If this list of the most overrated batters in baseball history is any indication, the 1920s in St. Louis was a pretty good time and place to be a first baseman. The St. Louis Cardinals send "Sunny" Jim Bottomley to the list, at 39, while the St. Louis Browns' George Sisler ranks 16th. The methodology is pretty simple: It's the difference between the player's value, as determined by his WAR, and his ranking on Baseball Reference's subjective Elo Rating system, which so far as I know has nothing to do with a player's love of Jeff Lynne. The top player on the list is easy enough to figure: Shoeless Joe Jackson, whose story has made him even more famous than he would've been if he'd played a full career.â†µ
But why Sisler and Bottomley? Well, they hit all the possible overrated markers: They're first basemen; they played in a high-offense era and are still famous; they're Hall of Famers; they had some huge seasons and some weaker ones. Sisler, in particular, is victimized by the vision problems that ended his run as the best hitter in the American League and made him into an empty-.300 hitter.â†µ
It's easy to over-overrate Sisler, though—as I wrote in—incoming book plug alert—The Ultimate Cardinals Record Book, due out March 1, before his career was derailed by health problems he was an uniquely, incredibly talented player. In 1922, the year before his lost season, he hit .420, led the league with 18 triples and 51 stolen bases, and added 42 doubles while he was at it.