#Hot Corner

Dan Uuggla: The extra 'U' is for Underrated

From the "Hey Bill" section of Bill James Online:

What do you make of Dan Uggla? It's generally agreed he had a disappointing season last year, but he scored 86 runs and drove in 78, which are almost the same numbers as Ben Zobrist and Brandon Phillips, and better than Dustin Pedroia. Is he actually very productive, or are Braves fans right to be on his case?

Bill: He's a prototype of an underrated player. Last year he hit .220, but with a secondary average of .352. A player with that combination has always been underrated, and still is.

Secondary average, which dates back to the 1986 Bill James Abstract, "focuses on the major areas of offensive productivity which are not reflected in the player's batting average," like walks, extra base hits, and stolen bases.

Secondary average:


Secondary average is, according to James, "a better indicator of hitting ability than is batting average." The elegant part is that the league secondary average (.252 last season) hews closely to the league batting average (.255), but has a much higher variance. The highest and lowest batting averages among regulars last season were .336 by Buster Posey and .197 by Carlos Peña. The highest and lowest secondary averages last year were .460 by Adam Dunn and .147 by Michael Young.

So if a high secondary average and a low batting average is a key indicator of underratedness, let's make a list of underrated ballplayers. And may God blow up our computers if Ben Zobrist isn't on it.

Rk Player BA SecA Diff

1. Adam Dunn .204 .460 .256
2. Edwin Encarnacion .280 .450 .170
3. Curtis Granderson .232 .398 .166
4. Josh Willingham .260 .412 .152
5. Mark Reynolds .221 .363 .142
6. Carlos Peña .197 .330 .133
7. Jay Bruce .252 .384 .132
8. Dan Uggla .220 .346 .126
9. Ike Davis .227 .349 .122
10. Josh Hamilton .285 .404 .119
11. Ben Zobrist .270 .384 .114
12. Jason Kubel .253 .366 .113
13. Mike Trout .326 .436 .110
14. Ryan Braun .319 .420 .101

Okay, I think we've wandered out of underrated territory with those last couple names. Although... did you know you can make a good case that Mike Trout was even better than Miguel Cabrera last year? It was kind of an under-the-radar story. We probably should've written about it at the time on our internet site.

Let's flip it: Who had good batting averages but bad secondary averages last season? I wouldn't go so far as to call these guys overrated, but you can if you want. It's not like anyone's going to sue you.

Rk Player               BA    SecA   Diff
1. Jordan Pacheco .309 .168 -.141
2. Marco Scutaro .306 .171 -.135
3. Michael Young .277 .147 -.130
3. Derek Jeter .316 .186 -.130
5. Ben Revere .294 .166 -.128
6. Alexei Ramirez .265 .148 -.127
7. Ichiro Suzuki .283 .176 -.107
7. Howie Kendrick .286 .180 -.107
9. Jon Jay .305 .199 -.106
10. Daniel Murphy .291 .189 -.102
11. Alcides Escobar .293 .192 -.101
12. Jamey Carroll .268 .168 -.100
13. Yunel Escobar .253 .161 -.092
14. Delmon Young .267 .176 -.091

The next few guys on the list are Erick Aybar, Torii Hunter, Elvis Andrus, Darwin Barney, and Jesus Montero.

Anyway, in our never-ending quest to quantify underratedness, secondary average may be useful.

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