Under the Radar
There are some players who have performed exceptionally well over the past decade or so who seem to have missed the spotlight. Or, perhaps more accurately, the spotlight has missed them.
It’s not that these players are complete unknowns, but considering the high degree of success they’ve achieved in MLB, they’ve never generated very much press, or at least not for very long. Unlike Jeter, A-Rod, Griffey, and a few others, these players are not house-hold names across America, although their local fan-base is usually extremely loyal.
One such player is Roy Oswalt, the ace starting pitcher for the Houston Astros. (The Astros, in fact, have had several under-the-radar types going back two decades, but that’s another blog post.) Oswalt is 32 years old and has pitched in the big leagues for nine years. It’s time to start checking his credentials to see if he might some day be considered Hall-of-Fame worthy.
Once you begin to take a closer look at Oswalt’s career stats, some amazing numbers jump out at you. Take, for example, his career won-loss record of 137-70, which translates to a win-loss percentage of .662. That percentage, by the way, is the 17th best in MLB history. If he loses his next 67 starts, about two years worth of pitching, he would still be a .500 pitcher.
But given the fact that Oswalt has NEVER lost more than 12 games in a season, and has lost fewer than 10 games in six of nine seasons, he might not lose 67 more games over the course of the rest of his career. He has two 20 win seasons (more than Don Sutton and Mike Mussina) and a 19 win season.
Oswalt gets his fair share of strikeouts, but is stingy about giving up walks. In fact, his 3.58 K’s per walk is the 15th best in Major League history. He has averaged 7.4 K’s and 2.1 walks per nine innings, and he has a career WHIP of 1.20, one of the best among active pitchers.
Oswalt has never won a Cy Young Award, but he has finished among the top 5 in Cy Young voting in five different seasons. He has made three All-Star teams, and is 4-0 with a 3.66 ERA in the post-season. His career 3.23 ERA is fifth best among active pitchers, and he has posted ERA’s of 3.01 or less in five different seasons.
And until last season, when injuries limited him to 181 innings, he has been very durable throughout his career, topping 200 innings pitched six times.
Folks, that is a Hall of Fame resume in the making. Yes, he has only 137 career victories, but another nine seasons, averaging fifteen wins per season, would give him just over 270 career wins.
Considering that 300 career wins are becoming as rare as Honus Wagner baseball cards, a pitcher with career stats as substantial as Oswalt’s will garner at least some, perhaps a lot, of Hall of Fame support.
The other player I believe has performed Under the Radar has actually been hiding in plain sight in the media capital of the world, New York City. He happens to be the Mets center fielder, Carlos Beltran.
How, you ask, can someone who plays in New York be considered an Under the Radar performer? Well, when you play in the same city as Jeter, A-Rod, Sabathia, Santana, Wright, Reyes, etc., it’s actually quite easy to become incognito.
Much has been written lately about how important it is for Reyes, Wright and Santana to be healthy and productive in 2010 if the Mets are going to have any chance of making the playoffs. It is my opinion that as Beltran goes, so go the Mets this season. Here’s why:
Carlos Beltran is one of the best pure offensive forces in baseball. In his 12 major league seasons, Beltran has scored 1,085 runs, and he has driven in 1,035. He has slugged 273 homers, and he has stolen 286 bases. In his career, he has successfully swiped 88 percent of all bases he has attempted to steal, one of the highest success rates in history.
When he hits his 300th homer and swipes his 300th base, he will be one of only six players in major league history to have done so.
Beltran won the A.L. Rookie of the Year Award in 1999 with the K.C. Royals. He has won two Silver Slugger awards, played in five All-Star games, and has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting twice.
One of the best defensive outfielders in the game as well, Beltran has won three gold glove awards.
Finally, there is Beltran’s post-season record to consider. His numbers are astounding: 30 hits in 82 at bats for a .360 average. He has hit 11 homers, driven in 19, scored a remarkable 31 runs, has drawn 18 walks for an OBP of .485, and has a slugging percentage of .817. He has also stolen eight bases in eight attempts.
Beltran turns 33 years of age this coming April, 2010. As with Roy Oswalt, if Beltran can continue to maintain anything like his current level of production for the next eight to ten years, he will certainly be hard to ignore for HOF consideration come voting day five years after he retires.
There are certainly other players, such as Bobby Abreu, Garrett Anderson, Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman, etc. who can also be considered Under the Radar players. If you have a personal favorite, please let me know who he is, and I’ll try to share your thoughts on a future blog post.
Thank you for reading The On Deck Circle, and have a Happy New Year!