This past weekend, I asked you all to tell me your most underrated and/or underappreciated Red Sox players. We only had one participant, but they did overtime work for the good fight.
Rick Miller - Scarecrow13
What they said: He was always there, he was reliable, he got on base a lot, he had no power, and he had a mustache... a good one. He played multiple years in Boston. While he was never the sexiest player on the field (mustache not-with-standing, you be the judge), he was one of the most reliable ones, and least celebrated ones.
Rich Gedman - Scarecrow13
What they said: For a brief period of time, Gedman was among the top catchers in all of baseball. He played well offensively... but he was an excellent defensive player. But it wasn’t meant to last. Misfortune struck, and he was never quite the same player again.
This is normally the part of the Flyby where I try to connect and write something unique in response to the prompt, but I find it difficult this week with both entries. This is because I wasn’t even alive the year when Rick Miller played, and I was born the year that Rich Gedman played his last baseball games. I have nothing to draw from because these players simply played in an era in which I could not watch them play.
Rick Miller stands out to me as a Jackie Bradley Jr. type, however, when looking at their numbers (ignoring Bradley’s ridiculous 2016, which at this point is clearly an outlier). Bradley is in just about every way a superior athlete, which is why he’s only been in the negatives in bWAR once in his career, and even that season was only 37 games. Miller was only in the negatives twice in his career, but he also never had an All-Star season like Bradley has already had to this point in his career.
Yet, despite the one All-Star campaign, Bradley gets forgotten a lot in terms of what he brings to the team. Since 2016, Bradley has put up 11.6 fWAR, which is only 2.2 short of what Miller put up for his entire career. Even if you remove his 2016 campaign, Bradley has put up 6.4 fWAR the last three seasons, which is pretty close to the combined total of Miller’s three best seasons combined (1979, 1976, and either two of 1973 and 1974). This is not to debase Miller, because I never saw him play. This is more to elevate Jackie Bradley Jr., a player I think we often take for granted. While he’s not the All-Star he was in 2016, he still provides positive value, and will for as long as he is here (which may not be much longer).
Meanwhile the Rich Gedman argument kind of reminds me of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Scarecrow brings up that Gedman’s performance from 1984-1986, a time where he put up 12.6 fWAR, which is very impressive. Saltalamacchia never put up 12.6 fWAR, but all three of his best seasons were put up with the Red Sox organization.
Between 2011 and 2013, Salty accrued 8.7 fWAR. He finished with a career 5.0 fWAR. While math is not my greatest subject, it does not take a genius to find out that 8.7 is higher than 5.0. Somewhere along the way, he lost fWAR.
But when he was in Boston, he was something else. It wasn’t that he was a significantly better hitter in Boston. Outside of his 2013 season, he was still largely the same player he was everywhere else on the offensive side of the ball. Rather, it was his defense that took a big step forward. Of the 50 catchers who had 1000 innings logged behind the plate between 2011 and 2013, Saltalamacchia ranked 15th in “defensive score”, and 19th in DRS. While not phenomenal, when considering his work elsewhere (before and after Boston), he stepped up his game here.
It’s hard to compare and contrast players across eras, largely because of how the game has changed, even within the past 10 or 20 years. Down the line, in the same time-frame, what modern players will be celebrated as being underrated or unheralded?