Wednesday, January 29, 2014

MLB's Most Underrated Team

In response to Brian Kenny...

... below are some thoughts on the 2013 All-Underrated Team:

First Base
Brandon Moss, Oakland A's
Kenny makes a strong choice with Brandon Belt. It seems like Belt's been a part-time player for so long. On the contrary, Belt has compiled impressive numbers in over twelve hundred plate appearances, since his debut in 2011:

Brandon Belt Career Stats (2011-13)
Year PA OBP SLG OPS+ OWn% TotA PwrSpd
2011 209 .306 .412 103 .486 .667 4.5
2012 472 .360 .421 123 .630 .795 8.8
2013 571 .360 .481 142 .689 .832 7.7
3 Yrs 1252 .351 .447 128 .637 .788 24.9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/27/2014.

Brandon Belt is a fine choice, but we would have chosen Brandon Moss of the Oakland A's. Both play in the the Bay Area and receive less-than-deserved National acclaim. Last year, Brandon Moss hit more home runs (30) than Brandon Belt hit in the past two years (24) and almost in his entire career (33). Many of Moss's advanced rate stats also compare favorably to Belt's...

Brandon Moss 2011-2013 Stats
Year PA OBP SLG OPS+ OWn% TotA PwrSpd
2011 6 .000 .000 -100 .000 .000
2012 296 .358 .596 162 .719 .964 1.9
2013 505 .337 .522 139 .651 .861 7.1
OAK (2 yrs) 801 .345 .550 148 .678 .898 9.1
PHI (1 yr) 6 .000 .000 -100 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/27/2014.

Second Base
Daniel Murphy, Mets
Photo by Henry Ray Abrams
How good does an All Star have to be to be underrated? We were going to suggest Jason Kipnis before settling on Daniel Murphy. Few seem to notice how good Daniel Murphy is offensively. This is for at least two reasons. First, the Mets' offense has been largely irrelevant this decade. Second, when thinking of offensive second basemen, most think of Cano, Pedroia, Utley, Kinsler, and Matt Carpenter. People already love Ben Zobrist; he's not underrated anymore. Even Brandon Phillips and Neil Walker seem to have more fans than Daniel Murphy.

Omar Infante, Brian Kenny's choice, has a better slash line than Daniel Murphy. Infante is better in the batter's box, but his base running is not on par with Murphy's, making him a slightly less effective offensive player.

2013 Baserunning Runs Above Average
Daniel Murphy: 6.4 Fangraphs, 5 Baseball-Reference
Omar Infante: 0 Fangraphs, -1 Baseball-Reference

2013 Batting Runs Above Average
Omar Infante: 9 Fangraphs, 7 Baseball-Reference
Daniel Murphy: 4.6 Fangraphs, 5 Baseball-Reference

Among all players who played at least 24% of their games last season at second basemen, Daniel Murphy ranked fourth in hits (188) and stolen bases (23), and fifth in RE24 (see below).

2013 MLB Second Basement by RE24
Rk Player RE24 ▾
1 Matt Carpenter 52.442
2 Robinson Cano 49.746
3 Jason Kipnis 34.926
4 Chase Utley 27.748
5 Daniel Murphy 18.385
6 Ian Kinsler 18.319
7 Dustin Pedroia 13.449
8 Brandon Phillips 13.132
9 Daniel Descalso 10.617
10 Neil Walker 10.055
11 Brian Roberts 8.953
12 Aaron Hill 8.744
13 Ben Zobrist 8.073
14 Mark Ellis 6.980
15 Jordy Mercer 5.786
16 Marco Scutaro 5.659
17 Anthony Rendon 5.051
18 Omar Infante 4.938
19 Scooter Gennett 3.982
20 Brian Dozier 3.155
21 Alberto Callaspo 2.318
22 Mark DeRosa 1.942
23 Eric Sogard 1.540
24 Derek Dietrich 0.371
25 Howie Kendrick -0.746
26 Nick Franklin -2.540
27 Nick Punto -2.693
28 Dustin Ackley -3.183
29 Kevin Frandsen -3.839
30 Donovan Solano -4.399
31 Skip Schumaker -5.229
32 Jedd Gyorko -5.361
33 Jonathan Herrera -6.065
34 Cliff Pennington -6.216
35 DJ LeMahieu -6.558
36 Jurickson Profar -6.720
37 Freddy Galvis -7.782
38 Ryan Flaherty -8.048
39 Dan Uggla -8.853
40 Josh Rutledge -9.198
41 Steve Lombardozzi -9.341
42 Jeff Bianchi -10.132
43 Ramon Santiago -10.816
44 Logan Forsythe -11.816
45 Emilio Bonifacio -12.990
46 Gordon Beckham -14.182
47 Jose Altuve -15.155
48 Jeff Keppinger -16.125
49 Jamey Carroll -17.000
50 Rickie Weeks -17.241
51 Elliot Johnson -17.717
52 Chris Getz -18.064
53 Maicer Izturis -20.153
54 Darwin Barney -33.352
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/28/2014.

Please don't get me started on Darwin Barney.

Shortstop
Jed Lowrie, Oakland A's
Good choice by Mr. Kenny. Everth Cabrera, who has lots of speed and a .355 OBP last season, was under consideration.

Third Base
Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners
Having scoured free agent lists and team rosters from around the globe in search of undervalued third basemen for our last post, we feel most confident in agreeing with Brian Kenny at this position. Kyle Seager is a fine choice. Fans around the country are not very familiar with him, but he's probably too good for even the Yankees to be able to trade for him.

Catcher
Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
Again, we agree with Mr. Kenny. At first, it looked like Jason Castro is the most underrated, but his under-the-radar offensive production falls just shy of Lucroy's combination of underrated overall game, particularly with his pitch framing prowess.

Left Field
Carlos Quentin, Padres
Oh man, I really wanted this to be Starling Marte of the Pirates. He's a stud, and while I don't think he has enough fans, he's not as good of a choice as Brian Kenny's choice: Daniel Nava. I was just about ready to agree with Kenny once again before turning my attention to Carlos Quentin. The Padres' left fielder had 216 fewer plate appearances than Nava last year, which could disqualify him to many. I still think Quentin is more underrated. Carlos Quentin's 145 OPS+ is the highest among all players who made at least 200 plate appearances and played at least 33% of their games in Left Field. When averaging the WAR between Fangraphs and B-R, then converting them to rate stats, we get...

2013 avWAR per 650 Plate Appearances
Carlos Quentin: 4.2
Daniel Nava: 2.8

Center Field
Mike Trout, Angels
Photo by Cal Sports Media
Sure, he's widely accepted as the best player in baseball. How can he also be underrated? It seems that, as a whole, we are taking Mike Trout's brilliance for granted. His rookie season in 2012 was so spectacular that we expected his numbers to crash in 2013, and he'd still be one of the best players of the game. Remarkably, Trout matched his 2012 performance with an equally stellar 2013 campaign. How rare is this? Mike Trout leads every offensive baseball player ever, through their age-21 seasons, in Career RE24 and Wins Above Replacement. Hall of Famer Willie McCovey had a 188 OPS+ across 219 plate appearances in his age-21 rookie season. Besides McCovey, Trout has the highest OPS+ among all offensive players with at least 200 plate appearances before the age-22 season.

Rk Player OPS+ PA From To Age
1 Willie McCovey 188 219 1959 1959 21-21
2 Mike Trout 166 1490 2011 2013 19-21
3 Ted Williams 161 1336 1939 1940 20-21
4 Albert Pujols 157 676 2001 2001 21-21
5 Jimmie Foxx 157 1302 1925 1929 17-21
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/29/2014.

Basically, Mike Trout is the best player ever.

Right Field
Will Venable, Padres
Photo by Chris Hardy
Shane Victorino had an underrated season last year. Victorino missed some time, and most fans outside of Boston did not realize that he bounced back after a poor showing in 2012. That being said, Shane Victorino has a lot of fans, from Boston to Philadelphia, and all the way to Hawaii. Will Venable is much lesser known. A big key to his success last season, when he hit 22 home runs and stole 22 bases, was Venable's ability to hit lefties. Besides his rare combination of power and speed, Venable's .484 slugging percentage, playing half his games in San Diego, is most impressive.

Split PA HR BA OBP SLG
vs RHP as LHB 405 16 .266 .313 .473
vs LHP as LHB 110 6 .276 .309 .524
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/29/2014.

All in all, we agree with Brian Kenny on half of his selections. I wonder what he thinks of my Moss, Murphy, Quentin, and Trout substitutions? Thanks for reading. How does your most underrated team look?

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