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Yuni’s nemesis? April 18, 2009

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The highlights from yesterday’s game cast a new light on the disastrous events that happen when Yuniesky Betancourt and Brandon Inge get together.  There weren’t any injuries last night, but there were a pair of misplays that decided the game.  The highlight announcer thankfully glosses over Yuni’s weak attempt to field Inge’s grounder.  That glove slap led to Detroit’s early lead.

But fate is just.  Perhaps Yuni knew karma was with him when he hit a grounder at Inge near third base, forcing the utilityman to make a dreadful throw home.  Knowingly or not, Yuni’s choice of forcing Inge’s folly over actually earning a hit payed off–Inge, once again, proved to be the foolish villain.

M’s win!

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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?

July’s been good for the Betancourts July 3, 2008

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Two games is too small to draw a conclusion, but Yuniesky Betancourt is starting July off right.  Here are his lines:

7/1: 2-4, 2 RBI
7/2: 1-2, 1 R, 1 BB

You read that correct: Yuni got a 4-pitch walk last night.  Astounding.  That’s as unlikely as Miguel Cairo getting two doubles in a game or Willie Bloomquist getting an extra base hit.  Yuni’s last walk was on May 30, against the Tigers’ Nate Roberton (who faces the M’s on Sunday).  So Yuni’s already bested his walk total from June (0), and has one third his RBI count (6).  I’ll take it.

One Betancourt’s having a better July than Yuniesky, though.  Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt was freed yesterday after being held hostage in the Colombian jungle for six years by the FARC revoluntionary militant group.  She promptly embraced her children:

“Nirvana, paradise — that must be very similar to what I feel at this moment,” Betancourt said, fighting back tears as her son reached over to kiss her. “It was because of them that I kept up my will to get out of that jungle.”

Ingrid’s June was probably a bit rougher than Yuni’s, and her July’s already a bit better.

A waste of a homer May 22, 2008

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The goggles!  They do nothing!

Neither does a Yuniesky Betancourt home run.  Yuni broke up the Detroit Tigers’ demolition of Jarrod Washburn’s fastballs with a line drive homer off Kenny Rogers (video here).  That halved the M’s deficit at 2-1, but the Tigers scored a bunch more runs the next inning, and that was that.  Isn’t baseball fun?

Actually… I think it is.  Yes, the Mariners season is lost, but there are still fun things to watch.  R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball will be replacing Cha Seung Baek’s grimace.  The weather’s getting better.  The team will be giving away cool hats in JulyAugust 8th will be a Yuniesky-opalyse.  And, though the team is consistently spanked (right now they’re losing 9-2), there are still moments to revel.   Like that five-hour loss against Texas.  Or their four-run ninth inning rally on Tuesday that halved their margin of defeat from 8 to 4.  There was a small chance that the game was going to be awesome.

Mariners fans live in potentially great, but greatly squandered times.

Yuni vs. his predecessors, part 11 March 21, 2008

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Here he is, the least durable shortstop the Mariners have had:
1998-2003: Carlos Guillen
Stats: .264/.335/.383 in 1,665 at-bats over 6 season. Guillen was the regular shortstop only from 2001 to 2003 (after Alex Rodriguez jumped off the sinking ship that was to be the 2001 Mariners). His rate stats are almost identical for those years (.265/.338/.381). The biggest knock on Guillen was his durability. He never played in more than 140 games in a season with the Mariners. In Guillen’s first season after he was traded to Detroit, he went .318/.379/.542 in 136 games. As expected, his season ended when he tore his ACL.
Place in M’s fandom: Largely forgotten. He helped the Mariners through their post-Rodriguez hangover. Every season he was the starting shortstop, they won at least 90 games. The year after he left (2004), they lost 99.
If Mariners fans remember Carlos Guillen at all, it’s probably because he got tuberculosis toward the end of the 2001 season. He even had to be quarantined (TB’s mighty infectious). The Seattle Times wrote a profile on Guillen just two days before he was sidelined with TB. Most depressing quote from Carlos: “(Playing) one-hundred-forty games. I am very happy for that.” As early as July 2001, Guillen was coughing up blood. Guillen really wanted to play those 140 games.
Fans might also remember Guillen from his series-clinching squeeze bunt in the first round of the playoffs in 2000. FOX Sports Northwest called that game the M’s best victory at Safeco Field, ever.
Still, stepping into Alex Rodriguez’s shoes (and, I’d feebly argue, keeping the seat warm for Yuni) didn’t make Guillen a fan favorite. For added overshadowing, Guillen joined the Mariners right as Randy Johnson, the franchise’s best pitcher, left. Now, M’s fans feel no emotional attachment to Guillen, just remorse–we traded him to the Tigers for Ramon Santiago and Juan Gonzalez? No, not that Juan Gonzalez.
Wikipedia/Google: His middle name is Alfonso. I like him more already.
Best line in his Wikipedia page (italics by me): “In 2006, Guillén became the first player in modern Major League history to raise his average for six consecutive seasons, batting .320. (good…) In the field, however, he tied for the major league lead in errors at shortstop, with 28 (baaaad…). Guillen’s defense has gotten so bad that the Tigers are switching him to first base.
There are 8 Carlos Guillen posters available at AllPosters.com. There aren’t any Yuniesky Betancourt posters, but there is a Salvador Cisneros Betancourt poster, for all those frat boys in love with 19th century Cuban presidents.

So, was Carlos Guillen a better M’s shortstop than Yuniesky Betancourt? Maybe if he hadn’t gotten traded. But as it stands, Yuni’s only played 7 less games at short then Guillen, and better power and defense. Guillen’s only advantage was that he could walk, but he’d better do so gingerly… he might break something.

Next: The M’s splashy free agent shortstop.