Power hitters get all the headlines. And all the cash. People love homeruns. I get it, homeruns are good. But homeruns aren’t everything. Getting on base matters more than hitting for extra bases and defense and baserunning are important aspects of the game. ESPN has a homerun tracker, but they don’t have a leadoff single tracker. It’s a cultural thing.
So here, I’m going to pay homage to the powerless players who sometimes get overlooked. This is The Nine Most Valuable Powerless Seasons of the Last Decade. The rules are simple. These are the players who posted the highest Wins Above Replacement (WAR) values while having a slugging percentage that was below league average from 2004-2013.
For starters, here is league average slugging by season:
9. Russel Martin, 2008 Yankees (.396 SLG, 4.8 WAR)
8. B.J. Upton, 2008 Rays (.401 SLG, 4.8 WAR)
7. Brett Gardner, 2011 Yankees (.369 SLG, 4.9 WAR)
6. Nyjer Morgan, 2009 Pirates and Nationals (.388 SLG, 5.0 WAR)
5. Ichiro Suzuki, 2006 Mariners (.416 SLG, 5.3 WAR)
4. Jose Reyes, 2007 Mets (.421 SLG, 5.3 WAR)
3. Brett Gardner, 2010 Yankees (.379 SLG, 6.0 WAR)
2. Michael Bourn, 2012 Braves (.391 SLG, 6.1 WAR)
1. Chone Figgins, 2009 Angels (.393 SLG, 6.6 WAR)
Obviously, Figgins parlayed this season into a big deal and Upton, Bourn, Reyes, and Ichiro all did just fine for themselves too. So this group isn’t entirely underpaid, just under appreciated. Seriously, Michael Bourn finished 18th in the NL MVP vote last year despite having the 7th highest WAR among all NL players.
In 2013, Jacoby Ellsbury’s .391 SLG and 2.1 WAR lead the way.