The thread below inspired me to take a closer look at Yuniesky Betancourt to see just how much he's actually contributing to this team. For a while we've been assuming that he's a pretty average bat for a shortstop with above-average defense, but how does this stand up to investigation? I decided to avoid work for half an hour to find out.
Let me tell you - it doesn't stand up very well.
When he first came up to the big leagues, Yuni wowed us with his defense, and when the advanced metrics didn't support our opinions we wrote it off as a sample size anomaly. But here's the problem with maintaining that stance: Yuni has more than 3000 innings under his belt now as a Major League shortstop, and the advanced metrics still don't like him very much. Here are the big three to which I have the easiest access:
Yuni: .802, 37 OOZ per 1000 innings
Average SS: .821, 41 OOZ per 1000 innings
Yuni: 462 outs per 4000 in play, .115 DER
Average SS: 459 outs per 4000 in play, .115 DER
Yuni: -5 runs per 150 games
Average SS: 0 runs per 150 games (duh)
That's bad. The numbers are painting the picture of a guy who's something like -10 < x < 0 runs in the field, relative to his position, and both the agreement and sample size are good enough for us to be able to say this with a fair bit of confidence. I think a lot of us have been giving this some thought for a little while now, what with Yuni's added weight and visibly diminished range, but when you actually spell it out and put it in plain writing...it's a bit of a shock to realize that the thing you appreciated most about a player doesn't exist, and arguably never did.
So that's his defense. What about at the plate? Let's go with wOBA :
Yuni: .303 (career)
Average SS: .316 (2005-2008)
To convert wOBA into runs, you simply divide by 1.15, which gives you runs/PA. Over 600 plate appearances, wOBA puts Yuni at 7 runs below the average shortstop.
But then, wOBA isn't park-adjusted. If you prefer something that is, you can look at Baseball Prospectus' EqA (or you can convert wOBA yourself but let's just keep this simple):
Yuni: .241, 61 EqR per 600 PA (career)
Average SS: .253, 67 EqR per 600 PA (2005-2008)
That's not much better. Depending on what you think of the statistics and how you adjust for Safeco, Yuni again comes out as being -10 < x < 0 runs below the average shortstop, this time with the bat. Which - ignoring baserunning and other minor stuff that generally doesn't make much of a difference either way - gives you a guy who's somewhere between 0 and 20 runs below average for his position per season.
That isn't good. Which means Yuniesky Betancourt isn't good. The fact that he's a shortstop making a paltry $1.25m this year makes him a reasonable value, but for all his enthusiasm and contact and hilarious arm positioning when he's running the bases, he just isn't a good player.
And that's lame.