Baseball BeatNovember 10, 2006
2006 All-Anti-OOPs Team
By Rich Lederer

In the comments section of the 2006 All-OOPs Team, Brian Gunn asked "Who's on the All-Anti-OOPs Team?" I thought it was a worthwhile project and have come up with the the most underrated offensive players in the game. We could affectionately call this squad the All-UPs for Underrated Players (rather than All-UOPs) so as not to compete with the University of Pacific.

The criteria for identifying underrated offensive players would be the flip side of OOPs.

1. Batting Average < League Norm
2. On Base Percentage and Slugging Average > League Norm

By definition, the players who meet the above criteria are sluggers who hit for power and walk frequently. In other words, batting average accounts for a minor share of their value. Put another way, the qualifying hitters have high Isolated Discipline (IsoD) and Isolated Power (IsoP). IsoD equals OBP minus AVG, and IsoP equals SLG minus AVG. These isolated stats tell you what's not a part of batting average.
In order to make the All-UPs team this year, an American League player had to hit lower than .275 with an OBP and SLG higher than than .342 and .437, respectively, while a National Leaguer had to hit lower than .264 with an OBP higher than .334 and SLG above .427. No second basemen or shortstops qualified. As such, we picked the players who were the closest.

Ideally, the standards for making the All-UPs team would be adjusted position-by-position. Nonetheless, as with our All-OOPs team, it's not our goal to get overly technical with something that is intended to be both informative and fun.

The 2006 All-UPs or Anti-OOPs team is as follows:

                           AVG    OBP    SLG
 C: Mike Napoli           .228   .360   .455
1B: Jason Giambi          .253   .413   .558
2B: Jose Valentin         .271   .330   .490
3B: Morgan Ensberg        .235   .396   .463
SS: Bill Hall             .270   .345   .553
LF: Adam Dunn             .234   .365   .490
CF: Andruw Jones          .262   .363   .531
RF: Austin Kearns         .264   .363   .467
DH: Frank Thomas          .270   .381   .545

Mike Napoli tied for seventh among all catchers in home runs with 16 while accumulating the fifth-highest walk total (51) despite only 268 at-bats. Jason Giambi placed dead last in batting average among all qualified first basemen, but the former MVP tied for first in BB (110) and ranked fifth in HR (37). Put it all together and he had the fourth-best OPS (.971), finishing behind only Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, and Ryan Howard. Morgan Ensberg led all third basemen in BB with 101 while cranking 23 HR. Bill Hall hit 10 more HR than any other shortstop and had the highest SLG.

Although Adam Dunn had the lowest batting average among all qualifed left fielders, the lefthanded-hitting slugger ranked second in HR (40) and first in BB (112). Andruw Jones had the second-worst AVG among 18 center fielders with 502 or more plate appearances, yet he had the sixth-best OBP and the fourth-highest SLG. Only Carlos Beltran, Vernon Wells, and Grady Sizemore had a better OPS than Jones. Austin Kearns went yard 24 times while working pitchers for 76 walks. Am curious, how did those relievers work out for the Reds?

Harmon Killebrew is the only player who has ever slugged as many homers as Frank Thomas did last year with as few doubles. In 1964, Killer yanked 49 HR and only 11 2B. Thomas had the same number of two-base hits with 39 long balls.

Honorable mentions for the All-UPs team go out to catcher Gregg Zaun (.272/.363/.437), first baseman Carlos Delgado (.265/.361/.548), third basemen Aubrey Huff (.267/.344/.469) and Troy Glaus (.252/.355/.513), and outfielders Pat Burrell (.258/.388/.502) and Nick Swisher (.254/.372/.493). Although Jim Edmonds came up shy of 502 PA, he put up a lower-than-norm AVG (.257) and a higher-than-average OBP (.350) and SLG (.471).

If Mark Grudzielanek was named the Most Overrated Offensive Player based on having the highest batting average among the All-OOPs recipients, then Adam Dunn would be the rightful Most Underrated Offensive Player honoree. (Mike Napoli had a lower AVG but failed to qualify for the batting title.)

The 6-foot-6, 275-pound Dunn turned 27 yesterday, suggesting that his peak offensive season may be at hand. However, he experienced a miserable August and September (.174/.309/.348), putting into question whether he has seen his best days. His body type and tools are such that I would be inclined to bet "against" rather than "for" much, if any, improvement.


I just wonder whether Napoli will be able to repeat this kind of performance. My feeling is the league's figured him out. But of course I could be wrong.

Napoli was either really, really good or really, really bad last year. He put up a .286/.412/.579 line in the first half and a .164/.303/.320 line in the second half. I think it is safe to say that Napoli is neither as good as his first half stats or as bad as his second half.

Napoli is what he is. A guy who will hit home runs, walk, and strike out a lot. At best, he is a poor man's Gene Tenace or Mickey Tettleton. Napoli is a pull hitter with good power, but his bat looks slow at times and his pitch recognition is in need of improvement.

On the surface, it would seem as if he would be a good platoon partner, yet his reverse splits (.185/.346/.415 vs. LHP, .241/.365/.468 vs. RHP) would suggest otherwise.

I believe Napoli is a MLB-quality catcher but perhaps only a marginal starter for a team that expects to be playing well into October. Until the Angels find a better alternative, fans will have to learn to accept his weaknesses along with his strengths.

I'll take the poor man's version of Tenace and Tettleton.

Through age 24:
Tenace (3 seasons) .270/.378/.450 -- 322 AB, 13 2B, 15 HR, 53 BB, 79 K

Tettleton (2) .254/.347/.352 -- 287, 14, 4, 39, 80

Napoli (1) .228/.360/.455 -- 268, 13, 16, 51, 90

Point well taken on Tettleton (at least through age 24). But Tenace had 38 of those 322 AB as a 22-year-old when he went 6-for-38 and his three seasons (1969-1971) consisted of a more pitching-dominated era. He put up OPS+ of 177 as a 23-year-old in 1970 and 132 as a 24-year-old in 1971 (vs. 114 for Napoli).

A lot of guys tear it up for a while and then falter badly. Remember when Hee Seop Choi went on that two month tear? Or Chris Shelton's first month? Napoli had a scorching May and June, from there it got ugly.

Pat Burrell is a good mention, he's universally reviled and treated like Bobby Higginson. In this free agent market where Aramis Ramirez may end up with a 6 year, $102 million contract, Burrell is a bargain. And why did the Phillies trade Abreu for nothing? He's a bargain too.