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Monday, February 04, 2013

Neyer: Wait, Ryan Hanigan is HOW underrated?

I’m not ashamed. It’s the computer age. Nerds are in. They’re still in, right?

So I’m watching MLB Network’s “Top 10 Right Now”, hosted by Brian Kenny and focusing on catchers, when Bill James shows up with his Top 10 list ...

Kenny: “Bit of a surprise here, Bill. You throw this right out at us: Ryan Hanigan of the Cincinnati Reds. Why Hanigan?”

James: “With Ben Zobrist, those two are the most underrated players in baseball. I mean, Hanigan’s on-base percentage is not only good, it’s very, very good. He’s hit .260, .270 or better every year of his career. He walks a lot. He throws extremely well. The Cincinnati Reds’ ERA with Hanigan catching last year was 3.04; when he wasn’t catching, it was up around 3.8. Maybe Ben Zobrist is the most underrated player in baseball, but Ryan Hanigan may be the most underrated player in baseball.”

It’s hard for me to believe that a part-time player is the second-most underrated player in the game, unless you can make the case that management’s holding him down; that he’d be an All-Star if the Reds would just play him as often as he deserves. In the meantime, though, I think I’ll stick with Alex Gordon, who somehow ranks fifth in the majors in Wins Above Replacement (Wins+) over the last two seasons. Even if the method is generous—and I will note that Baseball-Reference.com’s Wins+ has him fifth, too—dropping Gordon to 10th or 15th or 20th would still have him much higher than almost everybody in the baseball world would guess. So I’m going to go with this ranking:

1. Alex Gordon
2. Ben Zobrist
3. Austin Jackson
4. Erick Aybar

The District Attorney Posted: February 04, 2013 at 05:59 PM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bill james, reds, rob neyer, ryan hanigan, sabermetrics

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   1. Austin Posted: February 05, 2013 at 01:05 AM (#4362851)
Bill James using CERA... hmmm. That said, the pitch-framing researchers find that Hanigan is one of the best, so I agree that he's probably one of the most underrated players. And not in the J.D. Drew sense, where people call him underrated so often that he becomes overrated; you probably won't find many fans outside of Cincinnati who would recognize his name, or many Reds fans who think he's something better than an expendable piece.
   2. McCoy Posted: February 05, 2013 at 01:23 AM (#4362853)
Bats right and beat up on lefties last year while sucking against righties which he faced the vast majority of time. You really want to double up on .252/.337/.324? He was 28th out of 47 catchers in OPS+ that appeared in at least 80 games last year. I have no idea where he would appear on a list of catchers vs right handed pitchers but I bet it wouldn't be very high at all.
   3. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: February 05, 2013 at 02:17 AM (#4362868)
NEYER: Ryan Hanigan isn't underrated. Tell him, Bill.
JAMES: He's incredibly underrated.
   4. vivaelpujols Posted: February 05, 2013 at 02:59 AM (#4362872)
Neyer you dumbass. Hannigan is way more underrated than Gordon. Gordon just got a 4/40 contract extension and is generally recognized as the only good thing about the Royals. Like 1 said, no one outside of Cinci even knows who Hannigan is. He's been worth about 4 WAR per 600 PA over the past 3 years.
   5. Red Menace Posted: February 05, 2013 at 03:25 AM (#4362878)
I was going to complain about the very nature or over/underrated, but then I clicked through and it turns out Neyer covered that very well. The intro doesn't do him justice.

In the absence of a massive research project, then, one's underrated list will necessarily be personal, idiosyncratic, and thus singular.
   6. T.J. Posted: February 05, 2013 at 10:04 AM (#4362920)
Hannigan is way more underrated than Gordon.... [N]o one outside of Cinci even knows who Hannigan is.

He's so underrated, even his supporters can't spell his name right!
   7. BDC Posted: February 05, 2013 at 10:11 AM (#4362929)
no one outside of Cinci even knows who Hannigan is

No matter how you spell it, I sure don't know who he is. If you asked me ten minutes ago who Ryan Hanigan was, I'd have said the bartender at O'Leary's, which would by definition lead me to underrate him as a major-league baseball player.
   8. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: February 05, 2013 at 10:13 AM (#4362931)
He's an interesting guy, regardless of where you put him on the Underratededness scale. Undrafted out of Rollins College (where he was a Philosophy major). I suspect the Reds only signed him because Jim Bowden is also a Rollins alum. Good interview with Mr. Underrated earlier this winter via fangraphs.
   9. McCoy Posted: February 05, 2013 at 10:13 AM (#4362932)
He's so underrated, even his supporters can't spell his name right!

Man, Mark McGuire and Ryan Sandberg must be the most underrated players in history.
   10. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: February 05, 2013 at 10:22 AM (#4362937)
He's so underrated, even his supporters can't spell his name right!

Man, Mark McGuire and Ryan Sandberg must be the most underrated players in history.


Yaz too.
   11. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 05, 2013 at 10:32 AM (#4362953)
Bats right and beat up on lefties last year while sucking against righties which he faced the vast majority of time. You really want to double up on .252/.337/.324?


Over time, nearly all right-handed batters regress toward the same platoon ratio. As such, Hanigan's one-year L/R splits probably aren't all that meaningful.
   12. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: February 05, 2013 at 10:36 AM (#4362958)
hanigan gets a lot of starts against the astros and cubs and he murders those teams. against the cards he's helpless. i knew that before even looking at his splits because everyone in the division knows that. you put hanigan in against teams with pitchers who have sh8tty control and he hits. you put him in against teams that pound the strike zone and he's overmatched because the reason he's a backup is that he works the strike zone and pokes at the ball as a good fastball eats him up unless he's looking for it in the right place of the strike zone

bill embarrassed himself with this remark because it demonsrates a complete lack of contextual awareness

tehre isn't an nl central fan who doesn't understand why hanigan doesn't play more. he has no pop and he can't handle a good fastball without being ready for it. that he has succeeded enough to be 32 years old and earning a major league salary is testimony to his intelligence

wow, i am old but bill is looking more daft than me
   13. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 05, 2013 at 10:37 AM (#4362959)
I knew Hanigan was good.

I didn't know AJ Ellis was that good.
   14. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: February 05, 2013 at 10:43 AM (#4362965)
He's so underrated, even his supporters can't spell his name right!


Do we have a Primate inadvertently acknowledging that the most underrated player in baseball is....Jeff Francor...Francouer...Franceour...ah #### it, you know who I mean!
   15. McCoy Posted: February 05, 2013 at 10:45 AM (#4362971)
Over time, nearly all right-handed batters regress toward the same platoon ratio. As such, Hanigan's one-year L/R splits probably aren't all that meaningful.

So he likely sucks. It's unlikely that out of the two splits it is going to be the vs RH pitchers that he regresses in. In all likelihood the more at bats he gets against lefties the more likely that number is going to come down.
   16. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: February 05, 2013 at 10:55 AM (#4362977)
I have no problem calling Alex Gordon underrated, since he's not just pretty good, he's a star. After being drafted #1 and all the dicking around the Royals did with his development, Gordon suffers a bit from post-post-hype sleeper.
   17. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: February 05, 2013 at 11:32 AM (#4363014)
James seems like he is publicly sundowning.
   18. Ok, Griffey's Dunn (Nothing Iffey About Griffey) Posted: February 05, 2013 at 11:34 AM (#4363017)
Good interview with Mr. Underrated earlier this winter via fangraphs.


This is really an excellent piece.
   19. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: February 05, 2013 at 11:39 AM (#4363023)
This is really an excellent piece.

Seconded. Great interview and Hanigan seems like a great student of the game.
   20. T.J. Posted: February 05, 2013 at 11:51 AM (#4363037)
Man, Mark McGuire and Ryan Sandberg must be the most underrated players in history.

Don't forget Cal Ripkin, Jr.
   21. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: February 05, 2013 at 12:29 PM (#4363062)
And Andres Galaragga.
   22. Shredder Posted: February 05, 2013 at 12:53 PM (#4363088)
I'll give you MLBN's list (via "the Shredder) along with mine, later. But Ryan Hanigan?
Umm, I don't read Neyer's column all that often, but what's this about a Shredder now?
   23. Mike Emeigh Posted: February 05, 2013 at 01:03 PM (#4363098)
Hanigan drew 13 intentional walks last year and has drawn 29 in his career, largely because he has batted eighth in the lineup. His OBP doesn't look quite so good when you account for that.

Harveys has it correct. Looking at Hanigan's splits on Baseball Reference, his OPS is ~100 points higher vs bad teams than it is vs good teams. The only reason he got as much time as he did a year ago is because Devin Mesoraco struggled to make adjustments to the majors - which he's done at virtually every level so far. Mesoraco's going to hit eventually, and when he does Hanigan's going back to the backup role.

This is just James looking at a stat line, as Harveys said, and failing to understand the components of it.

-- MWE
   24. McCoy Posted: February 05, 2013 at 01:05 PM (#4363101)
Looking at Hanigan's splits on Baseball Reference, his OPS is ~100 points higher vs bad teams than it is vs good teams.

Well, that is a shocker.
   25. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 05, 2013 at 01:09 PM (#4363103)
So he likely sucks. It's unlikely that out of the two splits it is going to be the vs RH pitchers that he regresses in. In all likelihood the more at bats he gets against lefties the more likely that number is going to come down.


Both should move, though the numbers vs. LH will probably move more.
   26. McCoy Posted: February 05, 2013 at 01:13 PM (#4363107)
So he is likely to improve in his age 32 season vs righties?
   27. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: February 05, 2013 at 02:19 PM (#4363180)
Ryan Hanigan always makes me think of BBTF. A couple years ago when Votto got hurt and the Reds moved (iirc) Ramon Hernandez to first for a while, giving Hanigan the majority of the starts behind the plate, I suggested in a comment that there might not be a larger dropoff from a regular player to his primary backup than Votto to Hanigan. I was taken to task by a couple posters who delved into the numbers to demonstrate that Hanigan was actually an above average player. Suffice it to say Hanigan is not underrated by me.
   28. The Buddy Biancalana Hit Counter Posted: February 05, 2013 at 02:49 PM (#4363213)
Hannigan is way more underrated than Gordon. Gordon just got a 4/40 contract extension and is generally recognized as the only good thing about the Royals.

I guess Billy Butler's underrated then, too.
   29. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 05, 2013 at 03:33 PM (#4363260)
So he is likely to improve in his age 32 season vs righties?


Assuming that he puts up the same overall numbers in the coming year, he's likely to deliver a better performance vs. RHP than he did last year. It's not "improvement", as such, in that there's no skill component involved.
   30. tfbg9 Posted: February 05, 2013 at 03:53 PM (#4363283)
Well, that is a shocker.


Looks the rest of baseball has about a 45 point split.
   31. McCoy Posted: February 05, 2013 at 04:31 PM (#4363308)
Looks the rest of baseball has about a 45 point split.

Man, Joey Votto must be a vastly overrated hitter.
   32. jack the seal clubber (on the sidelines of life) Posted: February 05, 2013 at 04:48 PM (#4363325)
Man, Mark McGuire and Ryan Sandberg must be the most underrated players in history


It's still Joe Rudi.
   33. zonk Posted: February 05, 2013 at 04:57 PM (#4363335)
Looking at Hanigan's splits on Baseball Reference, his OPS is ~100 points higher vs bad teams than it is vs good teams.

Well, that is a shocker.


The obvious solution:

Make him a Cub, so we can see once and for all if he's really underrated or he actually sucks.

In many circles, this is known the 'Jeff Blauser litmus test'.... The test was also able to successfully determine that Ismael Valdez did indeed, suck.
   34. The Chronicles of Reddick Posted: February 05, 2013 at 05:05 PM (#4363345)
Man, Mark McGuire and Ryan Sandberg must be the most underrated players in history.



Don't forget Sammy Sosser
   35. Walt Davis Posted: February 06, 2013 at 02:37 AM (#4363635)
So he is likely to improve in his age 32 season vs righties?

"Improve" no, regress towards the mean maybe. But if his vs. RHP numbers suck and his vs LHP numbers rock then there's a reasonable chance his RHP numbers understate his true talent and his LHP numbers overstate it. Assuming he has more PA vs RHP, there will be less noise in those numbers so we expect less movement in those numbers than we do in the LHP numbers. But, sure, it's always possible that his RHP numbers perfectly reflect (or even overstate) his true talent but then that just means his LHP numbers are an even bigger outlier. Then of course you have deterioration due to age.

But, when in doubt, move the low split up and the high split down and recalculate the overall based on a L/R split.

As to Hanigan -- without question a pretty awesome backup C. Even if you justifiably ignore the IBB, he's still walks once ever 10 PA while hitting 275. The average NL C hit 252 and unintentionally walked a little less than once per 11 PA. His ISO is a lot lower than the average Cs though. But all told you've picking up 30 points of OBP for about 40 points of SLG, a good trade. He's more valuable offensively (given his L/R split) than the average C. Assuming he's average or better defensively, that's awesome for a backup.

Could he maintain if he starts is the quesetion. HW, MWE and others give us good reason to doubt that considering he'd face a lot more RHP and maybe more good pitchers. Still, I'm more willing to believe the perennial backup C with the career 370 OBP and 96 OPS+ is the most underrated than I am willing to believe that the one with the career 68 OPS+ is secretly worth 5 wins a year. But maybe that's just me.

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