The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Underrated / Overrated: Baseball and Other Stuff – Part IV

The Blues Brothers (film)

Image via Wikipedia

This is the fourth installment of an ad-hoc series called “Baseball, and Other Stuff.”  If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you know how this works.  If you are just joining us,  settle in.  You’ll get the idea.

Massacre of Elphinstone’s Army
Part of the first Anglo-Afghan War, 1839–1842
The last stand of the survivors of Her Majesty’s 44th Foot at Gandamak


Overrated:  Ryan Howard – Sure, his home run and RBI totals over the past five years have been remarkable.  But, consider, his walk totals have declined steadily over the past five years (108, 107, 81, 75, 59.)  In only two of his seasons has his WAR exceeded 4.0.  By contrast, Albert Pujols‘ LOWEST single season WAR was 5.8.  And Howard has struck out in 27% of his plate appearances, a staggering total.  Finally, only once in the past three years has his on-base percentage touched .360.  At age 30, he has probably seen his best days.

Underrated:  Miguel Cabrera – Has been playing in the shadow of Albert Pujols his whole career.  Otherwise, Cabrera might be considered the greatest player in the game today.  Still only 27-years old, he has already produced seven excellent seasons.  He has driven in over a hundred runs in all but his first half-season, and has only once failed to score over a hundred runs in a year.  His career line is:  .313, .388, .552 with an OPS of .939.  His career OPS+ is 145, good for 45th place all-time, higher than Harmon Killebrew and Eddie Mathews.

Overrated:  Custer’s Last Stand – June, 1876.  Lt. Col. Custer’s entire command was wiped out (268 killed) at the Little Bighorn River, by a combined force of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors.  Within a year, most of the Indians had been forced back onto reservations, were killed, or had fled with Sitting Bull to Canada.

Underrated:  Massacre of Elphinstone’s Army – January, 1842.  Afghanistan (road from Kabul to Jalalabad.)  After an uprising in the city of Kabul, fomented by Akbar Khan, forced the British / Indian troops and camp followers (16,500 strong) out of Kabul, they attempted to reach safety 90 miles away at the British garrison at Jalalabad.  But soon after they set out, the slaughter began.  Near the end, fewer than 40 British regulars of the 44th regiment of foot were all that was left.  Surrounded by Pashtun tribesmen, their surrender was requested, to which a British sergeant reportedly declared, “Not bloody likely.”

Of the original 16,500 men, women and children that evacuated Kabul, only one British medical officer and a few Indian sepoys survived to tell the tale.

Overrated:  Jim “Catfish” Hunter – A colorful character and a tough competitor, but does he really belong in the Hall of Fame?  He did win 20 games or more for five straight seasons, but, excepting win totals, he had just three truly outstanding seasons in his entire career:  1972, ’74, ’75.  He never struck out 200 batters in a season.  He was extremely durable (200+ innings pitched) ten seasons in a row, and he kept his walks to a minimum.  But his career ERA+ was just 105, meaning that taking his career as a whole, he was just 5% better than your average replacement level pitcher.

Underrated:  Pedro Martinez – Will eventually make the Hall of Fame once he becomes eligible, but some writers, perhaps most, will not view Pedro as a first round HOF candidate (as if that matters) because he won just 219 games in his career.  I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that most baseball fans / writers, bloggers, etc., view Pedro as a top 25 all-time pitcher who, unfortunately, didn’t last long enough to make an even greater impression on the minds of the baseball masses.

But let’s take another look at Pedro Martinez’ career.  He was an eight time all-star who won five ERA titles, six WHIP titles, three Cy Young awards (while finishing 2nd twice and third once), whose career WAR of 75.9 is 23rd all-time.

Pedro also posted nine 200 strikeout seasons, including two 300-hundred K seasons.

But those are his LEAST impressive statistics.  Pedro also posted a career WHIP of 1.054 (fifth best ever) and struck out 10.04 batters per nine innings (3rd best ever.)  His strikeouts per walks ratio was 4.15 (3rd best ever.)

Pedro Martinez made 409 career starts, and was defeated just 100 times.  He never lost more than ten games in a season, and he was defeated 1o times in a season just twice in 18 years.  His .687 career win-loss percentage is 6th best all-time.  Pedro struck out 3,154 batters in just 2,827 innings pitched.

Most impressively, however, Pedro Martinez enjoyed his success  in a hitter’s era in mostly friendly hitter’s parks (especially Fenway Park.)  Very few pitchers in baseball history have managed to top an ERA+ (which takes into consideration a pitchers era and home ballpark) of 200.  For the sake of context, Lefty Grove, Bob Gibson and Pete Alexander each reached that plateau just once in their respective careers.  Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson and Tom Seaver never posted an ERA+ of 200 in any single season.

Christy Mathewson reached that lofty number twice.  Roger Clemens touched that number three times, but two of those years are tainted by alleged PED usage.  Walter Johnson, widely regarded as the best pitcher who ever lived, topped an ERA+ of 200 an astonishing four times.

Pedro Martinez reached that pinnacle five times.

Pedro’s career ERA+ of 154 is pretty damn good.  How good?  Well, since you ask, it’s THE BEST EVER for a starting pitcher.

In other words, folks, from 1997-2003, not only wasn’t there a better pitcher in baseball, but there may never have been a better pitcher in the history of baseball.

Overrated:  The Everley Brothers – Here are some lyrics to their hit single “Cathy’s Clown“, released in 1962:

“When you see me shed a tear, and you know that it’s sincere, Doncha think its kinda sad, that you’re treatin’ me so bad?  Or don’t you care…?

Egad man, grow a spine!

Underrated:  The Blues Brothers:

Overrated:  Dave Winfield – Nice overall life-time numbers, 3,000+ hits, 1,800+ RBI’s, 465 home runs… no one’s saying that he sucked.  And he gets extra points for being tailed by a private investigator at the behest of Herr Steinbrenner in the ’80’s. But his career line of .283, .353, .475 is not spectacular.  Nor is his .827 career OPS, or his OPS+ of 130.  Each of these numbers are rather on the low side for a HOF outfielder.

Underrated:  Jimmy Wynn – Jimmy (Toy Cannon) Wynn broke into the big leagues in 1963 at the age of 21, and retired fifteen-years later at the age of 35.  For most of his career, he played in pitchers’ parks in a heavily dominant pitcher’s era.  Despite these handicaps, Wynn was an offensive force in the N.L.  In 1965, at age 23, Wynn stole 43 bases while being caught just four times.  He also drew 84 walks, scored 90 runs, hit 30 doubles and 22 homers, and logged an OPS+ of 144.

In 1967, despite leading the league in strikeouts, Wynn clubbed 37 homers, drove in 107, scored 102 and stole 16 bases.  In ’68, he led the league in offensive WAR at 7.7.

In 1969, Wynn led the league with a huge total of 148 walks, resulting in a .436 on-base percentage.  He also slammed 33 homers and scored 113 runs.  His .943 OPS was good for sixth in the league.  His OPS+ of 166 was a career high, and was fourth best in the senior circuit.

In 1974, Wynn was traded to the Dodgers, made the All-Star team and finished fifth in the N.L. MVP voting at age 32.  He drew 108 walks, drove in 108 runs, and scored 104 runs.  He slugged 32 homers, and finished with an OPS+ of 151.

In his career, Wynn drew over a hundred walks six times, scored 90 or more runs six times, hit at least 25 homers five times, and posted a career OPS+ of 128, the same as Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane, Goose Goslin…and Jim Rice.

And, perhaps most ironically, considering Jimmy Wynn is not in the HOF, and Dave Winfield is…

Jimmy Wynn’s career WAR: 59.8.

Dave Winfield’s career WAR: 59.7.

That’s all for today, boys and girls.  As for me, I’m done here until after Christmas, so check back in sometime between Christmas and (overrated) New Year’s. Until then, enjoy the holidays.

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8 thoughts on “Underrated / Overrated: Baseball and Other Stuff – Part IV

  1. Bill,
    Extremely clever and creative idea. Some of the points I agree and disagee with you on:

    Pedro (Mini-ME) – Although I am a Red Sox fan, the years he pitched for Boston were pure anguish for me. Sure, he pitched some very good games but as for a team player, it was always all about him. What were his stats when it came to pitching the Big Games? I bet that they weren’t that great. When I’d see him on the tube, I confess I had to turn the channel.

    Blues Bros: Yes, I love that movie. Never get tired of it.

    Field of Dreams (this may have been one of your other posts: One of my all time favorites. Surprised you think it’s overrated. Still get a lump in my throat when he talks to his father at the end of the movie.

    Anyway, thank for this most orginal idea. Have you thought of submitting it a newspaper? I’d bet a sports department would love to have you do a guest column.

    Rich Kenney

    • Hey Rich, I didn’t much care for Pedro Martinez as a person, either. Still, there’s no way the Red Sox win the World Series without him. His overall career playoff numbers were more good than bad: 6-4 90 innings, 90 K’s, 30 walks, 78 hits, 1.08 WHIP. He was a monster vs. Cleveland in the 1999 A.L.D.S., pitching ten shutout innings with 11 K’s and just three hits. It’s interesting to me how many Boston fans never really considered him to be one of their own.
      You’re right. Field of Dreams was in an earlier post. I think it helps to have been a baby-boomer to have related to the father-son scene at the end of the film because of the huge generation gap that existed between the WWII men and their baby-boomer sons. Personally, I take it for granted that their is usually a certain amount of love/hate in the vast majority of father/son relationships. I just didn’t need Hollywood pushing it in my face in such an obvious manner.
      Haven’t thought about submitting any of my stuff to anyone other than my blogger audience at this point. But thanks for vote of confidence. We’ll see what 2011 brings.
      Take care, Rich, and have a Merry Christmas. Bill

  2. Howard killed the Phillies in the NLCS.

    I hadn’t realized Cabrera was so young. Will the Mets ever develop or trade for this kind of player in his prime? Don’t answer that!

    • Hi Keitho, I was just thinking about Darryl Strawberry the other day. He is the last position-player super star talent that I remember the Mets producing on their own. And back in ’83-’84, when they acquired Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez, I don’t know if they’ll ever get that lucky again. Be we can sure hope!
      That Phils rotation means it’ll be at least a couple of years before the Mets can hope to challenge for the division title. But there’s always the Wild Card.
      I’d love to see them get Cabrera, and they will, when he’s 35-years old.
      Thanks for checking in, Bill

      • The Phillies right now are the perfect storm of great trades/signings and home-grown talent. How are they able to accomplish this w/o Yankee or Redsox bucks? (or is their payroll now comperable?) I have a feeling that it won’t be quite as awesome as it seems now. Hamels has been up and down throughout his career and Oswald could always reinjure himself. Who knows, maybe even Lee will have an off year — he wasn’t so great in August when he first arrived in Texas, and he was hitable during the Series.

        Mets in ’16!

      • It’s hard to imagine the Phils, or anyone else, for that matter, putting together a rotation this great. It’s also hard to imagine this rotation falling apart. I don’t think it will. Maybe one guy will disappoint, and another won’t get any run support, but they should still be better (pitching) than anyone else.
        But I think they’ll miss Jayson Werth, and as I mentioned in my post, Ryan Howard is overrated. There will be tons of pressure on Chase Utley to produce huge numbers. Phils should win division, but may struggle at times to score runs. This looks like a 95-win team. They’ll go to the playoffs, but they won’t necessarily be one of the great teams of the decade. Thanks again, Bill

  3. Overrated: ESPN’s Baseball Tonight
    Underrated: The On Deck Circle

    Great reading, Bill!

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