Chicks dig the long ball, as Mark McGwire once said—and the ladies aren’t alone. With the playoff race well under way, baseball fans around the country are taking to hanging on every pitch. One misplaced fastball or one hanging curve can lead to a towering home run that changes the course of a game and, for a lucky (or unlucky) team, perhaps an entire season.
Fans everywhere are watching their teams and rooting for their sluggers to power them to the postseason. But some of these ponies are not worth betting on. Who are the top five most overrated sluggers in baseball? Well, they’re all on playoff contenders.
5. Carlos Beltran (STL)
Carlos Beltran flirted with the NL home run lead for a while this season, and he still leads the league in RBI with 85. But that doesn’t mean he’s having quite the year Cardinals fans think he is.
Yes, Beltran is knocking in a lot of runs. But that’s only because the Cardinals are getting plenty of men on base. He’s actually not making much good contact with the ball.
Among the top 20 league leaders in slugging percentage, Beltran is one only four with an OBP below .350. Furthermore, his batting average and OBP are both lower than they’ve been in any full season since the second Bush administration.
4. Albert Pujols (LAA)
Don’t get me wrong—Albert Pujols is a great hitter. He may be one of the greatest sluggers of our time, in fact. But is he worth the quarter of a billion dollars the Angels spent on him this offseason? Hardly.
Pujols is on pace this year to set new all-time career lows in hits, batting average, OBP, slugging percentage and OPS. He’s also in line to post the second-worst home run and strikeout totals of his career.
Pujols has had a great career. But is he worth what the government of Ghana is reported to have spent this year on building high schools? No.
3. Carlos Pena (TB)
Carlos Pena made waves in 2007 when he transformed, as if by magic, from a journeyman backup first baseman starting with his fifth team in seven years to a slugging threat who finished second only to Alex Rodriguez in the race for the AL home run title.
And yet, he’s never been the same since.
In the five seasons since 2007, Pena has never finished with an OPS above .900, or even a batting average above .250. In fact, his combined average over the last four seasons is a paltry .214—that’s barely above the Mendoza line.
Though he departed less than a year after winning the 2009 AL home run crown, Carlos Pena was paid over $7 million this winter to return to the Rays in free agency. And what has the team gotten so far? Sixteen homers, a .196 batting average and 149 K’s, good enough for second in the bigs.
2. Curtis Granderson (NYY)
Curtis Granderson was an All-Star this year. If he wasn’t a New York Yankee, he may not have been.
At present, Granderson is third in the American League and fourth in the majors overall with 32 home runs. That’s great.
What’s not so great? Granderson’s 148 K’s, which also puts him third in the American League and third in the majors overall.
For all his dinger power, Granderson’s OPS is just .832, which puts him 41st among everyday players in the majors—that’s almost .100 behind even being the best on his team. He doesn’t even have the highest OPS among Yankee outfielders. Even the slap-hitting Nick Swisher has Granderson beat.
1. Adam Dunn (CHW)
The conversation about overrated sluggers must necessarily close on Adam Dunn. Love him or hate him—or more accurately, love his power or hate his poor batting eye—Adam Dunn is nothing if not a man to make baseball purists question the wisdom of the long ball.
Dunn has made a career of being an all-or-nothing player. He hit 40-plus home runs for five straight seasons last decade. He also led the league in strikeouts for three of those years.
Currently, Dunn finds himself atop the strikeout board again, with 175 in just 425 at-bats. That’s a strikeout ratio of over 40 percent, and it puts Dunn on pace to become only the third player in baseball history to strike out over 200 times in one year.
Dunn is a study in contrasts. He leads the majors in K’s, but also homers and walks. And yet despite taking all those walks, his batting average is only .207. He has 35 homers this year…and only 88 hits altogether. Coupled with his 15 doubles, that means if Dunn can actually manage to get a hit, he’s more likely to go for extra bases than end up with a single. That’s absurd.
What’s more, for all his power, Dunn hits so little that his offensive wins-above-replacement metric is just 1.6. That puts him tied for 110th, below, for instance, Cody Ross and his quotidian .272/18/60 line. Or .249-hitting B.J. Upton.
Can a slugger win the home run crown and still be overrated? When that slugger is Adam Dunn…maybe!