Starting with Jimmy Rollins as my choice for Mr. Underrated 2006, Beerleaguer invites readers to weigh in on their picks for underrated / overrated aspects of Phillies baseball.
Last night, Jimmy Rollins hit his 22nd home run, extending a club record for most home runs by a shortstop in one season. With all the press surrounding Ryan Howard’s own home run tear, you hardly hear anything about it.
The quality of a player’s season is directly linked to the length of their season bio in the Phillies' official press notes. Howard leads all players with 19 notations, but he’s not alone. He’s tied with one other player. Guess who?
Somehow, Jimmy’s name is left off the arbitrary "Big Three" of Hamels-Utley-Howard when discussing the Phillies' future. His durability is easy to take for granted, as is his defense, speed and surprising power. Come to think of it, there isn’t a single part of J-Roll's game getting just due. Among NL shortstops, he ranks first in XBH (69) and stolen base percentage (90.0). He’s tied for first in doubles (40), second in homers (22), RBI (73), runs (115) and total bases (294). He’s third in hits (174). He’s fourth in fielding percentage (.987 – 8 E in 625 TC).
Forgive me for cutting and pasting this information from the press notes. It’s great stuff. He led all major league players in August in hits (45) and runs (30). He’s the first Phillie to score 30 runs in a month since July 1993 (Lenny Dykstra). He is just the third Phillie since 1900 to score 100 runs in 3 straight years, joining Hall of Famer Chuck Klein (1929-33) and Bobby Abreu (1999-2002).
Before the season, I called Jimmy the most important piston in the Phillies' offense. This was correct. The Phillies are 56-28 (.667) when he scores at least one run, including 16-1 (.941) in their last 17 games.
Other underrated stuff
-- Abraham Nunez's speed and base-running out of the eight-hole. Here’s a great statistic posted by reader ae last night. "Nunez has been putting up much better numbers the last few months - hitting .250 with a .345 OBP (seriously - 21 walks for just over 150 AB) in August and September. Still virtually no XBH (6), but he's been able to score 25 runs - in other words, he scores almost half the time he reaches base, same as Rollins."
Speed was one of the core issues of last year’s lumbering Black Hole of David Bell and Mike Lieberthal. With Bell’s tendency to ground into double plays, and Lieberthal’s ongoing trouble connecting with runners on base, there was plenty of dysfunction, aside from just the standard OPS statistic. Nunez is a horrid hitter, but his speed down near the bottom actually makes him a better fit than Bell in this lineup.
-- Bonus underrated: The idea of Cole Hamels as a future Gold Glove pitcher.
Overrated: Shane Victorino’s offensive prowess
I like Shane Victorino quite a bit, and I’m just as guilty as anyone for getting wrapped up in the energy and excitement he brings to each game. But let’s face it – he’s getting more props than he rightfully deserves since being installed as the No. 2 hitter.
He’s a great fielder with a laser beam for an arm, but he’s a below-average offensive outfielder. He’s a wild swinger who would certainly strike out well over 100 times with a full season of exposure. His 27 extra-base hits isn’t special, and for some reason, he doesn’t know how to steal bags.
Victorino is a very fine defensive asset to the team, and doing an outstanding job replacing Aaron Rowand, but his status as a future fixture near the top of the lineup is still very much in question.
-- Bonus overrated: Ryan Madson as anything other than a long man.