Call it the John Danks Club: The least-hyped players in baseball
Lately I've been wondering whether
You may not realize, though, that in five games this year Danks has thrown at least seven innings while allowing two or fewer hits. Or that he rates in the top 10 in home runs allowed per nine while pitching in the best home run park in baseball. Or that he ranks sixth among all pitchers in
So it seems, at least. But how to prove it? I happen to live on the South Side of Chicago, and so of course I will tend to think that various White Sox get less love than they deserve, for the same reason that people who live in the Bronx will insist in all seriousness that the national press corps fails
To see whether Danks is, in fact, underhyped, I devised a simple test. I took every player in baseball who has run up at least seven WAR since the beginning of the 2008 season, a fairly generous cutoff that demands just two seasons' worth of above average play over the last two and a half years. (There were 105 such players.) I then ranked their WAR against the size of the market in which they play and against how many hits turn up on a Google search of their name, and averaged the resulting numbers.
This is obviously a rough approximation of quality-to-hype ratio, but the results look right, and one can only demand so much of pseudo-science. Caveats aside, here are the 10 most underhyped players in baseball, along with their numbers since the beginning of the 2008 season.
Having played in the relatively small towns of Cleveland and Seattle for fairly lousy teams, and having run up most of his value with his glove, Gutierrez is the perfect picture of the underappreciated player. Last year, as the keystone of a mildly famed Mariners defense, he earned not a single MVP vote.
Garza may not quite be an ace, but he's an uncommonly valuable pitcher and part of the main line of young Rays who have been making life miserable for the Yankees and Red Sox over the last three years. If he finds his form over the rest of this season, the Rays will be all the more devilishly tough.
One would think that a 26-year-old closer who has been striking out better than one man per inning and has never run up an ERA worse than 2.48 would get a bit of love, but Soria plays for the Royals, and closing in Kansas City answers the old riddle about the sound of one hand clapping.
These two are delights. Zobrist is the Rays' (apparently literal) secret weapon, a player who can and does handle every position on the field save the battery spots while hitting like a good first baseman. Choo, meanwhile, has simply evolved into one of the best hitters in the game.
Suzuki is rarely mentioned as one of the game's elite young catchers, and maybe that's right, but an extremely durable backstop who doesn't embarrass himself at the plate, handles the position and makes next to no money is quite the commodity.
Guthrie led the league in losses last year, and he's doing it again this year. How can a pitcher who's 13-27 over the last two years be underhyped? Simple -- whatever his winning percentage, he's reliably average and pitches his six innings every five days. The lack of a pitcher as good could cost a team such as the Phillies the pennant this year; it's not Guthrie's fault that he plays for a team that can't score any runs.
Missouri outfielders are apparently able to stay anonymous no matter what they do. Ludwick is one of the great Cardinals triumphs of the last few years, a washed-out prospect who turned in a nearly MVP-caliber 2008 and has kept chipping along since. DeJesus suffers from comparison to Royals predecessors like
"Ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates" is something like "President of the National One-Armed Paperhangers Association" on the list of job titles likely to get you much attention, and in truth Maholm is more a dead average pitcher than a gem of a ballplayer waiting for his deserved turn in the national spotlight. What's true of Guthrie, though, is true of Maholm: Pennants are lost for want of a pitcher of this caliber, and judging by our rough metric almost no one has heard of him (his 137,000 Google hits were the least of any player save Guthrie). That seems a shame.
So what of John Danks? By this method, he appears not to be one of the least hyped players in baseball. Take that strictly as a function of his playing in Chicago, though. Given his 14.5 WAR since 2008 and the 230,000 hits a Google search on his name returns, he actually has the third-lowest ratio of performance to search engine fame in baseball. It may not be fair, but that's life on the South Side.
On the other end of affairs, by the way, are probably the least surprising names imaginable. Coming in as the most hyped players in baseball are, in order,