Grinders, pluggers and dirtbags: Every team's unsung first-half hero

Not expected to be a regular on Opening Day, Eric Thames has been making a big difference for the Brewers. Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports

Certain players tend to grab attention when a team's games are going well, while others take the blame when their fortunes fall. Then there are other players who play important roles with much less fanfare. These players might be injury fill-ins, surprising reclamation projects or guys who have been around long enough that their efforts simply get taken for granted. That's what makes them their teams' unsung heroes.

American League

Baltimore Orioles: John Means

The crafty lefty made a poor first impression last season, giving up five runs in a relief appearance, but he has done much better in a longer look. With a nice changeup, Means has kept hitters at bay, and his 2.67 ERA ranks fifth in the American League among pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched.

Boston Red Sox: Brandon Workman

The 30-year-old right-hander walks an awful lot of guys, but he makes up for it by keeping the ball in the park. The Red Sox opted for a makeshift bullpen this season, and Workman, along with another unsung hero in Marcus Walden, have helped make it work.