Stardom is a funny thing. Long ago, people realized it has little to do with talent or accomplishments and more to do with luck, connections, and public relations. As a studio exec would say, “A star is whoever I make a star.” Much as we believe the statistical revolution has changed the way we think about baseball, the game is not much different from show business. Stars are often not who the numbers say are the best.
With this in mind, we thought about some pitchers over the past decades — some of whom retired in the past year — who never quite got the fame and recognition they deserved. We’re talking about the grinders who started 32 games every year but maybe never had the run support or defense to get fancy records and brilliant ERAs. More often than not, those guys don’t win the Cy Young Award, appear in All-Star Games, and become household names. Yet they tend to be the backbone of a team’s rotation.
We hope to bring some of these great pitchers back into the conversation. Using the list of pitcher WAR leaders between 1996 and 2016, we pulled out names who ranked in the top 20 yet never received the accolades most of their peers did. (Our one exception was a pitcher who only spent seven seasons here in between playing for leagues overseas.) Here are eight MLB starting pitchers who have been incredibly underrated over the last two decades.