July 5, 2007

The most underrated player in baseball...

Okay, that title is a lie; there are probably a dozen or so players more underrated than the player I'm going to talk about. But I will still contend that Pat Burrell is very underappreciated. He is Philadelphia's version of A-Rod, albeit with less talent; he is the whipping boy for the franchise, all the fans hate him for some reason, and he's actually a good player.

What? Pat Burrell is a good player? How can that be? He's hitting just .207! He has "only" 10 homers and 34 RBI? How can you defend someone like that? Well, if you use numbers that more accurately measure a player's offensive ability, you'll find that his OBP is .371, and you'll find that RBI is a dumb statistic. Burrell's been hated and the fans have wanted him traded for years, but he's been a really good offensive player pretty much his entire career; fans just can't look past the low batting average numbers. Burrell's
OPS+ this year is 101; 100 is league-average, so he's basically been an average hitter this year (by that metric). This has been a down year for him, too; his career OPS+ is 116, and he was at 124 and 125 in the last two years. He strikes out a lot, but does that really matter? Most of the time, it doesn't matter at all what kind of out you make; it's still an out, and those are bad. And Burrell has been good at not making those outs, as his OBP is .371. His slugging percentage is down this year, but most of that difference can be explained by his low BA (even for his standards), which is .207 right now.

Some critics like to say that Burrell's high OBP does not matter because they can't steal bases. This doesn't make sense; as long as he gets on base, it's possible for him to score, while if he does not get on base, he can't score, and he costs his team an out. For examples of people who think OBP is a bad stat for people with no speed, I'll refer you to
Fire Joe Morgan's "clogging up the bases" category. The short answer is that these people are idiots. Getting on base = not making outs = helping your team score runs.

For the more nerdy fans, Burrell's
EqA is currently .273, 14th among full-time left fielders in baseball. That says pretty much the same thing that the OPS+ statistic said; Burrell has been pretty much league-average this year. And he's been even better in the past. So, are the Phillies fans' expectations so high of Burrell that they expect him to be an All-Star caliber player, or are they just not looking at the whole pitcure? (Actually, this isn't just a rhetorical question; I do really want to know this. Why does Burrell get hated on so much? Is it as simple as his low BA and high K rate?)


Anonymous said...

Burrell is a good player. You ripped on Rowand earlier. He is very underrated. Huge reason why the ChiSox won the series 2 years ago. I went to game 1 of the World Series. The intangibles he brings are great. Other underrated players include all of baseballs set-up men i think.

Kevin said...

Oh my god...don't get me started on Aaron Rowand. His career OPS+ is 103. He's an average center fielder. Look, there's nothing wrong with being an average center fielder - there are only 13-17 people at your position in the world better than you are - but he's nothing more than that. I'll write about "intangibles" more at some point, but my basic belief is, since there's no way to quantify intangibles, how do we know if the guys we think have good intangibes really do? I can say that Nick Punto has great intangibles, and that the Twins wouldn't be where they are without him...but who knows if I'm right?

I do agree with you that set-up men are underrated, though.

Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

I think Rowand is a great defensive CF. I also believe Punto is underrated. Many players are. I do think Cabrera is a huge snub. I think u should have a blog on players who stink but kill certain teams. For instance, Marco Scutaro kills Seattle pitching. But I dont consider him good. Also, just curiousity, what position do you play in high school?

Kevin said...

I don't know about great, but Rowand is certainly very good defensively. I just don't think that his defense, combined with his average offense, makes him a top-10 center fielder. I have no idea if Punto is underrated or not, I was just picking a name at random to try to make my point.

As for the guys who do well against certain teams...I think that's probably mostly luck, as even bad players can do well over a small # of games. There's really no reason that a player would do much better against a certain team than any others. It's still kind of interesting to look at, though.

I pitch and play second base, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Weird how on cbssportsline Burrell got put on the Anti-All star squad. Yeah, pitching is good. Do you play for Nisky in the summer as well? Mickey Mantle?

Kevin said...

I play for Nisky on an ENYTB team...it's a 16/17 year old team.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so my team would not play yours. I guess since we've been talking for a while now, I'll ask how Nisky bball will be next year as I also play in Section II. Olbrych and Bush only ones returning? As for more baseball, you think Okajhima a good pick? I found it weird how all five were relievers. Also very disgruntled with Jason Bay in my fantasy league. About to drop him. What is his problem. 16-95 in Jume, are you kidding me.

Kevin said...

Olbrych and Bush return, plus some other guys like Privitera and Peters will get more time...the incoming junior class isn't great, but fits pretty nicely with this group. They'll be in the mix for third place (behind Colonie and Guilderland) in the Suburban, with a bunch of other teams; I see them probably finishing around fifth.

Where do you go to school, by the way?