R.J. Anderson on a couple of champion swingers: Betancourt
- It's amazing to consider, but some major league regulars are yet to take ball four and their free base. Okay, I lied, it's not "some" as much as "a pair". Mariners shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and Giants backstop Bengie Molina have appeared at the plate a collective 100 times entering Wednesday's games, and combined had zero walks. Zero intentional walks, zero hit by pitches, etc.
In fact, Betancourt's career high in walks in a single season is 17, the same number that current walk champion Adam Dunn had entering Wednesday's games. Yeah, he really is that impatient.
Given Betancourt's distaste for the walk, it's no surprise that he's only seen four counts go to three balls, with only one of those being a non-full count. Heck, this isn't even Betancourt's longest dry spell in the past calendar year. Last season, from April 29th until May 28th Betancourt went 103 plate appearances in between walks. Remember, this is a hitter with a career batting average of .283, slugging percentage of .401, and .301 batting average on balls in play. This is not Ichiro Suzuki or Vladimir Guerrero, this is a below average hitter refusing to take a free base. When combined with poor defense, it's easy to see why most Mariner fans would enjoy seeing Ronny Cedeno starting at shortstop.
Betancourt is not a terrible hitter, for a shorstop. He's got that solid lifetime batting average and he's got some pop, and his career OPS+ is 87; again, not bad for a shortstop.
The problem, as Anderson suggests, is that Betancourt is a bad shortstop, and he seems to be getting progressively worse. According to The Fielding Bible II, Betancourt was eight runs below average in 2007 and 14 runs below in 2008. Betancourt's UZR/150 in those two seasons were -1.4 and -12.7, and this season -- granted, it's only 15 games -- his numbers are off-the-charts horrible.
Would Ronny Cedeno be an upgrade? Cedeno's lifetime OPS+ is off-the-charts horrible: 62. He's been an everyday shortstop in just one season (2006) and didn't exactly distinguish himself with the glove. Is he better defensively than Betancourt? Maybe. Is he better enough to make up for his bat? Probably not.
The Mariners simply don't have a shortstop who won't cost them runs, and wins. If they'd been serious about winning this year, they'd have been smart to sign Orlando Cabrera. But they didn't do that, so now they'll just have to suffer for a while longer (and maybe a lot longer; the M's owe Betancourt $9 million through 2012).