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Our Best Shortstop?

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This might sound crazy, especially given Derek's recent post at USS Mariner, but here goes anyways. Willie Bloomquist has been the best shortstop on the team so far in 2008.

OFFENSE: Yes, Willie has no power; none whatsoever. He has 20 hits on the year, all singles and a meager .626 OPS. Turns out that for now it doesn't really matter. Why? Because he has 13 walks in just 90 PA which is a higher pace than any Mariner hitter probably since Edgar in 2003. You can compare Yuni's slugging percentage (.401) to Willie's (.260) all you want, and it's a completely valid criticism, but I'm going to come back at you with .367 to .287. That's Willie's OBP compared to Yuni's. Walks matter! Yuni has four of them in 277 PA which is ONE TENTH the rate that Willie has so far in 2008.

Pick your stat. EQA? Willie's at .254 to Yuniesky Betancourt's .239. Runs Created? A lineup of Bloomquist's scores 4.0 runs a game while a lineup of Betancourt's scores just 3.4. Incidentally, the Mariner lineup in realtiy has scored just 4.01 runs per game. Getting on base in the single most important thing a hitter can do and Willie's nearly 30% better at it than Yuni. Is that sustainable? Probably not, though Willie's contact rate is up this year, but I find it interesting nonetheless.

DEFENSE: We've been harping on it for awhile now, but Yuni's defense has regressed worse than Miguel Batista's pitching. He stands near or at the bottom of shortstops at both making plays in zone and making plays out of zone. He's always had trouble with the routine but when he first came up in 2005 and in 2006 he would make up for that with terrific range, getting to and at least stopping balls that Derek Jeter doesn't even reach in his most frenzied ESPN-induced self-glory dreams. Those days are gone. Long gone.

Now, is Willie an upgrade? We cannot really know. Ironically since the team loves moving Willie around so much on the field, we have nothing even approaching an adequate sample size on his defense anywhere. And we cannot even take the fact that the team plays him at multiple positions to speculate that his defense is passable because this team intentionally started an outfield consisting of Ibanez-Ichiro-Morse earlier this year. However, it's a fair bet to say that Willie is at least not a butcher at short. You can usually visually spot those and since right now Yuni actually is a butcher and Willie's probably not...

OVERALL: It's also worth something that Willie's baserunning is better than Yuni's. Not worth much, but it's something. The rumblings have been that the team moved Ichiro to right field in order to open up a spot in center for Willie and Reed to play (why couldn't they just play in right?) primarily in order to showcase Willie for a trade. I hope it's true because getting anything in return for Willie would be high hilarity, but if you are trying to showcase him, would showcasing him at shortstop a few games a week help? Or would that damage Yuni's potential trade value more than it helps Willie's?

What could Yuni do to rectify his lowly performance thus far in 2008? In a word, bootcamp. When he does play I want him on the Loafie hitting plan where he's not allowed to swing until there's at least one strike on him. If he happens to not be playing that day, I'm having him skip all drills and just run foul poles over and over and over and over. And then over some more. He needs to do whatever possible to regain at least 2006-era range. We can use the second half of the season to see if he's going to be useful going forward. If so, great. If not, hope our new savvy GM come winter can lure some less wonderful GM into buying into the high average, defensive rep and team-friendly contract and make away with some players at other holes we need to fill and go free agent shortstop shopping.