Outside the baseball-mad enclave where he plays, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Kevin Siegrist is about as anonymous as they come. Were one to ask even a die-hard fan who is on the verge of posting the lowest ERA in history for a reliever, Siegrist would fall somewhere in between "Who the hell is he?" and "That guy's in One Direction, right?"
Following another scoreless inning Thursday, his 22nd in a row, Siegrist shaved his ERA to 0.49, the lowest ever for a reliever with at least 35 innings pitched. On the season, Siegrist has allowed two runs. Pretty much all he does is throw fastballs, though 95 mph with movement from the left side can indeed work. In a bullpen that needed a left-handed specialist, Siegrist turned into an assassin.
"If that's a record," Siegrist said recently, "I don't want to know about it."
That's one reason nobody knows him: He's not wearing a long beard, making outrageous comments or talking about Qualcomm. He is one of the game's great unsung. And as the season winds down and the races for the postseason as well as the major awards gear up, those are the sorts whose contributions get lost.
So consider this Yahoo Sports' effort to give them proper due. I consulted with fellow columnist Tim Brown along with Big League Stew shepherds Mike Oz and Dave Brown to compile a list of players whom the unsung label fit and figure out who is ... least sung. Some are stars whose recognition isn't commensurate to their performance. Others play positions that don't call attention to them. Figuring out the most unsung would require a little bit of research and math.
Five variables went into a formula: Google hits of a player's name, tweets about him over the last month as tracked by Topsy and newspaper-and-wire articles that include him on LexisNexis helped establish his popularity, and both FanGraphs' and Baseball-Reference.com's metrics for Wins Above Replacement allow us to measure the media numbers against the best uniform number for productivity available.
(Note: This is a complete back-of-the-napkin formula. There is zero science involved. Weighing Google hits at 20 percent with tweets and mass-media mentions at 40 percent seemed about right. It does not take into account, for example, that one player shares a name with a serial killer, which tends to game the Google numbers just a little. Nor that most fans refer to a player by first name or last on Twitter, not both. And that WAR itself is flawed, too, especially the defensive component. Still, adding up the mentions and dividing them by average WAR left us with results that felt pretty good. Any suggestions for future formulas are encouraged.)
So from No. 31 (sorta sung) to No. 1 (instrumental-level unsung), here are those who deserved more publicity in 2013.
31. Juan Uribe, IF, Los Angeles Dodgers: Tied for the most Google hits (915,000). Leads with the most tweets (1,800). Still a cult hero in San Francisco. Deserves a spot on this list because after two dreadful seasons, he's actually been good.
30. Brandon Moss, OF/1B, Oakland A's: A bit of a surprise he's not higher, though that's due more to defensive ineptitude dinging his WAR. His .989 second-half OPS is fifth in baseball, behind Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Jayson Werth and Miguel Cabrera, all MVP candidates.
29. Joe Kelly, SP, St. Louis Cardinals: Big Twitter buzz from Cardinals fans who realize his 1.86 ERA in the second half absolutely saved their rotation.
28. Daniel Nava, OF/1B, Boston Red Sox: The most gorgeous swing in baseball belongs to a 30-year-old who's a little more sung than others because he plays for the best team in baseball – and leads in story mentions with 2,888.
27. Dillon Gee, SP, New York Mets: He's not Matt Harvey. He's not Zack Wheeler. He is the guy who invites tabloid headline writers to drop a "Gee Whiz!" every time he deals, which has been quite frequently (2.23 ERA since the All-Star break).
26. Paco Rodriguez, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers: His .158 batting average against is fourth lowest in the major leagues. His .484 OPS against is sixth.
25. Andrew Cashner, SP, San Diego Padres: Before Cashner's near perfect game set Twitter atwitter, he would've been higher. As is, the breakout season for the 27-year-old may yet make the Anthony Rizzo deal salvageable.
24. Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals: How is an All-Star unsung? Well, playing in the Midwest for one. And being all of 23. Outside of the big three – Buster Posey, Yadier Molina and Joe Mauer – Perez may already be the best catcher in the game.
23. Homer Bailey, SP, Cincinnati Reds: Lost amid Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos and Bronson Arroyo, Bailey may be the best starter on the Reds' staff. He's striking out more betters than ever (8.8 per nine innings), walking fewer (2.1) and giving up a career-low home run rate. He's a star. Not many people realize it.
22. Khris Davis, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun's replacement is slugging .615 with 10 home runs in 117 at-bats. His PED is spelling Chris with a K.
21. David Carpenter, RP, Atlanta Braves: How did Carpenter end up with the ninth-most Google hits despite being a journeyman reliever who at 28 has put up a 1.89 ERA for the Braves? He shares a name with the Trailside Killer, of course! Even though Carpenter has been an invaluable part of the Braves' bullpen, he has the fourth-fewest tweets.
20. Alex Cobb, SP, Tampa Bay Rays: From the Justin Masterson/A.J. Burnett school of strikeouts and groundballs comes Cobb, who arguably has been the Rays' most effective starter this season, even though he missed two months after taking a line drive off his head.
19. Matt Carpenter, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals: Second-most tweets with 11,000. For this list, it's a lot. Compared to others with 6.6 WAR like he has – Chris Davis is at 63,000 tweets – Carpenter is still unsung enough to warrant this spot.
18. Craig Breslow, RP, Boston Red Sox: Since July 22, the smartest man in baseball resembles Siegrist: one run in 22 2/3 innings and a 0.40 ERA. More and more, he's the bridge to Koji Uehara.
17. Jamey Wright, RP, Tampa Bay Rays: If Alex Torres has been the Rays bullpen's savior, Wright has been its heart. He pitches anytime, he's striking out more hitters than ever, he doesn't give up homers and at 38, in his 17th season, he might as well be a lefty, because he seems like he can pitch forever.
15. Will Venable, OF, San Diego Padres: Like Moss, a post-break monster with a .569 slugging percentage. If he comes anywhere near that for the next two seasons, the two-year, $8.5 million contract he signed will be among the biggest bargains in baseball.
14. Brad Ziegler, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks: The groundball king filled in ably at closer when Arizona's bullpen imploded midseason … and pretty much nobody in the Twittersphere recognized it. Only one player was mentioned in fewer tweets.
13. Luke Hochevar, RP, Kansas City Royals: Approximately 195,861 of the Google hits are yelling about how awful a starter Hochevar is. And the other 139 are praising the lockdown reliever he has grown into this season. Among relievers, nobody on this list has better stuff.
12. Travis Wood, SP, Chicago Cubs: Only one person on the Cubs has a higher WAR than Wood – and he's well up this list. Wood will settle with being the guy who has put up the sort of numbers Jeff Samardzija was supposed to with about half the natural stuff. Long live the cutter.
11. Yan Gomes, C, Cleveland Indians: From backup catcher to guy hitting .293/.346/.487 for a team that should make the playoffs, Gomes has allowed the Indians to move the disastrous Carlos Santana out from behind the plate. Cleveland is a markedly better team because of that.
10. Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians: Another Mickey Callaway miracle – he, Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir are all beneficiaries of the Indians' new pitching coach. With a strikeout-to-walk rate over four, Kluber's success may not be as fluky as a 27-year-old in a breakout season usually is.
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9. Scooter Gennett, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers: Rickie Weeks who? Like Davis, Gennett has supercharged a moribund roster and provided a little hope for a lost season. Next year, when a healthy Weeks comes back, the Brewers will have to decide whether Gennett is more than a utilityman or if it's worth sidelining Weeks to keep him from triggering an $11.5 million option that vests at 600 at bats.
8. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland A's: FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.com don't always agree. They do on this: Mike Trout has been the best player in the AL, and Josh Donaldson is second. Yes, ahead of Miguel Cabrera. So no matter how many mentions – 548,000 in Google, 5,600 on Twitter, 2,182 in news stories – Donaldson will perpetually play fiddle Nos. 2, 3 and 10. Criminally unsung.
7. Brian Dozier, SS/2B, Minnesota Twins: From the position (shortstop) to the glove (lovely) to the power (way more than anyone thought), Dozier has racked up WAR this season and could be a nice back-of-the-lineup piece for a contender.
6. Kyle Seager, 3B, Seattle: There are plenty of good third basemen in baseball today. Seager is the quietest among them. Only 1,100 tweets – most of them, presumably, wasted on complaining how bad these Mariners are – couldn't possibly say the truth: of all the young players with Seattle, the only sure thing is Seager.
5. Kevin Siegrist, RP, St. Louis Cardinals: Was sure he'd be No. 1 considering the Google following (45,300), the lowest by far, and a weak Nexis connection. Turns out neither WAR system likes relief pitching all that much, and so it's on Siegrist to keep dealing even though it will take a run into October for his Q rating to land where it belongs.
4. Nick Vincent, RP, San Diego Padres: Poor Nick Vincent. Finally established in the big leagues. Striking out almost a batter an inning. A 2.40 ERA. With all that, the last Topsy survey said "Nick Vincent" has been mentioned 50 times in the last month. Welcome, Nick. You are truly unsung.
3. Welington Castillo, C, Chicago Cubs: Remember that Cub who beat Travis Wood? It is the defensive surprise of the year, Castillo, who rides defensive metrics that are especially iffy about catching into one of the most shocking WAR totals in years. Welington Castillo? A player with a .273/.347/.395 batting line is that good? Even if it's wrongheaded, the math doesn't lie.
2. Hisashi Iwakuma, SP, Seattle Mariners: There is actually a decent argument to be made that Iwakuma deserves every bit of the consideration for AL Cy Young as all the other candidates. His ERA is spectacular (2.76), his strikeout-to-walk-ratio excellent (4.29-to-1), his innings total high (211 2/3). He is also plying his trade in the Pacific Northwest, and the Mariners' general suckitude sponges up the attention that might be paid to, oh, you know, one of the best pitchers this season.
1. Rex Brothers, RP, Colorado Rockies: No, he's not in One Direction. Brothers is a left-handed relief pitcher who has been a setup man and closer. Whatever role he's in, Brothers has thrived. He's got 17 saves and 71 strikeouts in 63 innings. His ERA is 1.71, which should be outlawed. And oddest of all, nobody talks about him. Fewer than 300 tweets. Not even 350 story mentions. And yet plenty of productivity despite it all.
Who the hell is he? Mr. Unsung 2013, that's who. Get to know him.