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There are several superstars who deserve every scrap of praise the public and media give them on a seasonal basis.Roy Halladay, Dustin Pedroia, and Jose Bautista have had fantastic years and everyone with a passing interest in baseball is aware of that.
On the other hand, players like Yunel Escobar, Melky Cabrera, and Craig Kimbrel are having exceptional seasons, but only people that pay attention to their respective teams have any clue as to how much they are producing.
To find out who has been excelling whilst under the radar all 2011 long, keep reading.
Coming out of nowhere, Tigers catcher Alex Avila has had the best season out of any Major League catcher and was rewarded with a starting job in this year's All-Star Game. The fans have noticed Avila stellar season, but only the true followers of the sport know how good he really has been.
His isolated power numbers are third best amongst all catchers Major League Baseball, trailing only Cleveland's young catching stud/probable guitarist Carlos Santana by a mere five percentage points and Atlanta Braves star Brian McCann who is only ahead by four points.
Avila's .353 BABIP average is the best out of all backstops. Teammate and typical designated hitter Victor Martinez is second on the list, but trails Avila by six percentage points. There is a large drop off after the two Tigers catchers, as Brian McCann's .319 is good enough for third best.
The 35-year-old Paul Konerko has been underrated for a lot of his career and the trend is only continuing
White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko has been good for a long time, and most people do know that. However, since Adrian Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, and Miguel Cabrera are all in the league, Konerko is being largely ignored.
He shouldn't be. Konerko is currently tied with Prince Fielder for third in home runs amongst first basemen trailing Mark Teixeira and Pujols, and Konerko has a better batting average than all three of them.
Konerko's has created 20-eight more runs than perennial All-Star first sacker Ryan Howard, and has a slugging percentage 60 points higher than him as well.
While Robinson Cano, Rickie Weeks, Howie Kendrick, and Brandon Phillips participated in the 2011 All-Star Game facilities, Ben Zobrist sat at home wondering how four guys worse than him got invited while he didn't.
It is easier to explain why Dustin Pedroia didn't make the roster (not a great first half) than it is to explain why Zobrist didn't. His 5.7 WAR is second best out of all second basemen, and nearly two full wins better than Cano. Not only that, his twelve runs saved at second base is leaps and bounds better than Cano's negative four.
There are only two fans of the Toronto Blue Jays, but they are stark raving mad that no one knows who Yunel Escobar is.
Injured Met Jose Reyes and Rockies star Troy Tulowitzki are both in the National League and are the only two shortstops with higher WARs than Escobar. Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera is just behind Escobar in WAR, but his defensive metrics are significantly worse than the smooth fielding and unknown Blue Jay.
It has been a down year for pretty much every third baseman in the league. There isn't a single one that has a WAR above four. At the top of the list, Adrian Beltre's 3.9 is one decimal point better than Kevin Youkilis's 3.8.
Coming in third behind them is Arizona's Ryan Roberts. While he has never been a particularly impressive third baseman in the past, Roberts has come into his own this year. His weighted on-base average is second in the Majors behind only Youkilis who is notorious for being an on-base machine. If you couple that with Roberts defensive stats that are superior to Youk's, the order at the top becomes a bit jumbled.
Defensively speaking, there is no better left fielder than Brett Gardner. Not by a longshot. He has saved over sixteen runs with his glove, seven more than Carlos Lee (!) who is in second amongst left fielders. Actually, Gardner has saved more runs than anyone else in baseball. If he doesn't win the Gold Glove this season, the entire voting system will need to be destroyed.
Add in his nearly 40 stolen bases, .338 BABIP, and his 4.3 WAR which is beaten only by Matt Holliday, Ryan Braun, and Alex Gordon, and you've got yourself an underrated player.
We need to mention how good and how unknown Alex Gordon is as well, but since Joe Girardi has gone with the struggling Derek Jeter more often at the leadoff spot than Gardner for some reason, we have to give the Yankee left fielder the nod.
When Melky Cabrera hit the free agent market this past offseason, most pundits considered Cabrera to be the fourth outfielder on a contender and a starter on a pretender. While Cabrera did end up starting for a team that hs no chance of making the playoffs, it turns out he could have started in a lot of other places too.
Only five centre fielders have a higher WAR than Cabrera, and they are all practically household names. 'The Melkman' has been better than Michael Bourn, Cameron Maybin, Adam Jones, and last year's emergent centre fielder, Carlos Gonzalez. If he ever learns how to draw a walk (only 4.9% of his plate appearances result in free passes), Cabrera may get a job with a real team sooner than later.
Jay Bruce is a known and popular player, but his name almost never comes up when talking about the most dangerous outfielders
Jose Bautista has set the baseball world aflame with this jaw dropping output in 2011. His 34 home runs are the best in the Majors. Lance Berkman, a surprise in his own right, is in second. Waiting silently in third is Jay Bruce.
Bruce has more bombs (26) than teammate and MVP candidate Joey Votto (19). He has had a better year defensively than Bautista, Berkman, Hunter Pence, and Matt Joyce. Bruce's .519 slugging percentage ain't to shabby either.
Tim Lincecum steals all the headlines, but Madison Bumgarner has been every bit as good as 'The Freak.' The San Francisco teammates both have a WAR of 4.3, but Lincecum's ERA (2.58) is nearly a full run better (3.53). Why is that? Lincecum has been a whole lot luckier.
If you take the stats of both Bumgraner and Lincecum and factor their ERA for defensive miscues, something very interesting is revealed. Tim Lincecum has been directly responsible for about 2.8 runs a game. Bumgarner has been responsible for 2.5.
When it comes playoff time, it will be interesting to see how Bruce Bochy will rotate his pitchers.
A lot of the talk out of Boston has been that Daniel Bard has been the best bridge to a closer a manager can ask for. Hold the phone. That's not true at all.
While Bard has been electric, Robertson has been stifling practically ever hitter he has faced off against, and those who do find themselves on base hardly ever score. Close to 86% of all base runners Robertson has allowed have been marooned on the pond.
Robertson has a WAR of 2.0, which is tied for second best amongst all relievers with the Cubs Sean Marshall, who's fielding independent starts are worse than the Yankees' set-up man's numbers.
Fans don't vote for pitchers in the All-Star Game. Those are decisions left up to the coaches and players. Apparently, most of those coaches and players haven't seen a whole lot of Atlanta's closer and that's why he got in as only an alternate.
Kimbrel's 2.7 WAR, an obscene number for a reliever to have at this point in the season, is the best among all relief pitchers. His 36 saves are also the best, just narrowly edging out Brian Wilson's 35. By the way, Wilson's WAR? 0.7.
One more stat to shock your eyelids: during 2011, Craig Kimbrel has struck out 14.11 batters per nine innings.
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