23 Jul Top 10 Most Overrated Players In Baseball (Part 1)
Written By: Jared Roth
Here are 10 players you may think are good. Analytics says otherwise.
This is the link to part 2: http://thesportscrew.com/top-10-most-overrated-players-in-baseball-part-2/
10-8. Worst Of The Worst
You probably already know these players are bad, but you might not realize how bad they actually are.
10. Avisail Garcia (CWS/OF)
Since the start of the 2013 season, Avisail Garcia’s -2.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) ranks last among qualifiers. He has amassed 4 consecutive negative WAR seasons, and has never had a season with a positive WAR in his career.
Simply put, this guy has been the worst player in baseball over the past half decade. And for some reason, he still has a job.
What makes him so bad you ask? He doesn’t get on base – his career walk rate (BB%) of 6.3 and his career .258 AVG lead to a .311 career OBP. He doesn’t hit for power – .374 career SLG, or strike much fear on the base paths – 16/32 in stolen base attempts for his career. He also plays absolutely terrible defense – 41.1 runs below average with -21 Defense Runs Saved (DRS) over his 5 year career. With defense like that and a career 87 Weighted Runs Created+ (wRC+), meaning he is 13% worse than the average hitter over that time period, its easy to wonder what this guy is still doing in the league.
Swapping the once-prized minor league prospect to the Pale Hose for Jose Iglesias in a mid-2013 three-team deal that also included the Red Sox was another great move in the portfolio of then Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski.
9. Billy Butler (OAK/DH)
Unlike Garcia, Billy Butler was actually once a good hitter. From 2009-2012, Butler’s wRC+ was 128, amassing him 7.2 WAR in that span.
This is even more respectable when you consider that Butler’s value is exclusively linked to his hitting. His 143.1 runs below average on defense for his career is a byproduct of the fact that he doesn’t really have a position; he has played 1B a handful of times a season since 2010, but is really an exclusive DH. He also has no speed – 5/8 in career steal attempts.
For this reason, once his hitting dropped off, so did his entire value.
Since the start of 2014, Butler has actually been 4% worse than the average hitter (96 wRC+), leading to a -2.0 WAR over that span. His AVG, OBP, BB%, and SLG have all regressed from the years when he was a productive player.
Butler’s WAR in that time period is only better than one other qualifier, the next player on our list…
8. Ryan Howard (PHI/1B)
Like Butler, Ryan Howard was once good. Unlike Butler, Ryan Howard was once really, really good!
Between 2004 and 2009, Ryan Howard hit 222 HRs, and accumulated a .376 OBP with a 12.9 BB%. In those 6 years his wRC+ was 138 and he amassed 18.9 WAR. This included a 2006 NL MVP season (5.9 WAR, 162 wRC+, .425 OBP, 58 HRs). Good stuff!
The sad truth for Phillies fans is that Howard has not been good since 2009 ended. And since 2012, he’s been especially awful.
Since the start of the 2012 season, Howard has had 4/5 seasons with a negative WAR, and has a -2.8 accumulative WAR (3rd worst among qualifiers in that span). Another player with not much to offer outside of his bat (bad defense, no speed), Howard’s gigantic regression as a hitter has left him with little or no value to his team. In that span Howard has a 90 wRC+, a .290 OBP, and a 29.9 strikeout rate (K%). Awful stuff!
What’s especially frightening is Howard’s splits. While he was never very good against lefties – 85 career wRC+ compared to 137 versus righties, what’s happened the past few years has just been insane. Howard has been allowed upwards of 100 plate appearances (PAs) against lefties each year even until 2015, when the obvious truth is that he simply cannot hit them. Some of his wRC+ totals versus lefties the past few years include 60 in 2012, 45 in 2013, and 9 in 2015. Shall I expand on that last one? In 2015, over 107 PAs, Howard slashed .130/.178/.240 with 40 strikeouts and 5 walks. To add insult to injury, for pretty much all of those PAs against lefty starters, Howard was penciled in as a middle of the order hitter. Absolutely wild stuff.
7-5. Past Their Prime
These players used to be valuable, but if you think they still are, you’re stuck in the past.
7. Ryan Zimmerman (WSH/1B)
While Zimmerman’s -0.4 WAR this season ranks 6th worst among qualifiers, the truth is that he really hasn’t been able to stay healthy and consistently contribute in years.
This year he has been one of the worst players in baseball for a few reasons. He is walking less (7.7%) and striking out more (21.7%) than he has at any point in his career. His career low .243 Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) may suggest to you that his abysmal .221 AVG might be caused by bad luck, but don’t be fooled. His career low line drive rate (LD%) of 14.2 coupled with the previously mentioned strikeout rate suggest otherwise.
He is simply not hitting the ball hard. Not a good thing when you play below average defense and have no speed.
While injuries and missed time have definitely been a huge story for Zimmerman since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder before the 2013 season, he has not been very productive even when he has been on the field. What a far cry from the dominant power hitter who played gold glove defense at 3B and had back to back seasons with WARs above 6.5 in 2009 and 2010.
6. Justin Upton (DET/OF)
I think its safe to say the Tigers are disappointed with the return they’ve received so far from their 6-year, $132.75 million offseason investment on Justin Upton.
Upton is making $22.1 million this year and has a -0.6 WAR through 374 PAs. Ouch!
Though his defence has always been average or below, the past few years, and this year in particular, have been especially rough for him. His -5.5 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) this season puts him 12th worst among qualified outfielders. If that is too small a sample size for you, his -17.0 UZR since the start of 2012 also ranks 12th worst in that span.
But the real issue is Upton’s bat. A 30.7 K%, good for 6th worst among qualifiers, makes it somehow possible for Upton to have a .235 AVG even with a .320 BABIP. His horrible .289 OBP, driven by a career worst 7.0 BB%, coupled with an alarming .383 SLG – he has never finished a full season even close to .400 before – lead to a laughable 76 wRC+.
The good news is Upton does appear to be slowly improving as the season has gone on (102 wRC+ with 5 HRs in June). Sadly for Tigers fans, however, Upton’s best years appear to be in the rear-view mirror.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our list, which will include the last of the “past their prime” selections, as well as players 4-1, who “aren’t what they seem”.
All stats and numbers taken from fangraphs.com, as of Friday July 23, 2016.