Andres Torres is very near and dear to my heart. As the Giants’ most valuable player according to WAR, Torres has arguably been the most critical component of the Giants’ season up to this point and one of the most surprising players in baseball. At 18.4 fielding runs above replacement, Torres has added more value in the field than any other player in baseball besides Tampa star Carl Crawford. Torres has also been an asset with the bat, adding 18.1 RAR on offense. Add in 23 steals and you’ve got a five-tool player having one of the best seasons of any player in baseball. However, the 32-year-old Torres remains a relative unknown, especially considering his 5.4 WAR ties him with Matt Holliday and Adrian Gonzalez for 11th in baseball among hitters. Though Torres didn’t start the season as the Giants’ everyday centerfielder, his fantastic play has entrenched him as an everyday fixture in a possible playoff lineup.
Like Torres, Brett Gardner derives much of his value from his defense, and the slow-developing nature of defensive statistics causes him to be highly underrated. Though defensive metrics like UZR and Total Zone are not infallible by any stretch, they should not be discounted in favor of using a player’s defensive reputation to evaluate them in the field. Torii Hunter hasn’t been an above-average centerfielder in the last 5 years, and yet he’s won a gold glove in each of those seasons. Gardner has prevented the third most runs of any player in baseball, a driving factor in the 4.9 WAR season he’s currently constructing. With 17.2 batting RAR and 17.1 in the field, Gardner has been the seventh most valuable outfielder in baseball in 2010, eclipsing more celebrated teammate Curtis Granderson.
Check back tomorrow, when I’ll be taking a look at two more players whose seasons should probably be getting a bit more national attention. Look for articles on the 2011 White Sox and Cardinals as well, as with every day their playoff chances are looking slimmer and slimmer.