Tag Archives: Yuniesky Betancourt

Weeks, Gomez, Segura, and yes, more Yuni

Posted by Steve

I have continued to be a putz and not post nearly as much as I’d have liked to in recent weeks. I still insist that will change shortly, but in the meantime, here’s a post that more or less addresses the hot-button issues of the young 2013 season.

There are really four players that are standing out so far this season, for one reason or another: Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez, Rickie Weeks, and, of course, Yunieski Betancourt.

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Let’s start with Segura. This has been the best-case scenario for the Brewers. He has exceeded even the loftiest expectations to this point. He is tied for Troy Tulowitzki for the best WAR among shortstops. Defensively, he’s been excellent, to the point that you have to wonder what led some scouts to predict he’d eventually need to move to second base. He clearly won’t finish the season with the .914 OPS that he currently sports, especially considering his .368 BABIP, but even finishing at, say, .814 would make him an incredibly valuable player. Even more encouraging is the power he’s shown. He’s slugging .530 with 4 home runs already, showing that he has 10-15 HR potential, if not even higher.

To me, Segura has been the best/most encouraging part of the season to this point. I’ve been critical of some of Melvin’s moves as of late, but the Greinke trade, both to acquire him and then to deal him, seems to have been handled flawlessly. The Angels have to already be kicking themselves (They hit the trifecta: gave up Segura+, didn’t make the playoffs, then didn’t retain Greinke in the off-season), and the potential is there for this to be one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory. And, not to seem like I’m patting myself on the back, but the Brewers seem to have made the correct move in calling him up for the end of last season–a move I endorsed last year.

——–

Now, to the most surprising player of the season–not just with the Brewers but likely in all of baseball: Carlos Gomez. I loved the Gomez signing (not going to link to two of my old posts in one post, but I did) and I took him in fantasy baseball, yet I’ve still obviously been thrilled and surprised by his production this year. Much like Segura, this is beyond any reasonable expectation. Gomez has been, according to WAR, easily the best player in all of baseball this year.

Gomez made a huge leap forward last season, and so far, has made an even bigger leap this year–obviously, as he’s been an MVP-type player through the first five weeks. Like with Segura, we need to be guarded with our excitement: he has an insane .420 BABIP, compared with a .309 number for his career. Such a huge gap could lead anyone to ask whether this is entirely a fluke.

I contend that it’s not–not entirely, at least. Gomez hasn’t been walking very much still, but he never has. What he has been, though, is more selective at the plate. Unlike Yuni, who has shown no improvement in plate discipline, Gomez has. He’s seeing 3.97 pitches per plate appearance this year, compared to 3.39 last year. It’s obviously a small sample still, but it’s still very encouraging. It’s easy to see why Gomez was once considered a great prospect. He had five tool potential, and he’s shown that so far. At age 27, it’s possible he is just hitting his stride. That’s a very, very exciting thought.

——–

And now, to the player everyone seems to want to talk about: Rickie Weeks. He makes this list for the exact opposite reason Gomez and Segura do: He’s been very bad. Weeks is hitting .193/.308/.298. People are calling for his head and for Scooter Gennett to get a chance. Fortunately, that won’t be happening anytime soon.

Weeks has been a streaky hitter over his career, and it’s easy to forget how good he can be when he’s going this poorly. But it is interesting to note that this is not the worst slump of his career–not by a long shot, in fact. Last year, for a 58-game stretch, he hit .150/.296/.261.

The cries were there for Weeks to be benched last season at this point as well. If the Brewers had listened, they’d have missed out on some very solid production the rest of the year.

His next 84 games, he hit .280/.358/.495, an elite line for a second baseman.

Look, it isn’t ideal that Weeks goes through stretches like this. But the Brewers gave him a significant contract; they cannot just bench him. That would mean simply eating his contract, and that won’t happen. And they would be foolish to trade him now, when his value is quite low. They have no choice but to let him find his way out of this slump. That will happen eventually. He’s been having bad luck, too–his BABIP is well below his career average.

——–

Let’s compare this to Yuniesky Betancourt, who simply won’t let me stop talking about him. Yuni improbably leads the Brewers in home runs, and people won’t stop proclaiming what a savior he’s been. Yes, he’s been on a power surge. But aside from a few more home runs than expected, he hasn’t been any different than over his entire career.

I mentioned this recently, but I still keep hearing about how Yuni has “changed his approach” and is “more selective.” Today alone I heard it twice: Tom Haudricourt said on the radio that Yuni is being more patient, and Brian Anderson mentioned the same thing tonight on the TV broadcast.

The numbers simply do not back that up. Betancourt is seeing the fewest pitches per plate appearance in all of baseball! He’s on a hot streak in which he’s just making a bit more contact. The same is basically said in today’s Fangraph’s article on Yuni, titled, Yuniesky Betancourt Hasn’t Changed a Bit.

Here’s my biggest beef with the Yuni love, coupled with the Weeks hate. Now, if you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I love Weeks and can’t stand Betancourt. But it goes beyond that. The two main narratives seem to be 1) RICKIE WEEKS SUCKS!@!#! and 2) YUNI B IS AWESOME!!#@!!

How about this for a true fact: Rickie Weeks has a higher on-base percentage than Yuniesky Betancourt!

We have Yuni, who’s as hot as he’s ever been, and we have Weeks, who’s close to as cold he’s ever been, and Yuni is still so awful at getting on base that he’s still below Weeks’ OBP. That just shows the inherent difference in value between the two. Weeks has great plate discipline that allows him to get on base even during slumps. Betancourt has awful discipline that prevents him from getting on base even when he’s hot.

I will give Betancourt this: he’s much more difficult to hate when he isn’t playing shortstop. At least half of my hate for him as a player was for his awful, no-range defense at shortstop. He’s much, much more palatable–even valuable–as a utility infielder who never plays shortstop.

So, that just about brings to an end my long-winded post about the Brewers. My goal from now on: Post more often so as to prevent rambling posts in the future.

All Yuni, All the Time

Posted by Steve

I can’t get away from Yuniesky Betancourt.

First, the Brewers signed him, sending me reeling into a .GIF-laden post that had me questioning my fandom. Of course, that post was in jest, but I really hated the idea of having to watch him again. Since then, Aramis Ramirez has gotten injured, sliding Alex Gonzalez to third and Yuni into the starting lineup at first base.

It is possible to find positives out of this: First, he’s not playing shortstop. Approximately 65.7% of my hatred toward Yuni (Yuni the player, not the person–but more on this in a moment) was directed toward his “defense” at shortstop. He is no longer killing the Brewers defensively, playing a much easier position in first base. Second, and most obvious, he’s really been hitting so far.

Naturally, this has led to a lot of people needling me. Even Ron Roenicke is buying into the hype. “He’s more patient than he was before,” Roenicke said. “He sees the off-speed stuff better. Really, he looks like a good offensive player.”

So, has Yuni truly turned a corner? Has he reinvented himself at age 31?

Of course not. In fact, a little research reveals how hilariously off Roenicke’s comments actually were. The “more patient than he was before” Betancourt is actually swinging at more pitches outside of the strike zone than he has over his career, according to my old employer Baseball Info Solutions. Same with his overall swing percentage. He is seeing a measly 3.23 pitches per plate appearance in this young season. Among qualified players, Betancourt is seeing the second-fewest pitches in all of the National League!

Now, obviously this is a very small sample size. But it’s the same sample size that Roenicke used to say Yuni looks like a more patient hitter.

So, of course, it’s same old Yuni. He’s still an impatient hitter with decent power and horrible on-base skills. He isn’t doing anything we haven’t seen from him before. He’s gone on hot streaks before; he even had one or two with the Brewers, like in the 2011 playoffs. Eventually, with this same approach, he’ll cool off. Then, it will be back to the same old hacking player.

I do have one other story about Yuni. I went to the game on Wednesday with my girlfriend, her parents, and many of her parents’ friends. When Betancourt hit his home run, my girlfriend’s dad reacted in this way.

“Heyyyy! Who was that? Yuni? YUNI! HEY STEVE, HOW ABOUT YUNI!!!” Then turns to all his friends, who I’ve just met. “Steve HATES Yuni!”

At least I had about five innings left to dig out of that one.

The Brewers are just trolling us now.

Posted by Steve

I got out of work today and checked my phone for the first time in several hours. ‘Hmm, that’s an alarming number of text messages and emails… I wonder whatsohmygod no. Ooohh, no way…. OHMYGOD OOHHHH GOD NOOOOOOOOOOOO!’

Yuniesky Betancourt. I can’t even type it without getting flashbacks. Yuni  is back. On a Major League contract, when he was just released from a minor league contract. Why. Whyyy.

I honestly don’t think I can stomach another year of watching him. He’s a backup, sure. But what if Segura gets out to a slow start? You think Runnin’ Ron won’t start playing Yuni more?

Was it really just two days ago that I was fully at peace with the Brewers likely missing the playoffs? Now I just spent my ride home alternating between bouts of nausea and actual, out-loud-by-myself laughter. Two days ago that I was, more than anything, just looking forward to Brewers baseball again? What the hell happened to Doug Melvin? Can any of this actually be happening?

Honestly, Doug Melvin has to just be trolling us at this point. There is no other explanation.

melvintroll1

The off-season plan: Replacing the value of Prince Fielder

Posted by Steve

The requisite amount of time has passed; I am now ready to discuss the off-season and next year. In fact,  I actually sat down to write this post a few different times, but it’s lengthy, and I’m just finally getting around to it.

When I first started to write this post, the Brewers were being linked to Jose Reyes pretty heavily, so I had this titled, “The Case Against Jose Reyes.” Thankfully, that chatter has died down in recent days.

In short, Reyes would be a bad idea for the Brewers. Before we even get into salary, locking up Reyes long term is a huge risk. He has had fairly serious durability issues: his games played in each of the last three years are 126, 133, and 36. The Brewers’ biggest problem by far this season was infield defense, yet for all the money Reyes is going to command, Fangraphs has him below average defensively each of the last three seasons.

That’s before you even get into salary. Even if having Reyes long term was a good idea, the Brewers can’t afford him. It would also close the book on a Zack Greinke extension, which I think should be priority number 1 this off-season if at all possible.

I keep reading/hearing that the Brewers have all this money to spend–even national writers are mentioning it. People seem to be assuming the $15.5 million that Fielder got last year will be free to be spent on new players, but that simply isn’t the case.

A number of players, like Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, and Yovani Gallardo are due raises, and others are entering arbitration for the first time. The Brewers’ payroll last season was $85 million. MLB Trade Rumors has a good breakdown of the Brewers’ salary situation. In short, it says the Brewers have $58.58 million locked in for players next year; all that money is guaranteed. After that, a handful of players are arbitration eligible. The following are arbitration-eligible players with MLBTR’s arbitration guess in parentheses:

Casey McGehee ($3.1 mil, first year arby)
Nyjer Morgan ($1.9 mil, first year arby)
Carlos Gomez ($1.8 mil, third year arby)
Shaun Marcum ($6.8 mil, third year arby)
Kameron Loe ($2.8 mil, second year arby)

Arbitration Total: $16.4 mil

Other arbitration-eligible players: George Kottaras, Manny Parra, Josh Wilson, and Mitch Stetter.

Of course those are just estimates, but they at least give us something to work with. Total, that puts the Brewers at about $75 million, meaning they have only $10 million until they reach last year’s payroll. When you consider that they will need to add at least two relievers (KROD, Saito, Hawkins are all gone), two backup middle infielders, and a starting shortstop, first baseman, and third baseman, you realize it’s pretty dire.

So much for Prince Fielder’s money.

Getting Creative

So, what can be done?

In honor of the Moneyball movie, we can look at this the exact way the A’s looked at replacing Jason Giambi. The Brewers don’t need to replace Prince Fielder at first base. They need to replace his value over the entire team. This can be done with three or four players.

According to Fangraphs, Prince Fielder was worth 5.5 wins above replacement last season. That means that to adequately replace Fielder’s production, they need to find 5.5 wins–and they need to do it fairly cheaply.

My Plan

Not that I expect people to fully care what my plan would be, but this is my blog, so I might as well create one anyway.

First of all, I need to clear some of that non-guaranteed salary. That means the non-tender hammer is coming down. Kottaras, Parra, Wilson, and Stetter will probably need to be non-tendered. I like Kottaras, but business is business, and he’s no longer a cheap commodity. If he’s open to coming back and a lower price, great–otherwise the Brewers have a fine defensive catcher Martin Maldonado who could get his shot as the backup.

Even after this, that still doesn’t cut into that $16.4 million. Going to have to shed some more.

There’s no better place to start than with Casey McGehee and that appalling projected salary of $3.1 million. There’s no way he should be brought back after last season, especially now that his cheap years are over with. Turning third base over to Taylor Green will not only save money, but it will improve production from 2011.

Kameron Loe is effective if he’s used correctly, but $2.8 mil is a bit high. I’d non-tender him while leaving open the possibility of bringing him back at a lower rate.

There. That cuts off an additional $5.9 million in salary, dropping the payroll to about $69 million. That leaves us $16 million shy of last year’s payroll. I’m going out on a limb and guessing that with the additional revenue from the playoff run and raised ticket prices next year, payroll will jump to about $90 million next season. If that’s the case, that means we have $21 million to fill shortstop, third base, first base, backup catcher, two backup infielders, and about four relievers. Yikes.

When you need to fill that many spots on a limited budget, you’re going to need a lot of league minimum players. That means Mat Gamel is your first baseman pretty much by default. If there’s one thing I want to know after the 2012 season, it is what the Brewers have in Mat Gamel and Taylor Green. Give these guys a full season to show what they’ve got. They’re cheap, and if they produce it will bring real value for years.

So how many wins will Gamel bring? That’s obviously tough to say. Bill James projects Gamel for an .818 OPS and a wOBA of .357. Looking at first basemen in 2011, that wOBA would put Gamel in the territory of Carlos Pena/Ryan Howard/Michael Cuddyer. It would certainly be hard to be disappointed with that. Those players checked in around 1.6 to 3.1 wins. Howard was 1.6, because his defense is so bad (how’s that contract looking, Philly?). It’s probably fair to assume Gamel will be a bit below average defensively, so I’ll give him 2 wins above replacement next season.

2 down, 3.5 wins to go to reach that magic number of 5.5.

Let’s look at third base. Like Gamel at first, the solution here needs to be Green out of necessity. He’s shown promise in the minors, and he’s cheap. That’s plenty for me. Green is even more difficult to project, because for whatever reason, James has no projection for him. He shredded AAA to the tune of .336/.413/.583 last season, albeit in a hitter friendly PCL. There’s a stat called Major League Equivalency, which attempts to project a minor league performance across a Major League level. Green’s last year was .291/.357/.476. Considering I’d be thrilled with a full season at that level, I’d be happy to drop that projection to .275/.345/.450. Players with similar offensive production tended to have WARs around 2, depending on their defense. I’ll give Green a WAR of 2 as well, with the grain of salt that this is nothing more than an attempt at an educated guess.

While we could just add Gamel’s WAR to the 0 left by a vacant first base position, we have to subtract last year’s third base WAR. Luckily, Casey McGehee was so bad that anyone else will result in an upgrade, and that’s no exception with Green. McGehee mustered only a 0.3 WAR last year, giving Green an edge by 1.7 wins.

Adding Gamel and Green, we’re now already up to 3.7 wins of the magic number of 5.5. And we wouldn’t even need to spend a million bucks between the two players to get those 3.7 wins. You can see the immense value of pre-arbitration players.

So where are we going to make up that final 1.8? At shortstop, mostly.

This is where it gets trickier. There is no cheap option in the minors that is Major League ready like at first and third. You’ll have to spend some money here. Yuni Betancourt managed just a 0.5 WAR, so fortunately, there is plenty of room for improvement.

My first choice for shortstop is already off the market: Clint Barmes. I love Barmes’ defense, and watching him at short would have been infinitely more enjoyable than watching Betancourt “defend.” I was bummed when I heard about him going to Pittsburgh.

Free agents who would provide the biggest upgrade, like Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes, are too expensive and too risky. The only other free agent that could be a fit is Rafael Furcal, but even he will be risky and more expensive than Barmes, who got 2 years/$10.5 million.

It’s entirely possible the next shortstop could come via trade; in fact, I’d argue that a trade is starting to look like the best route. Trade candidates include Marco Scutaro/Jed Lowrie, Jason Bartlett, Brendan Ryan or Ian Desmond. All those players will cost a few million except Desmond, and none would take a blue chip package to acquire. Fallback options could include free agents Alex Gonzalez, Edgar Renteria or Ronny Cedeno. All three will be cheap and were more valuable than Betancourt last year by about one win.

I’m going to say that Jed Lowrie will be the easiest to acquire, though I’d be even happier with Marco Scutaro. Boston will probably trade one of the two, especially with hotshot prospect Jose Iglesia nearing the big leagues. Lowrie is projected to hit .271/.348/.437 next year by Bill James, which is miles ahead of Yuni. He’s also a better defender. He was hurt last season, and that is definitely a question mark with him, but he should be a safe bet to put up at least a 1.5-2 WAR, and possibly higher.

If that doesn’t make up the final 1.8 needed to effectively replace Prince Fielder, it comes pretty darn close. This plan also leaves over $15 million to fill out the team. Jerry Hairston Jr. should be brought back for a few million, and his value as the top utility infielder over Craig Counsell last year would provide a significant upgrade as well. I’d like to bring back Takashi Saito at a salary similar to last year (around $2 mil after incentives). You’ll likely see someone like Michael Fiers, Brandon Kintzler or Mike McClendon in the bullpen, as they’re cheap as well. I’d like to add a right-handed hitter who for a bench or platoon spot, and a left-handed reliever would be nice next year as well.

So, there you have it. It certainly isn’t flashy, but it’s cost-effective, and it greatly improves team defense from 2011. If the Brewers managed to pull of these moves (easier said that done, of course), I’d feel good again about their chances in 2012.

Enough is enough

Posted by Steve

The Brewers are tied in the tenth inning as I write this. I wanted to make that clear so it doesn’t seem like I’m reacting based on the outcome of tonight’s game. The reality is I can’t stand watching this anymore, and even though I’ve harped on it all year, I can’t help this:

It is maddening that Casey McGehee and Yuniesky Betancourt are still playing regularly. Absolutely appalling.

Any way you look at it, those two have been awful. They are two of the nine worst qualified players in the NL according to WAR. McGehee’s OBP has been below .300 all season. Betancourt has coupled bad defense with an astonishing .271 on-base percentage.

Even if you hate statistics, it’s not as though they’re passing the eye test. Betancourt looks lazy and slow on defense. He swings lazily and is probably the least disciplined hitter in the league. McGehee looks tentative, and at times, lost on offense. He also has no range at third defensively.

I simply do not understand why they are allowed to hurt this team any longer. It makes no sense. Don Money can publicly chastise prospects who have actually produced, yet Betancourt and McGehee are allowed to play despite contributing nothing. It’s an organizational double standard.

Taylor Green needs to play third against all right-handed pitchers. Hairston needs to play short against all right-handed pitchers. There is absolutely no justification for doing otherwise.

The Brewers are going into the playoffs knowingly fielding less than their best team. It is mind-boggling, and if they don’t change it immediately, they don’t deserve to win anything.

 

Cardinals 2, Ron Roenicke 1

Posted by Steve

It’s funny how, despite a massive division lead, poorly managed games can get me fired up as though this was still a tight race. I should be going to bed, but I just got home from the game and I have to get this off my chest.

That ninth inning was as mismanaged as it can get. After Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee each had great at-bats to draw walks, Runnin’ Ron took matters into his own hands.

This is a run expectancy matrix. It shows that bunting is the wrong move; the average runs scored is higher with runners on first and second and nobody out than it is with second and third with one out.

Even though it’s the wrong move, I suppose in a vacuum I can give him a pass, because most managers make that move (which is why it drives me nuts that managers are allowed to widely make the wrong strategical moves, but I digress). This was not in a vacuum, however, because the runner at second base was Prince Fielder. The guy bunting at the plate was Yuniesky Betancourt, who apparently has never tried to bunt in his entire life. When you combine a slow runner with a clueless bunter, it makes that decision a colossally stupid one.

I’m not just saying this in hindsight, either. I was in disbelief that Roenicke was even allowing Betancourt to hit with both Mark Kotsay and Taylor Green available (my brother wisely pointed out that I shouldn’t be surprised, because Roenicke hasn’t benched Yuni yet, so why would he now?).

The right move would have been to let one of the lefties hit for Betancourt and let them swing away. Salas had just walked a batter and looked very shaky… And he has Betancourt bunt right away? How stupid. And how poorly executed by the worst starting player in baseball, who apparently cannot play badly enough to get benched no matter how hard he tries. And if RRR was so intent on bunting, why not use Counsell instead? It’s all baffling.

Really the only possible good thing to come out of this game is if Betancourt has to go on the DL. Seriously, how can a major league baseball player not know to not wrap his hand around the bat when bunting!? That is literally the first thing you’re taught as a kid when you’re learning to bunt. Hoping for injury sounds harsh, but the baffling Brewer braintrust (alliteration!) has shown us that injury is the only way to get this poor player out of the lineup.

This game was virtually meaningless in the grand scheme, as the Brewers are 99.9% for the playoffs according to BP. But it illustrates a great concern about their manager’s poor in-game strategy that could really hurt them in the playoffs.

 

 

Fine-tuning

Posted by Steve

The Brewers are (obviously) in outstanding position as August winds down. They have a massive 8.5-game lead and an 98.2% chance at the playoffs according to BP. It is now time to start thinking about how to best fine-tune the team for the playoffs.

Lefty Reliever?

The absence of a left-handed reliever out of the bullpen seemed glaring a month ago. Now, with this huge lead, it is much less so. I wouldn’t turn one down, but it would have to be a good one–not some guy who just happens to throw left-handed. I say this because come playoff time, Chris Narveson will be out of the rotation and in the bullpen.

Don’t be surprised if we hear Daniel Ray Herrera’s name. Yes, the same guy who had a brief and disastrous stint in Milwaukee earlier this season. He’d been terrific since going back to Nashville. I’ve been told he’s added a knuckleball, and apparently it’s working for him.

Betancourt

Remember when Yuni was hot? Yeah, that’s long over with. He’s 2 for his last 28, which probably started around the time the pronunciation of his name changed. And literally as I type this, Yuni doesn’t even come close to a weak grounder up the middle.

As soon as Weeks comes back, Hairston needs to move to shortstop. It’s that simple. Will the Brewers do this? I’d be surprised.

Taylor Green… For the love of God, Taylor Green

He’s hitting .337 in Nashville. .337! With a .997 OPS and better defense than Casey McGehee. Even if they don’t start him, right now the Brewers bench infielders are Craig Counsell and Josh Wilson. Both are contributing next to nothing. At least Counsell brings defense, but Wilson brings nothing.

You have to assume Green will at least be a September call up, but that’s not enough. To be eligible for a playoff roster, you have to be on the 25-man roster before September.

I’d like to see Green and Mat Gamel called up for Tim Dillard and Josh Wilson sometime before September. Like the Betancourt thing, though, I’m not expecting this to happen. It’s a shame, because Green may be the final piece to this season’s puzzle.

Still…

Even if these moves that should happen don’t happen, the Brewers are still looking great for an October run. Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez will both be back, which will improve their defense, offense, and depth.