gonzalez, RF
This is a player who finished third in NL Most Valuable Player voting last season while also coming away with the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards at his position, despite the fact that he plays in the most hitter-friendly park in the history of baseball.
His home/road split pretty much punctures the image of Carlos Gonzalez as a great hitter.
Last season, CarGo hit 26 home runs with a .380 average at home while hitting just eight home runs with a .289 average on the road. Yikes.
In 2011, CarGo is hitting .333 with 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases at home, while hitting just .231 with five home runs and six stolen bases on the road.
At the end of the day, would this guy be a great hitter if he were playing in San Diego, Atlanta or Seattle?
Hell, he probably would not even be a starter.
Detroit Tigers: Victor Martinez, DH
Who is Victor Martinez?
We all know the answer to this question, right?
He is one of the best catchers in the game, a terrific pure hitter with plus power and the ability to go the other way at will.
Except Martinez is a full-time DH now. He has not played over 110 games at catcher since 2007, and he has played over 127 games in a season once in the last four years.
As well, his power numbers have declined to the point that he currently has six home runs in 92 games, and oh by the way, he has never hit more than 25 home runs in any single season.
Florida Marlins: Hanley Ramirez, Shortstop
For several seasons, Hanley Ramirez was the type of player whose apparently once-in-a-lifetime hitting made it okay to overlook his horrendous defense.
Nowadays, he does not hit, he still can't field and he is generally not much of a contributor overall.
Houston Astros: Brett Myers
After an up-and-down career with the Philadelphia Phillies, Brett Myers joined the Houston Astros in 2010 and enjoyed a career year, going 14-8 with a 3.14 ERA in 223.2 innings pitched.
The conventional wisdom said that the Phillies had made a mistake and given up on Myers too soon.
Well, first of all, when a guy fails to post a season with an ERA below 3.72 in eight seasons, you have not given up too soon.
Second of all, Myers' 2010 season was clearly an outlier compared to the rest of his career and not an indication of the pitcher he really was.
His 3-11 record with a 4.66 ERA in 2011 kind of makes that point clear.
Kansas City Royals: Melky Cabrera, CF
Melky Cabrera is finally having a decent year at the plate in 2011 with the Royals, which means that unlike in years past, when he killed his teams with both his defense and his hitting, this year he is only killing his team with his defense.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Tie Between Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells
Simply put, the worst players in the lineup for the Angels are also their most handsomely compensated.
Hunter and Wells both used to be elite defensive center fielders. Then they got their big paydays and, I dunno, used their newfound wealth to eat lots of high-carb goods?
These guys are both embarrassments and, oddly, two of the highest-profile players on this team.
That makes them the definition of overrated.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Andre Ethier, RF
For most of his career, Andre Ethier has been a solid-to-good hitter.
He has had some lights out periods in his career, and those periods seem to have generated a substantial amount of intrigue around the league.
At the same time, baseball people seem to casually overlook the fact that the hottest parts of Ethier's career have come with Manny Ramirez in the lineup.
Milwaukee Brewers: Yuniesky Betancourt
Year in and year out, Yuniesky Betancourt has been both one of the worst defensive shortstops and one of the worst offensive shortstops in baseball, and he has done little to nothing to improve either aspect of his game.
Yet major league teams have seen it fit to give him 500-plus plate appearances in each of the last five years, and he is well on his way in 2011.
At some point, you have to ask whether this guy is in with some drug lord or his mother was Bud Selig's maid or something, because never in the history of baseball has such a fundamentally flawed player been allowed to remain a full-time major leaguer for so long.
Minnesota Twins: Michael Cuddyer, OF
Michael Cuddyer is ahead of schedule.
Usually, Cuddyer puts together one good year out of every three to keep his name on the short list of good right-handed-hitting outfielders.
His first really good year was 2006, and then he phoned it in for a couple of years before having a terrific 2009 season. After another phone-it-in in 2010, Cuddyer is doing surprisingly well again in 2011.
Does this mean he has an extra year to phone it in again before reappearing?
New York Mets: David Wright, 3B
Early in his career, David Wright established himself as a five-tool player, a great defensive third baseman with power and speed and the ability to hit for average and get on base.
Somehow, Wright has entered the prime of his career, and none of those tools seems to remain present.
He is not even a very good fielder any more, which is bewildering.
New York Yankees: Derek Jeter, SS
Say what you will: Jeter is a Hall of Famer, and he earns his money.
He just isn't that good any more. No need to kick a guy when he's down.
Oakland A's: The Entire Pitching Staff
Playing in a pitcher-friendly park with an elite defense that cannot hit its weight, the Oakland A's pitching staff posts very good ERAs and not much else.
Their team peripherals—K/9IP, K/BB, BB/9IP—are mediocre, which tends to indicate that this team has pitchers who know how to keep the ball down and a defense that does not make lots of mistakes.
Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard
Ryan Howard is the Jim Rice of the modern era.
Anytime you are a slugger playing in a dynamic offensive lineup in a hitter-friendly park and your chief claim to fame is your RBI, chances are people think way too highly of you.
Howard is one of the three or four most highly paid players in baseball, and he probably isn't one of the top 10 players at his own position.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Neil Walker, 2B
Beware the empty average, people.
Neil Walker is a switch-hitting second baseman who plays every day and is part of the Pittsburgh Pirates' big turnaround in 2011.
But to this point, Walker's chief accomplishment at the major league level has been hitting .296 in 110 games in his first full season in 2010.
The excitement this accomplishment has generated has been out of proportion to the value of the accomplishment.
St. Louis Cardinals: We Interrupt This Broadcast
For years, I have railed against Colorado Rockies hitters whenever they have become the darlings of the baseball media. From Andres Galarraga to Larry Walker to Todd Helton to Vinny Castilla, it has driven me insane that media members fawn all over these guys while simply ignoring their home/road splits.
Somewhere in this slideshow, you will see that I have continued this tradition with Carlos Gonzalez, one of my least favorite players in baseball and a guy whose adoration by the media makes me crazy.
For a couple of years there, I did the same thing with Matt Holliday, who truly ripped it up in Colorado during his time there. In his best year, 2007, he won the batting title while leading the NL in total bases, hits, doubles and RBI, and he finished second in the MVP voting on his way to leading the Rockies to the World Series.
The media, of course, loved it. I hated it and railed against Holliday with all my might.
And so, rather than finding a St. Louis Cardinal in this space to make fun of, I would like instead to give props to Holliday and a mea culpa of sorts. In three years since leaving Colorado, Holliday has continued to put up excellent numbers, and his level of play has failed to drop off the way I thought it would after he left the Rockies.
Well done, Matt Holliday. I was wrong about you.
San Diego Padres: Luke Gregerson, RP
Luke Gregerson broke into the majors with the San Diego Padres three years ago, and his unconventional breaking pitch-heavy repertoire has been much-lauded during that time.
But check this out:
Career ERA: 3.20
Career ERA at home: 1.97
Career ERA on the road: 4.58
Bit of a home-field hero, this one is. Without Petco Park, Gregerson may not have a job.
San Francisco Giants: Cody Ross, LF
Cody Ross got white-hot in the playoffs last season and almost singlehandedly delivered the Giants past the heavily favored Phillies and into the World Series.
Somehow, this motivated the Giants front office to anoint Ross, a 30-year-old journeyman outfielder with three full seasons out of seven, their starting left fielder in 2011.
Somehow, the Giants failed to realize that Ross has never been anything other than a mediocre hitter and an inferior defender.
They probably realize it now, though.
Seattle Mariners: Ichiro Suzuki, RF
It is very difficult to pick an overrated Mariner, because none of the Mariners players are highly rated.
So I will take this opportunity to point out the following regarding Ichiro Suzuki.
With over 400 stolen bases, Ichiro is generally considered one of the great stolen base threats of our time.
But is this accurate?
All Ichiro Suzuki does, for the most part, is hit singles. If you combine his singles, his bases on balls and his hit-by-pitches, during his career Ichiro has found himself standing on first base nearly 2,500 times in his career.
Suddenly, 400 stolen bases does not seem like that many.
In 2004, during his prime, when Ichiro set the single season hits record, Ichiro had over 250 times on first base and stole 36 bases.
This is not a great base stealer.
Tampa Bay Rays: Johnny Damon, LF/DH
In 322 hits, the baseball world is going to have to either decide that 3,000 hits no longer automatically gets you into the Hall of Fame or that Johnny Damon is a Hall of Famer.
Say those words out loud to yourself: Johnny Damon is a Hall of Famer.
Texas Rangers: Michael Young, DH
Before this season ends, Michael Young will collect his 2,000th hit and begin his race against time to collect his 3,000 hit before he retires. That is all well and good.
At the same time, though, this is a guy who is a .324 hitter over his career at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington while hitting only .281 away from home. He has 1,053 hits at home and 936 on the road during his career.
If Young was not a career Ranger, his numbers would be a whole lot more similar to Brian Roberts' than they are.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista, RF
Okay, this guy seems totally legitimate. I guess when you are a jaded non-dreamer like me, you do not want to believe that a guy can just figure it out the way Bautista appears to have.
Let's insert Aaron Hill in this spot, then. This guy had one semi-decent season with some overrated power numbers three years ago, and we have chosen not to notice that he sucks ever since.
It is my conviction that the same will happen to Jose Bautista, which compels me not to believe the hero story.
Washington Nationals: Jayson Werth, RF
In Philadelphia, Jayson Werth presented "good player in a great lineup or great player in a good lineup" questions.
In Washington, in the absence of a great or even good lineup, Werth has answered that question rather conclusively.
Too bad the Nationals had to pay $126 million to find out the answer.