RRS pitched well, we gained a game on the Nationals, and Ichiro picked up three more hits, and yet for a good ten minutes after the game all I could think about was how utterly dismayed I am by Yuni's stunning regression. The man is 26 years old. 26. In theory he should just be beginning his peak. Instead he's taken a step back at the plate while simultaneously taking several more better-documented steps back in the field. It was kind of fitting that the game ended the way it did - Yuni tried to pull an unpullable pitch and grounded into a bases loaded double play he might've been able to beat out four years ago. I won't say it was "classically Yuni," since the pitch was at least within the strike zone, but it seems appropriate that one massive letdown should be directly responsible for concluding another.
I don't know what causes this sort of thing. Yuni's career has collapsed. Perhaps not irreversibly so, but as of this moment, he's a terrible all-around regular who was supposed to be so much more than that. Why? I know Tango has suggested that there might be some personal reason behind the decline of Yuni's defense, since such a phenomenon is borderline unprecedented, but lacking any sort of inside information, the whole thing is both bothersome and incredibly puzzling. Why us? Why Yuni? Why now? Players flame out all the time, but rarely do they do it at such a young age after already establishing themselves in the Major Leagues. The true story behind Yuni's career - if one exists - if it ever comes out - will either be wildly fascinating or profoundly disappointing.
But I suppose we have all offseason (and probably several more regular seasons after that) to talk about Yuni. Today was about RRS finally showcasing some legitimate talent out of the rotation. As is the case whenever anyone makes a good start against a bad offense, we need to take all the results with a grain of salt, but tonight RRS did everything he needs to do to stick as a legitimate #4/5 and, by lasting 114 pitches, even a little bit more. He threw enough strikes. He missed enough bats. He induced enough weak contact. His location - as always - could've been better, as he both missed off the plate and spent a little too much time up in the zone over it, but then nobody's asking RRS to save the rotation. That's not something for which he's cut out, and that's not his responsibility. His responsibility is to eat a handful of innings without embarrassing himself, and tonight he did what Jarrod Washburn does in his good starts, and for a fraction of the price. Hey, guess what? That's the point of the whole thing. It has been my firm belief for a while now that RRS is capable of approximating, equaling, or even slightly exceeding Jarrod Washburn's contribution for close to the league minimum. Tonight, he finally proved he can do it. Good on you, Ryan. You deserved better than you got.
One thing that does concern me is that pitch count. 114 is more pitches than RRS has thrown in a single game in years and years, and while they weren't particularly taxing, and while he wasn't struggling to maintain his velocity, I wonder if that could be a factor his next time out against Minnesota. I'm not saying anything's going to happen, but I wouldn't be too terribly surprised if he has a rougher go of it next Tuesday. Unless recent research that I've missed has indicated otherwise, I believe unusually high pitch counts have a tendency to manifest themselves in a pitcher's next start, and for Ryan, this was quite a lot of work. So it's something to watch for. But for as curious as I am to find out if/how this will affect him down the road, 114 pitches? I didn't think he had it in him. That scores points with both me AND the organization, which is a rare feat indeed.
Today I am encouraged by RRS and further discouraged by the team as a unit. I suppose things could be worse.
Biggest Contribution: RRS, +21.8%
Biggest Suckfest: Yuniesky Betancourt, -36.9%
Most Important AB: Betancourt DP, -32.0%
Most Important Pitch: Brown homer, -18.2%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +25.8%
Total Contribution by Lineup: -75.8%
Total Contribution by Opposition: 0.0%
(What is this chart?)