Continuing with the series of posts I started last week, here are my ten most overrated active players in the game today. I have to admit that once I got around half-way done with this list, it became increasingly difficult. Understand that I’m certainly not claiming any of these guys are bad ballplayers. Just that their game doesn’t quite measure up to their hype. Here they are – in no particular order:
1. Prince Fielder – how could anyone say a guy who has averaged 38 HR, 108 RBI, and a .932 OPS the last six seasons is overrated?? Simple: 9 years/$214 million. Do you realize that the Tigers are going to be paying $23-24 million per year for a guy that’s going to give them a WAR of barely more than 2.5, no thanks in large part to a cumulative defensive WAR of -13.1? A guy who two of the last four years has had a WAR under 1.5? Yes, his power numbers are excellent, but his all-around game doesn’t translate into the kind of player that deserves that kind of money (if you think any player “deserves” that kind of money). Despite those big numbers the last six seasons, he’s helped his team win less effectively than Brandon Phillips, Shane Victorino or Brian McCann.
2. Hanley Ramirez – my main concern with Ramirez is that his salary is going to continue to increase over the next three years, in spite of the fact that his production has decreased over the last three years. While he should have been coming into his prime, it seems as though he peaked at the age of 25, and has seen a steady decline in WAR, avg. OBP, SLG, and OPS ever since. Plus, there are more guys than you think ranked ahead of him in career WAR with the same number of years in the league (Grady Sizemore and Ian Kinsler, for example). He might turn things around, but if the first 30+ games of this season are any indication, he certainly won’t be worth the $46.5 million he’s due over the next three years.
3. Albert Pujols – yes, he’s a lock for the Hall of Fame. Yes, he’s one of the greatest of this generation. But, what I’ve been saying ever since he became a free agent at the end of last season is that he doesn’t deserve the contract everyone was saying he would get, and he likely isn’t going to produce the numbers everyone thought he would just a few years ago. Ever since his MVP season in 2009 (at the age of 29), his numbers have steadily declined in batting average, OBP, SLG, HR, RBI, and BB. And if there’s anything that the first 30+ games of this season has taught us, it’s that AL pitchers aren’t afraid of him – striking him out about 3x as often as walking him – which makes me wonder how much of his previous success was a direct result of playing in a poor-pitching, band-box-stadium filled division. If these trends continue, he won’t reach 500 home runs until he’s 33 or 34. That makes 600 home runs much more difficult for him to reach than we thought just a couple years ago. Is he an all-time great? barring career-ending injury, yes. Does he belong in the conversation with Ruth, Aaron, Mays, etc.? Not likely.
4. Zack Greinke – you take out the one year that he really shined (winning the Cy Young in 2009), and what do you have? A guy with a career 60-65 record, an ERA over 4.00, and WHIP over 1.30. A guy who’s losing double-digit games more often than winning them. He’s only 28, so he might prove me wrong in the long run. But, I think he’s a solid #3 starter for any team hoping to make a deep run into the playoffs – not your ace.
5. Jason Isringhausen – this has more to do with how I think he should rank among great closers of all-time, rather than how people think of him today. Obviously, no one rates him very highly today, as his career is clearly in its twilight. But, even in the years when he was supposed to be dominant (34 saves per year from 2000-2007), he was more fortunate than good. An ERA of almost 3.00 doesn’t scream dominant for a closer. A WHIP of 1.17 is nice when a starter is giving you 6 or 7 innings, but a closer that’s allowing that many base-runners will make a manager crazy. Plus, in spite of the years he was at his best, there are several relief pitchers with higher career WAR rankings that are far less touted (Octavio Dotel, LaTroy Hawkins, etc.), and many ahead of him with considerable less experience (Joe Nathan, Francisco Rodriguez, etc.).
6. Ervin Santana – I’m not sure how high he would rank on your list of pitchers around the league, but I figure most would have him higher than #71. That’s right – there are 70 active pitchers with a higher career WAR than Santana. That includes guys like Paul Maholm, Shaun Marcum, and Scott Baker, who have the same or less amount of time in the league. He was a phenom when he won 12 games at the age of 22, yet he’s only averaged 12 wins each year since then. His ERA has continued to remain consistently above 4.00, and his career WHIP is over 1.30. Disappointing numbers for a guy that’s supposed to be so good.
7. Jose Reyes – the most Reyes ever made with the Mets was $11 million his last year in NY. The Marlins are going to pay him twice that every year from 2015-2018, the years he’ll be 32-35 years old! The guy’s a great base stealer, and when he feels like it he can be good at the plate, too (like last season, when he knew he was performing for a new contract). But, in fewer years in the league, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, David Wright, Joe Mauer, Kevin Youkilis and more have accumulated a higher career WAR. In fact, Evan Longoria has a higher WAR in half the seasons Reyes has been playing.
8. Ryan Howard – after winning rookie of the year in just 88 games, and MVP the very next season, it looked like Howard was one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. And over the last six seasons, he’s averaged 44 HR, 133 RBI, and a .929 OPS. So, how can he be over-rated? The Phillies are paying him $20 million in 2012 & 2013, and $25 million from 2014-2016, with a $23 million option for 2017. All for a guy who has averaged a WAR of 2.5 the last six seasons. A guy whose career WAR ranks behind Nick Markakis, Ben Zobrist, and Ryan Zimmerman. And, a guy who strikes out more than 180 times a year!
9. Troy Tulowitzki – in six seasons in the league, Tulo has averaged 24 HR, 84 RBI, and an .879 OPS. Those are respectable numbers for a shortstop. But, what about those numbers screams all-world to you? What about his numbers suggests that he’ll be worth $20 mil./year from 2015-19? Yes, he’s won a couple Gold Gloves in addition to his offense, but that doesn’t make him worthy of the kind of praise he gets. Guys like Kinsler, Pedroia, and Longoria have done more to help their teams win in less time at the big-league level – and none of them will make anywhere near as much as Tulo will.
10. Todd Helton – I hate to pick on the same team back-to-back like this, but I’m flabbergasted by the praise Helton gets. MLB Network ranked him among the top-10 first basemen in the game today. I can’t for the life of me figure out why. We can’t ignore the fact that his career batting average is over 50 points higher in Colorado than it is away from the thin air. We can’t pretend like he hasn’t hit nearly twice as many home runs at home as he has on the road. In about 300 fewer at-bats, Scott Rolen has a higher career WAR than Helton, and he wasn’t playing half his games in Colorado.