When the Brewers first made the Zack Greinke trade I posted on twitter "I'm so happy that its going to be like two weeks before I notice the Brewers got the worst player in the MLB to play SS" and I've been so happy about all things Brewers for all this time and am still happy about all things Brewers that I've hardly noticed.
Lately thoughts of Yuni have been steadily creeping in and doubts about his defense, his offense, his weight, his everything have been entering my mind more and more until today when Jonah Keri posted a story titled "Brewers Defense: A Roadblack to the World Series?" Like the pregnancy test that ruined my your life, I couldn't ignore Yuniesky Betancourt any longer. It's time to deal with him.
So, what do we know about Yuniesky Betancourt?
He plays shortstop.
He was fined, BY THE ROYALS, for a bad play last season.
We can call him Yuni for short.
He's grown since his rookie year.
Mariners fans hate him. Dave Cameron at USS Mariner once said:
We’ve all watched first hand as Yuni has regressed from an athletic young player into a complete waste of space and time. His lack of hard work is nothing new – even after an offseason where he trained with Raul Ibanez, he showed up to camp as the same rotund non-athlete that he was at the end of last year. He’s getting worse at every facet of the game, and at this point, he’s not a major league player.
Royals fans aren't too fond of him either. Joe Posnanski once wrote a whole post trying to find a silver lining in Yuniesky Betancourt being the worst player in baseball.
Yuniesky's career OPS is .689.
Yuniesky has averaged a UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating, a defensive metric) of -12.5 over the past three seasons.
The Brewers will pay him FOUR MILLION dollars this season.
He basically screwed over his agent who helped him get into the country and his contract with the Mariners.
But we're not here to talk about that. We're here to talk about baseball. We're here to talk about Yuniesky Betancourt and whether or not he's going to ruin our season. Short answer: he's not. Long answer after the jump.
Yuniesky Betancourt is not good. Let's go ahead and get that out of the way. He's not very good and he very well might be the worst shortstop in all of baseball. Yuniesky Betancourt is to baseball what Taylor Lautner is to acting. Only Yuni doesn't look good with his short off. (TEAM JACOB!)
The Brewers have a reputation as being a bad defensive team, but last season they were right in the middle ranking 15th overall. As my girlfriend knows all too well average is okay. An average defensive team with the Brewers above average pitching and hitting should be pretty good. Of course, last season we had defensive whiz and child abandoner Alcides Escobar manning short and now we have defensive cancer and (as far as we know) non-child abandoner Yuniesky Betancourt so we can expect a drop off. How big will that drop off be?
Alcides Escobar 2010 UZR: 3.5
Yuniesky Betancourt 2010 UZR: -9.5
That's a 12 run swing, which is a lot, but it only really drops the Brewers down five spots in the rankings. That also doesn't take into account that whenever the Brewers have a small lead in the 8th and 9th inning that we are likely to see Craig Counsell enter the game at shortstop. Groundballs getting past the shortstop only matter when the game is on the line and I've always been a believer in the (pitching 45% + hitting 45% + defense 10%) model so this doesn't worry me. Will it infuriate me many times during a game? Of course. Will Yuni replace Carlos Gomez as official team punching bag? Of course. Do I think it will cost the Brewers the season and potential trip to the World Series? No.
As for hitting, last season Alcides Escobar made Yuni look like Barry Bonds. Coincidentally, eating made Yuni's head look like Barry Bonds' head. Yuni hit 16 homeruns last season, Escobar had 16 hits. The Brewers offense, already in the top five every season, should be in the top two next season. The Brewers 7-8-9 black hole from last season will still probably be a black hole, but at least it will be a hole with a little power. Your mom joke!
The thing about Yuniesky Betancourt is as awful as he was considered to be last season he still had a WAR of 0.6 (Wins Above Replacement, a defense plus offense stat), he was still just a smidgen better than most non-prospect minor leaguers would be in his place. He still had value. He was still a major league shortstop. Not the best or even in the top 25, but still a major league shortstop.
(Coincidentally, Alcides Escobar 2010 WAR was 0.6.)
Joe Posnanski probably said it best when he said:
The hope, then, is that the durable Yuni Betancourt will get out there and fill the position and do enough good things at shortstop to just blend into the scenery. The silver lining is that he might be able to do that. Maybe.
He will be bad and he will drive us crazy, but he will be not awful. At least not historically. He will be better than whoever isn't currently signed to another team. He will be better than Luis Cruz (who only posted a .723 OPS in AAA last season) and without another trade he will be the best that we can hope to get.