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Sneaky Good in the Senior Circuit – from BP

Baseball Prospectus’ Eric Seidman listed several Roadrunners in this feature, that takes a look back at some players who will not be regaled with hardware but who performed admirably under the radar in 2010.

Starting Pitcher

Ian Kennedy (4.2 WARP): The Diamondbacks turned Max Scherzer into Edwin Jackson and Kennedy and flipped Jackson to the White Sox for Dan Hudson and prospects. All told, they ended up with two very solid starters under team control for six years apiece. Kennedy relies on command and control, and unlike in his brief tenure with the Yankees, both of those attributes were on display last season. In addition to keeping the ball on the ground, he even began striking hitters out at a rate far exceeding expectations.

Relief Pitcher

John Axford: Axford stepped into the closer position when it became evident that Trevor Hoffman had virtually nothing left in the tank. In 50 games, the mustachioed man produced an impressive 3.85 WXRL that ranked eighth in the league. He allowed just one home run, which certainly helped given he was no stranger to the free pass.

Sean Marshall: Carlos Marmol hogged most of the headlines in Chicago last year as far as relievers went, but Marshall, a failed southpaw starter, held the opposition in check and fell just behind Lidge with a 2.78 WXRL. His strikeout rate soared to 29.3 percent and he kept the ball in the yard as well. Still under team control and only 28 years old, he could help stabilize an up-and-down bullpen.

First Base

Prince Fielder (5.0 WARP): This was probably the toughest position to find a sneaky-good player given that it broke down into two distinct groups—the Albert Pujolses and the Adam LaRoche Clones. In one corner we had the stat demons who were publicized all season. In the other corner stood the first basemen whose numbers were not as solid given the context of the position. Fielder sort of fell in between both groups as he topped a .400 OBP for the second straight year, and despite dropping off by .131 with his slugging percentage, he put up a .316 TAv.

Third Base

Chase Headley (4.0 WARP): Headley didn’t get much notoriety last season, in large part because his unadjusted numbers were not terribly impressive, but they translated well given the league average and his park. He also added solid defense. He isn’t going to blossom into the next David Wright or Ryan Zimmerman, but he provides a very cost-effective option for a team hoping to remain a playoff contender on a shoestring budget.

Outfield

Drew Stubbs (5.3 WARP): Jay Bruce gets most of the attention in the Reds outfield, but Stubbs really put together a solid season in his own right. He launched 22 home runs and stole 30 bases en route to a .284 TAv, adding decent defense in center field. His OBP last season does not belie his ability to take a walk, primarily due to the fact that he strikes out so frequently. Figuring out a way to reduce those empty swinging ABs will catapult him from a solid player to a great player. However, as we have seen time and time again, this is not as easy as turning a switch on or off.