Over at HHS today, Bryan O'Connor posted a query about who the most over- and underrated players in MLB were. And specifically, he asked that we (if we were so inclined) devise a method for measuring it. I came up with separate lists for position players and pitchers, and I want to post the comments I wrote as I came up with my method over here on my own blog. Why have something so fun only floating around on OTHER people's sites?
Here's what I wrote:
To mimic fantasy baseball, I took five categories: HR, R, RBI, SB,
and H (I took H instead of BA, because I wanted them all to be
cumulative). Then I set up a fake fantasy scoring system: 1 pt per hit, 2
pts per RBI or R, 5 pts per HR or SB. This way, everything is (sort of)
scaled to H, such that 200 H=100 RBI=100 R=40 HR=40 SB, and a 200 H,
100 RBI, 100 R, 40 HR, 40 SB season is worth 1000 points (that’s a
pretty awesome season, I think). Then, for one season, I would divide
the number by 2500 – because 1000/2500=.400, which is a batting average
representatively awesome enough that it goes with the stats I posted
Then, I took WAR/25 (in other words, the above season would be seen
as equal to a 10 WAR season). You can quibble with my number sense or
not, but the goal was to come up with a system, right?
Anyway, for a running three year total, I still just added everything
together and divided, but by 7500 and 75, respectively, so the results
were scaled to one another. Then I just subtracted the second column
from the first (I tried dividing; that didn’t work very well because of
negative numbers). I used all players with 1000 PAs in the last 3 years.
This made for 226 hitters Fangraphs gave me in the Custom Report I
generated for this project.
The Most Overrated Players:
The Most Underrated Players
Now, if you ask me, that list looks pretty darn close to right, as
far as who sabermetrically-minded folk see as the superstars of
baseball, as opposed to what fantasy-focused folk see. This worked
pretty well. I’m gonna try something with pitchers, and see what I can
do. Be right back…
And my second comment (this one has been corrected, since I made an error when I initially posted it on HHS):
I did something similar for pitchers.
The categories I used were IP, W, S, SO, ER, BB, and H. I shaped them
into five “buckets,” and all had to be cumulative, just like the
hitters. The five categories I used were IP, 10*W+5*SV, SO, IP-ER, and
IP*2-(BB+H). They also had to be scaled to one another. So just as the
hitters were scaled to H, I did the same, but to IP. The “ideal” season
(and worth 1000 points, just like the hitters) is this: 200 IP, 20 W or
40 SV, 200 SO, 50 ER (2.25 ERA), 200 BB+H (1.000 WHIP). That season would
be worth 1000 “points,” just like with the hitters. I used 180 IP
minimum, so that the report was roughly the same size as the hitters (I
had 226 hitters, 239 pitchers).
I’m not as confident in this method as I am with the hitters;
especially using Fangraphs WAR, rather than some combination of B-R and
Fangraphs, which would be my preference. Nonetheless, the list actually
looks pretty good, I think. So here they are.
The Most Overrated Pitchers
The Most Underrated Pitchers
There are a lot of relief pitchers on that bottom list. Before you go
about saying I’ve overvalued saves, only three of those guys (Holland
with 67, Papelbon with 98 and Kimbrel with 138) have more than 4 saves
in the last three years. And when I changed the formula to be SV/3
instead of SV/2, it was still the same 10 names – the order only changed
Again, I’m not as confident about this as the position player list. I
don’t know that it’s accurate, but it’s certainly one way of looking at
Specifically, I wanted to post a couple of things here that I thought about as I did this little project.
First, what are some factors that lead to over- or underrating players?
1. Park factors - Hitters in hitters' parks are overrated; likewise for pitchers in pitchers' parks.
2. Guys who provide a lot of defensive value - This is obvious; it's not even measured in the former measure.
3. Positional scarcity - Also not taken into account is position. To be fair, I generalized to "fantasy players," and fantasy players are usually VERY aware of positional scarcity, so that's not entirely fair. The mainstream public, though, is not.
4. DIPS theory - Using Fangraphs WAR, this is going to have a huge impact on who's rated well or poorly. RA Dickey's numbers suffer from this in particular. He may actually be a bit overrated (since his performance last year was so bad), but Fangraphs openly acknowledges that FIP-based WAR underrates knuckleballers, so Dickey suffers.
5. Outs used - Leadoff hitters who don't walk a lot can accumulate MANY more at-bats than players who hit lower in the lineup and take the occasional walk. Since all of the stats used in the former calculation are at bat-based (well, technically RBI and R aren't, but RBI in particular come pretty scarcely on BBs), that's a major factor. Plus, if you imagine two guys, each with the same five "basic" stats, wouldn't you prefer one who did all that in 500 ABs, but with 100 BBs and no CS if the other guy also had 600 PA, but no walks and 15 CS? The first would have created 300 outs; the second would have created 415. It's an ENORMOUS difference, and it's often not thought of.
6. Guys who hit lost of doubles - Doubles are the ugly stepsister of hits. They're better than singles, but the "H" and "HR" column tell you nothing about them. Ditto for three-baggers; there are just fewer of those, so they're less of a thing to worry about. Guys who slap a bunch of those hits, though, are tremendously underrated by the "newspaper" stats.
One last thought I should share is just the formulas for each, in long form.
The idea is that these are equivalent; they're probably not. But it's really just for fun, so don't worry about it too much! Any thoughts?