There’s a very thin line between underrated and overrated in baseball and in sports in general, usually having to do with the size of one’s contract. Almost everyone agrees that Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in Baseball, but what about the guys who are under-appreciated?
According to 293 baseball players polled by SI, Matt Cain, who makes $15 million a year, and Felix Hernandez, who everyone is waiting for him to get sick of losing in Seattle, are among them, believe it or not.
Number 15 – David Robertson, New York Yankees
Currently out until mid-June, the Yankees 27 year old reliever had a breakout year in 2011, making his first All-Star team and even getting some recognition in the Cy Young and MVP voting, leading the AL in holds and ERA. His 2012 strikeout/walks ratio is 4.00 so far, including a 15.1 strikeouts per 9 innings. Robertson makes $1.6 million.
Number 14 – Brandon McCarthy, Oakland A’s
In his second season with the A’s, McCarthy is so far 3-3 this season, with his ERA so far at a career best 2.95, but looking at other numbers suggest he might be slipping a bit compared to last season – 1.345 WHIP and dropping his SO/BB ratio to 2.5 after nearly 5 last season.
Number 13 – Jason Vargas, Seattle Mariners
In his fourth season with the Mariners, the 29 year old lefty might finish over .500 for the first time in his career, going 6-4 so far this season with a 3.45 ERA. He’s second in the AL in wins and 5th in WHIP with 1.034. He has pitched 78.3 innings so far, second in the league.
Number 12 – Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves
When polling the players, no one expected Jurrjens to be demoted to Triple A so early on. His 2011 season saw him reach the All-Star game for the first time, finishing with 13-6 and 2.96 ERA. After 4 stars in 2012, he’s 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA.
Number 11 – James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays
Shields has always been a talented pitcher, but he really broke through in 2011, making his first All-Star game while finishing with a career best 16 wins and 2.82 ERA, leading the AL in complete games (4) and shutouts (2). He’s on a similar path in 2012, going 6-3 through the first two months of the season, although his intangibles aren’t looking as good this season.
Number 10 – Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
It’s hard to call a Cy Young winner underrated, but many believe Hernandez is the best pitcher in Baseball, simply playing for a bad offensive team, really hurting his winning numbers. He won the Cy Young in 2010, leading the AL in ERA that year. He has made two All-Star games so far, going 4-4 with a 3.17 ERA so far this year, averaging 8.8 strikeouts per 9 innings.
Number 9 – Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks
Into his third season with the Diamondbacks, Kennedy is struggling a tad to follow up his 2011 season, with 21 wins and a 2.88 ERA. He’s 4-5 so far this season, with a 4.26 ERA. Amazingly, he’s earning only $519,000 for this season.
Number 8 – Jamie Moyer, Colorado Rockies
Six months before his 50th birthday, Jamie Moyer is still playing. He had a year off in 2011, recovering from surgery, but was good enough to find a team and get a starting position once again. He’s 2-5 so far this season with a 5.70 ERA, but he’s a walking wonder, still being a legitimate starter in the MLB, 26 years after his debut.
Number 7 – Edwin Jackson, Washington Nationals
Playing for his 7th franchise in his MLB career, the 28 year old Jackson was part of the Cardinals’ World Series winning side last season. He’s one of the highest paid relievers in the game, making $11 million. His WHIP of 1.026 is the best of his career thus far, with impressive strikeout/walks ratio as well.
Number 6 – Jordan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
Zimmermann is still not posting more wins than losses, but his ERA of 2.80 is the best in his career so far, with impressive WHIP and SO/BB ratios this season. He’s also allowing a .242 batting average against him this season.
Number 5 – Vance Worley, Philadelphia Phillies
With so much star power in the Phillies rotation, sometimes people forget about Worley, who had an excellent rookie season, finishing with 11-3 and a 3.01 ERA. He’s 3-2 so far this year with a 3.07 ERA and averaging 9.2 strikeouts per 9 innings.
Number 4 – Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels
Into his third season with the Angels, Haren, like the entire ball club, is under performing. After a 16 win season in 2011 he’s so far 3-5 with a 3.52 ERA, probably not enough to make his fourth All-Star game and first since 2009.
Number 3 – Ricky Romero, Toronto Blue Jays
One of the best young pitchers in the game today, Romero, who made his first All-Star game in 2011 is off to a great start thanks to a lot of run support during his starts, going 6-1 so far despite a 4.01 ERA and still not much improvement in terms of his control (too many walks). He hasn’t thrown a wild pitch so far this year, which is saying something.
Number 2 – Doug Fister, Detroit Tigers
It’s hard shining through with Justin Verlander pitching in front of you. Fister was big for the Tigers after coming from the Mariners last season, going 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA, but he has yet to earn a win so far in 2012, going 0-3 in six starts with a 3.15 ERA.
Number 1 – Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants
After two All-Star appearances in the last three seasons and being twice in the Cy Young voting count, Cain got a huge extension this offseason, earning $15 million this season and in for $100 million in 2013-2017. He’s 5-2 so far this season with a 2.79 ERA and the best WHIP in the NL with 0.930.