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REBIRTH April 6, 2010

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Yuni started the season pretty well.

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More lies! April 15, 2009

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Another recent Yuniesky Betancourt wikipedia update:

Yuniesky Betancourt is generally overrated on both sides of the ball. He is also fat and lazy.

Hey, anonymous vandal from Portland, first off, you’re city has nice transit, bridges and (I’m told) doughnuts.  Second, watch this.  Yuni is apparently trying to bunt.  Sure, he took a double take, needing to make sure he actually did what Wakamatsu wanted, but he got the bunt down.  On that one play, he did not have the poorest execution of all; Scot(t) Shields did. Yuni’s off to a good start–he’ll keep his spot in the lineup (last!) for a while.

To celebrate Yuni’s positive contribution, another wiki-vandal:

When he was only 7 years old he entered a pig into the Kentucky Derby and got first place.

I like the creativity–though it feels like a tired meme–but it’s entirely misplaced.  Besides the complete geographic inaccuracy (horses can’t get to islands like Cuba, Cubans can get to places like Kentucky), it just doesn’t seem like something Yuni would even like doing.

Yuni’s amazing RBI from Sunday July 8, 2008

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The Mariners have scored 4 runs in 32 innings since Sunday.  That’s shockingly awful.  The ways that they manufactured those runs are, also, a bit awful (or at least surprising).  Three runs came on Monday from a Richie Sexson home run, which is becoming as rare as the buffalo.  The other run came on Sunday, off the bat of Yuniesky Betancourt:

What stellar baserunning

That… that… is some aggressive baserunning by Yuni.  Aggressive and foolish.  Ivan Rodriguez was catching for the Tigers, and he’s the best defensive catcher of our era.  Yuni had no business rounding that base, trying to snag third.  Still, Yuni’s driven in a run this week, which only one other Mariner can claim.

To add a bit more delicious misery to what’s been a very miserable season, earlier in the game, Yuni made an awesome defensive play in about the exact same spot he ran himself out.  In the top of the third, Yuni picked up a Carlos Guillen line drive that bounced off Adrian Beltre’s glove and gunned Guillen out at first.  To reiterate, it was awesome.

Rodriguez and Yuni share another link besides predator-prey: over the past three calendar years (so, going back to early July 2005), they’re the two worst hitters in baseball, according to FanGraphs‘s WPA.  Rodriguez is a lot worse than Yuni, though.  Even though I-Rod’s had 81 fewer at bats, he’s almost a full run worse than Yuni (and every other player in baseball).  The third worst hitter?  Jose Lopez.  Keep in mind that these stats go back to before Yuni made his major league debut with the M’s.

On a cheerier note, Replacement Level Yankee’s Blog lists a whole slew of AL shortstops who are worse than Yuni based on total offensive and defensive runs above average.  The pack includes chumps like Tony Pena, Jr., but also mildly reputable shortstops like Edgar Renteria and John McDonald.  The morale of the story is that if you find stats that depress the heck out of you, just look for other stats that make you feel better.  The cost of gas may be going up, but the price of Seattle SuperSonics’ memorabilia is at an all-time low… doesn’t that make you feel better?

Yuni had a heckuva 7th inning June 12, 2008

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Here’s a play-by-play recap of the 7th inning of yesterday morning’s Mariners against the Blue Jays
Top 7th: Seattle
J. Reed singled to center
R. Sexson singled to left, J. Reed to second

All right, two singles to lead off the inning. This could be something!
K. Johjima unknown into double play catcher to shortstop, J. Reed out at second
… or not. Way to go, Kenji!
Then, this happened:

Video!
Y. Betancourt tripled to deep right center, R. Sexson scored
Wooooooooo! Yuni’s triple was the only extra base hit the M’s had all day.
I. Suzuki intentionally walked
Obvious.
W. Bloomquist popped out to second
Also a foregone conclusion.
1 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors
Seattle 1, Toronto 1

With that one exciting swing, Yuni gave the Mariners a chance, and staved off fears that Felix Hernandez would get a loss despite allowing no earned runs (way to misplay, Jeremy Reed!). But Yuni wasn’t done.
Bottom 7th: Toronto
– L. Overbay grounded out to shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt
– K. Mench grounded out to shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt
– B. Wilkerson fouled out to shallow left (to shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt)
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 errors
Seattle 1, Toronto 1

Yep, Yuni made all three outs in the bottom half of the seventh. They were fairly routine, though Yuni did wave off third baseman Willie Bloomquist on that foul out. (I hope that counts as an out-of-zone play.)
Looking at win probabilities, before Yuni’s triple, the M’s had just a 26.4% chance of winning the game. After the triple, they had a 48% chance. And by the end of the 7th, it was dead even at 50%. That’s a swing of more than 23% over just six outs. That’s a heck of an inning.

Obviously, Yuni’s not a golfer May 31, 2008

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Consider this video:

This is Yuniesky Betancourt at Raul Ibanez’s golf tournament benefiting helping vanquish cystic fibrosis.  I’m not at all troubled by Yuni’s putting form, which can generously be described as “putt-putt-esque.”  Baseball and golf are both deceptively easy stick and ball sports but there isn’t any intrinsic crossover in talent.  (This explains why the Dominican Republic hasn’t produced any good golfers.  This does not explain why Phil Mickelson and John Daly are successful golfers with physiques that can be described as “Kruk-esque.”)

What is troubling is Yuni’s celebration at nearly making a putt.  Dave Sims’ metaphor about ladies at Bloomingdale’s (a reference people in Seattle totally get, given that the closest Bloomingdale’s is over 800 miles away) and Yuni’s full-body fleece covering allude to the low temperature, which could explain why Yuni felt the need to jump up and down.  He’s from Cuba, where it’s never cold (but it’s frequently the Cold War).  Clanging the ball off the back of the hole isn’t making the put from the edge of the green, and jumping up and down after failing isn’t how a champion behaves.  I didn’t condemn Yuni’s recent pout after being pulled for a pinch-hitter, but this display makes me question his determination.

Still, it’s funny to watch.

This one goes out to the fan in Section 181… May 29, 2008

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I went to Monday night’s game for two reasons.  First, the Red Sox were in town.  Second, Yuniesky Betancourt was in town.  Yes, the Red Sox came before Yuni.  Not because I like the Red Sox, though in a youthful indiscretion I did watch Game 1 of the 2004 World Series in a Red Sox bar, with a Red Sox girlfriend.  Also, I don’t hate the Red Sox, their bars, or their lady fans.  I just feel that it’s extremely important to root against them and protect your home field.

Red Sox games in Seattle today are what Yankees games were a few years ago (and maybe still are; I’m bored of the Yankees’ bile) and a small dose of what Blue Jays games were in the Kingdome.  Home field advantage, with crowd noise being a chief metric, is up for grabs. Because they have a tiny old (beautiful) stadium, have been successful the past few years, and have a modest diaspora (if American cities can claim diasporas), Red Sox Nation travels well and has good turnout in Seattle and everywhere else.  Example A is Juliette from Lost.  I’m a fan of that kind of fan behavior, as long as it isn’t too fair weather.  The sellouts help the Mariners’ bottom line; this team won’t sell out many non-bobblehead games the rest of this season.  And all those red and pink hats radicalize Mariners fans to actually make some noise and occasionally get out of their seat when something good or exciting happens.

I wasn’t quite up to the challenge of the 20,000+ Sox fans that infiltrated Safeco.  I’ve had a sore throat for a few days, so I was mostly limited to cheering for plays like the one Yuni made on the second pitch of the game.

I was out of my seat.  This highlight, though, is dedicated to the guy in the front row of Section 181, which is where I also sat.  With just a glance him, you’d have trouble figuring out his loyalties.  He wore a brown-on-brown argyle New York Yankees hat that’s another example of New Era’s ability to print money with any lame pattern as long a a team logo’s on it somewhere.  He also had tattoos on each elbow–the right for the Yankees, the left for the Mets.  Not off to a good start.  His jersey, though, was an orange Ichiro jersey from last year’s All-Star game in San Francisco.  The Golden Gate Bridge stood in for the “I” in “American” on the front of the jersey.

While he lacked fashion sense and integrity (three teams?), he did cause a ruckus on behalf of the Mariners.  The bottom level third base seats had a virulent strain of Red Sox Nation–they cheered Jason Varitek as he trotted out for Bartolo Colon’s pre-game warm ups.  All we $14 seat fans had in our arsenal was the guy in the front row.  He argued with the Sox fans in our section (which was probably 60-40 for the M’s) and single-handedly tried to turn every “Let’s Go Red Sox” fan into a “Let’s Go Mar-i-ners” one.

Actually, he did that double-handedly, because he pounded on the KOMO sign right in front of our seats.  That proved to be his downfall.  As the M’s mounted their comeback (aided by Yuni’s single!) in the bottom of the ninth, the Safeco Field ushers told Yankee hat that he had to leave.  A county sheriff was brought in, yet rows of fans around him chanted “Let. Him. Stay.”  When he asked the sheriff why he had to leave, he heard back “Because I said so.”  Way to go, police!  As he was escorted out onto the narrow concourse, he shouted out his last words: “tell all your friends.”

Now, my friends, you all know.

An honorable mention in fandom goes to this guy

That’s a niiiiiice jersey.  He also brought about eight poster board that spelled out RAUUUUUL that he passed out to fans in the section.  If he’d made more noise or been thrown out of the game, this post would be solely about him.

Yuni can barely rub two hits together May 15, 2008

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Yuniesky Betancourt’s on a bit of a doubles binge. He drove in Jeff Clement with a double yesterday (video here) and has three doubles this week. In the same stretch of time (since May 7), he only has three singles. So, while he’s having no trouble getting two-base hits, he’s awful at getting two base hits in a game.
Yuni has 8 multi-hit games this season with just one in May, during Sunday’s 6-3 win over the White Sox. In fact, the M’s do remarkably well when Yuni gets just two hits.

Mariners when Yuni’s hitless: 2-13
Mariners when Yuni get 1 hit: 9-9
Mariners when Yuni gets 2 hits: 5-1
Mariners when Yuni gets 3 hits: 0-1
Mariners when Yuni gets 4 hits: 0-1
Mariners when Yuni doubles: 6-3
Mariners when Yuni triples: 1-0
Mariners when Yuni homers: 0-1
Mariners when Yuni walks: 1-2

There are several conclusions to draw from this tiny data set. Yuni’s not likely to get more than one hit in a game. Too bad the Mariners aren’t likely to win unless he does. This all makes sense–teams are more likely to win when they hit the dang ball. Plus, Ichiro, who usually bats after Yuni, hits better with runners on base. The sight of Yuni on the base paths must warm his heart and his bat. Surprisingly, Ichiro hits a tad worse with runners on just first base, which explains the M’s losing record when Yuni walks (only it doesn’t). Yuni’s hits aren’t that much more likely to come in the middle of rallies, though–his batting average is 6 points higher (though his OPS is identical) with runners in scoring position, and only 16 points higher with runners on at all. It might all boil down to Yuni and all his teammates only being able to hit bad pitching.  That would explain why he and the team bunch their hits together infrequently.
As I was typing up this post, I saw a comment left by “andrewwinner” on the mission statement: “I send text messages every time Yuni hits a double that say “Yuni Doubles”. I went way over on my phone bill last month but I didn’t care.”
It’s been an expensive week for you, Andre.  I hope you’re happy.

Yuni had a GaLE on Friday May 5, 2008

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Here’s some grisly video from the first inning of Friday’s Mariners game against the Yankees:

There are several reasons why this play is awful. On the surface, it’s because Yuni makes an error, which is never fun to watch. Also, he makes an error while fielding a grounder hit by Derek Jeter, who’s a terrible terrible defensive shortstop (as Fire Joe Morgan will tell you). And, to top off what was an abysmal start to an abysmal series against the Yankees, Mike Blowers says at the end of the clip, “That’s a play we see him make all the time.” You can choose to infer that Blowers is saying that Yuni usually successfully fields grounders, but I prefer to interpret it as Blowers acknowledging that Yuni is prone to mental lapses in the field.

To make matters worse, Jeter ended up scoring in that inning, laying the groundwork for a 5-1 loss. Yuni’s error was so terrible that it made me invent a new statistic, the Game Losing Error or GaLE. It’s slimly based on the Game Winning RBI (GWRBI) which was a popular stat in the 1980s–when a batter knocked in the go-ahead run, he was credited with a GWRBI. It supposedly measured hitters’ clutchiness, until everyone realized that it pretty much reflected regular (non-GW) RBI totals. (Read Dave Pinto’s post for more on GWRBI’s.)

GaLE’s work a lot like GWRBI–when an error leads to a go-ahead run scoring, the fielder that makes the error gets dinged with a GaLE. So, Yuni’s error on Friday gives him a GaLE. What about the rest of the season? Here’s a game-by-game breakdown

4/1 vs. the Rangers: In another shortstop-on-shortstop error, Yuni’s errant throw turns Michael Young’s double play ball into a fielder’s choice. Young fails to score, but J.J. Putz fails when Josh Hamilton hits a game-winning home run in the 9th. No GaLE
4/5 vs. the Orioles: Yuni botches a Ramon Hernandez grounder. On the same play, Luke Scott scores on an errorful throw by Raul Ibanez. That tied the game at 2, though the O’s went onto win, 6-4. Technically, no GaLE.
4/16 vs. the A’s: Yuni’s error lets Bobby Crosby score, but the Mariners win 4-2. Thanks Felix! No GaLE.
4/24 vs. the Orioles: Adam Jones reaches thanks to a Yuni error, but he’s stranded. M’s lose. Sorry Jarrod. No GaLE.

Final total: Yuni has just one GaLE this year.

So… maybe this stat is especially useless. It’s reliant on the whims of the scorekeeper and the game’s scenario. Still, I’m bothered that FanGraph’s WPA doesn’t count defense into its WPA and Clutch stats. Derek Jeter gets credit for getting on board in Friday’s game, when the blame should go straight to Yuni.

Yuni has some new teammates April 30, 2008

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As everyone’ll tell you (USSMariner, Mariners Insider, Enjoy The Enjoyment, plus the mainstream media), the Mariners have brought up Wladimir Balentien and Jeff Clement, the prides of Curacao (except for the architecture and Andruw Jones) and Marshalltown, Iowa (except for the nice 9-screen movie theatre and Cap Anson) respectively. The M’s DFA’d Brad Wilkerson and Miguel Cairo Greg Norton? Norton? Really? The guy who’s second on the team in WPA?
In his last game with the M’s yesterday, Wilkerson was 3 for 3. Too little, too late, I guess. In the same game, Cairo had a stolen base. John McLaren loves aggressive base runners.

Here’s the video of Yuniesky Betancourt’s home run during Sunday’s loss to the A’s. It barely cleared the left field fence. Perhaps Yuni wanted to make sure the A’s relievers had enough balls in the bullpen.

And, as long as I’m not really posting about Yuni, you should go read Luke Burbank’s story on surviving the M’s locker room in 1996, while trying to file a story about Alex Rodriguez. Also, listen to his radio show on KIRO, Too Beautiful to Live.

Yuni was bested by Bloomquist April 16, 2008

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Willie Bloomquist played better than Yuniesky Betancourt in the Mariners’ sluggish (meaning slow, not power-fueled) 11-6 win over the Royals. That’s the first time Bloomquist’s bested Betancourt this season; I’d wager it’ll only happen five more times tops when both of them are in the lineup. Their lines:

Yuni: 1-2 with a double (video here), three RBIs, and two sacrifice flies. WPA: 0.161
Little Bill: 2-2 (both singles) with two walks and one RBI plus an unsuccessful stolen base. WPA: 0.182

It’s comforting that while a utility player outshone and outclutched Yuni, at least Yuni teamed with Jose Lopez to tie the major league record for most sac flies in a game. The Mariners tied a record they previously tied on August 7th, 1988. In that game, M’s shortstop Rey Quinones hit a sac fly, and also scored on another.

Bloomquist’s great play was mildly aggravating, John Bale picking him off was even more aggravating, and the fact that John McLaren started Bloomquist in right field was frustrating. Little Bill took over Mike Morse’s spot platooning with Brad Wilkerson since Morse is on the disabled list. While the Wilkerson/Morse platoon made a little sense, Wilkerson/Willie is completely absurd because Wilkerson (a lefty) hits left-handed pitchers better than righties (here are the splits) and better than Bloomquist (again, splits). But hey, it worked last night.