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Systematically Finding Overrated Players

Posted by Raphy

Andy's recent series on under-appreciated players left me wondering if there was a systematic way to find under and overrated players. In theory if we would could compare every player's perceived value to his actual value, we would have the information we need to do a complete evaluation of the players whose value and reputation we worlds apart. Fortunately Baseball-Reference.com has both objective and subjective rankings.

WAR is the Baseball-Reference.com attempt to use a single value to rate each player. All aspects of  the game are taken into account and there is no room for opinion or popularity in creating these rankings. It is completely objective.

Conversely, the EloRater from that site is subjective.  Readers are asked to compare two players and determine who was better. The  results of all votes are then combined to create a list of greatest players. While player stats are used in this process clearly the results of these comparisons are based on perceptions and reflect the regard in which players are held.

Comparing these two numbers, would then provide us with the information we are looking for. Players who do much better in the EloRater then their WAR would suggest are overrated, while those who do much worse would be underrated.

For example, as of this writing Joe Carter has earned 1873 points in the EloRater,  which is the 279th best among retired position players. Meanwhile his career WAR  is 16.5 which is the 822nd best. This tells us that he is ranked 279-822= 543 places above where he should be, which is quite an overrating of his value.
In fact, Carter is the 6th most overrated retired position player in baseball history.

Using this method, here are the most overrated position players of all-time.
(Elo Scores are from 2:50 PM on 1/15/12, active players were eliminated from both rankings):

PlayerEloElo RankWARWAR Rank
Dante Bichette150864421453
Bill Buckner189226612.11069
Kid Gleason16165148.41274
Eric Karros152062991256
Doc Cramer14227645.41366
Joe Carter187327916.5822
Don Kessinger135884051378
J.T. Snow1495663101192
Willie Montanez128496501491
Ralph Garr149666010.41172
Cookie Rojas132190341404
Lou Piniella153660611.41098
Ruben Sierra165447613.6965
Keith Moreland12669972.41449
Bengie Molina135684581291
Jose Guillen12749803.61415
DeRon Johnson12979445.11372
Shawon Dunston1409783101192
Gus Zernial1403792101192

That's quite a mix of players, but many of the names on the certainly won't surprise anyone. To  make these numbers more digestible, lets break down the numbers by seasons in which a player debuted.

1980-2011 (Retired Players Only)
PlayerEloElo RankWARWAR RankElo-WAR
Dante Bichette150864421453-809
Eric Karros152062991256-627
Joe Carter187327916.5822-543
J.T. Snow1495663101192-529
Ruben Sierra165447613.6965-489
Bengie Molina135684581291-446
Jose Guillen12749803.61415-435
Shawon Dunston1409783101192-409
Juan Samuel155758613.6965-379
Vinny Castilla167546316.4829-366

PlayerEloElo RankWARWAR RankElo-WAR
Bill Buckner189226612.11069-803
Don Kessinger135884051378-538
Willie Montanez128496501491-526
Ralph Garr149666010.41172-512
Cookie Rojas132190341404-501
Lou Piniella153660611.41098-492
Keith Moreland12669972.41449-452
DeRon Johnson12979445.11372-428
Jorge Orta140279310.11185-392
Larry Parrish156757613.9945-369

PlayerEloElo RankWARWAR RankElo-WAR
Gus Zernial1403792101192-400
Gus Bell159454414.3923-379
Frank Thomas (1)168945516.7812-357
Tommy Davis174240218.3744-342
Dick Stuart126010106.11351-341
Walt Dropo117811582.51447-289
Bobby Richardson121510835.61364-281
Zoilo Versalles1347859111131-272
Vic Power149266814.2927-259
Dave Philley119211354.41393-258

PlayerEloElo RankWARWAR RankElo-WAR
Doc Cramer14227645.41366-602
Luke Sewell120710991.31469-370
Jimmie Wilson13288939.41230-337
Roy Johnson149566313.8951-288
Lloyd Waner186828524.3560-275
Rip Radcliff120910965.81360-264
Bob Meusel183431023.9572-262
Pete Fox145272413.5973-249
Sam Chapman151663215.1879-247
Al Lopez142575913.5973-214

PlayerEloElo RankWARWAR RankElo-WAR
Charlie Grimm13668289.51226-398
Jack Tobin157157015.4866-296
Shano Collins12669978.71260-263
Tommy Griffith120111075.71362-255
Lefty O'Doul188327126504-233
Hi Myers1226107181291-220
Bill Wambsganss112012700.81478-208
High Pockets Kelly179035824.3560-202
Baby Doll Jacobson170143922.4626-187
Bucky Harris135684512.81022-177

PlayerEloElo RankWARWAR RankElo-WAR
Kid Gleason16165148.41274-760
Bill Hallman120111074.91383-276
Charlie Comiskey1342866111131-265
Joe Quinn114312231.61465-242
Wilbert Robinson138681012.31052-242
Jack O'Connor121410847.81300-216
Tom Brown136083513.3991-156
Chicken Wolf132689612.61033-137
Tommy McCarthy154559319723-130
Dave Foutz151663218.1754-122

I  don't have time to comment on all of these players, but would be interested in hearing what you think. Has the system worked and helped us isolate overrated players, or is there something lacking?  What adjustments can be made to improve what we are doing?

Tomorrow we'll use the same system to look at the underrated position players and then we'll switch to the pitchers.

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