Sep 1, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcherHisashi Iwakuma
(18) delivers a pitch during the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Sure, everyone knows how great Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, and Clayton Kershaw are doing this season, but what about the other guys? The guys who are overlooked, who don’t grab your attention when you see their name, the guys who fly under the radar? The guys you may not have noticed are having great seasons.
Here’s a look at seven ballplayers who are having underrated seasons.
Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, Colorado Rockies
After being plagued by a pectoral muscle injury in 2012, Chacin has come back to have an outstanding year. The sinkerballing right-hander has gone 13-8 with a 3.09 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 144 ERA+. If he sustains or betters those numbers during the season’s last three weeks, they will all be career bests.
Perhaps his most striking statistic, however, is his home run per 9 inning ratio. It stands at a microscopic 0.4, due to the fact he’s only allowed 8 home runs in 183 innings. Only 4 of those big flies came at hitter-friendly Coors Field.
Ryan Raburn, UTIL, Cleveland Indians
The Indians signed the former Detroit Tiger to a minor league contract during the offseason. The Tribe has been so impressed with Raburn’s performance in 2013, that they signed him to an extension a month ago.
Raburn has played mostly outfield and DH, though he has played 2 games at second base, and even made an appearance as a pitcher (he allowed an earned run in an inning of work). At the plate, Raburn is having a career year. He’s batting .275/.370/.580 with 15 homers in only 230 plate appearances. He also has a 165 OPS+. He’s provided the Indians with tremendous punch off the bench.
Russell Martin, C, Pittsburgh Pirates
When Martin came up with the Dodgers in 2006, it seemed he had the perfect combination of attributes for a catcher. He called a good game, fielded his position very well, could hit for average and power. The wear and tear of being a major league backstop has taken its toll on his batting average over the years (although he’s had double-digit home runs each of his last three seasons), but he’s still one of the best in the business.
Martin leads all catchers in UZR with a 9.4 mark, according to Fangraphs. That would be the highest of his career. He’s also hit 13 home runs and has an above average OPS+ of 107.
And the experience he’s brought to an up and coming young Pirates team is immeasurable.
Marlon Byrd, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Byrd spend most of his season for the Mets before being traded to Pittsburgh for prospects in August.
He resurrected his career following a decline punctuated by a PED suspension last year. In 2013, the 36 year-old is hitting .288/.334/.516 with 22 home runs and 79 RBIs. He helped stabilize the Mets messy outfield situation both at the plate and in the field. Byrd has 8 outfield assists this year.
Now, Marlon gets a chance to help the Pirates get into the playoffs and beyond.
Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers acquired Segura last year from the Anaheim Angels at the trade deadline for RHP Zack Greinke. The Brewers made a wise choice. Segura has a career .313/.367/.439 slash in the minor leagues, and that success has translated to the major league level.
Segura is hitting .299/.332/.429 with 12 homers and 40 stolen bases. He’s only been caught stealing 6 times. In the field, he has a -0.2 UZR, but he’s made 14 errors on 653 chances, which is pretty good for a shortstop. The 23 year-old also made the All-Star team.
Segura will be a valuable piece of the puzzle for the rebuilding Crew.
Hunter Pence, OF, San Francisco Giants
Pence was the emotional leader of a Giants team that won the World Series last year, despite the fact that he has a measly .671 OPS after San Francisco acquired him from the Philadelphia Phillies mid-season.
This year, however, Pence has returned to form. He’s hitting .289/.340/.474 with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs. Most surprisingly, he’s stolen a career 21 bases.
The Giants may not be going anywhere this year, but Pence, a free agent after the season, may be heading toward a very nice payday.
Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Signed by the Mariners from Japan last year, Iwakuma is 12-6 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 196.2 innings pitched. He’s struck out 169 batters while issuing merely 37 walks.
Imagine the notoriety Iwakuma would receive if he weren’t tucked away in the pacific northwest. That’s not a knock against Seattle, but if he played in New York or LA, he’d be a star.