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Yuni single-armedly threw away Friday’s game August 10, 2008

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Watch the grisly highlight here.

Not even the not-missed Riche Sexson could’ve caught Yuniesky Betancourt’s ridiculously high throw to first base.  The ball ended up out of play, and let two runs score.  Since Carlos Silva was on the mound, that wasn’t the end of the damage, as the Rays added another run that sealed off their 5-3 victory on Friday.

In his post-game press interviews, it sounded like Silva wanted to destroy Yuni.  From the P-I:

“Maybe Chief (Silva’s nickname) has to come and grab somebody in his neck and pin them to the wall,” Silva said to reporters. “I’m very close to doing that, so write that down.”

I’d be scared if I was Yuni.  Carlos Silva’s got approximately 6 inches and 500 pounds on Yuni (at least by the look of him.)  Plus, referring to yourself in the third person (albeit, in a nickname) is merely aggravating if you’re a designer on Project Runway, but fairly menacing if you’re a large, depressed Venezuelan man.  Yuni should watch his neck.

The second-most depressing part of Friday’s game was at its conclusion.  Down by two runs with two out in the bottom of the ninth, Yuni’s ninth spot in the line up was due up.  But who stepped up to the plate?  Willie Bloomquist.  I got out of my bleacher seat and left.  I did see Willie’s swinging strikeout, but I watched it from the first-floor concourse at Safeco Field.  That way, I had a head start on the rest of the crowd filing out after the M’s loss.

This season’s been one disaster after another, for Yuni and his team.

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.

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.

A picture’s worth 1.000 OPS May 25, 2008

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Here’s what the Mariners’ past week has looked like:

Even Willie Bloomquist is depressed by how the Mariners have played against the Tigers and Yankees.

While I’m not opposed to Willie Bloomquist being sad, I empathize with him, meaning that I have the exact same feeling regarding the team’s atrocious losing streak.

Well, only 75 days until Yuniesky Betancourt bobblehead night!

Yuni has more favorite things April 16, 2008

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Here’s some more of Yuniesky Betancourt’s favorite things (according to the Safeco Field scoreboard’s “Beyond the Baselines,” a Marinerds post, and a cookbook press release):

Favorite food: Cuban food (makes sense)
Favorite ice cream flavor: strawberry (though some sources say chocolate)
Favorite snack: tres leches cake (here’s Emerill Lagasse’s recipe for it)
Favorite snack: spaghetti with ketchup (I couldn’t find Emerill’s recipe for this dish)
Favorite vacation spot: the Bahamas (when you’re from an island, you want to vacation on smaller islands)
Favorite road ballpark: Anaheim (also makes sense, given that the team doesn’t play much in southern states like Florida, and no one likes Tropicana Field)
Favorite Road City: Miami (um… the last time the Mariners never played in Miami was a month before Yuniesky joined the team)
Favorite actress: Cameron Diaz (Being John Malkovich Cameron Diaz or The Sweetest Thing Cameron Diaz?)

You can trust Yuni’s opinion at your peril, though a meal of pepperoni pizza with sides of spaghetti and tamales and tres leches cake and ice cream for dessert doesn’t sound too bad.
One friend said Yuni’s favorite snack is “Clubhouse Orange Pasta,” but Google says that’s Willie Bloomquist’s fav.
My sister’s decided that Mike Morse is her favorite Mariners, based solely on the fact that his favorite food to make is top ramen and his favorite actors are The Rock and Ludacris, both of whom are better known for a different craft.

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.

Yuni vs. his predecessors, wrap up April 3, 2008

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How does Yuniesky Betancourt stack up against previous Mariners’ shortstops? Well, he has the longest name, but not the best nickname nor the best game of them all. I’ve written brief rundowns of the ghosts of Mariners shortstops past, using three categories: stats while playing for the M’s, place in Mariners’ fandom, and notable stuff I could find about them on Wikipedia and Google. My main sources were Baseball Reference, Sean Lahman’s tidy spreadsheet, Kirby Arnold’s excellent Tales from the Seattle Mariners Dugout, and the Internet at large.

Here, at last, are my final rankings of Mariners shortstops (as you’d guess, Yuni does pretty well).

1. Alex Rodriguez
Rodriguez’s place at the top of the M’s shortstop scrap heap (and a nice big heap it is) won’t be threatened anytime soon, though eventual Overloard Carlos Triunfel might challenge A-Rod someday. Still, no one likes A-RoidRod.

2. Omar Vizquel
Little O played the second-most games at short for the Mariners (653 games, 133 behind Rodriguez) and played the best defense. Fans like him the most, and his bare-handed grab and throw to seal Chris Bosio’s no-hitter is the biggest shortstop highlight in Mariners history.

3. Yuniesky Betancourt
Who else would you choose, really? In just two-plus seasons, Betancourt has been a solid contributer on both offense and defense. If he plays a full season this year, he’ll also be third in games played at shortstop in M’s history. Plus, he’s a dang good actor.

4. Carlos Guillen
An unsung, solid-though-not-solidly-built player that the Mariners stupidly gave up on.

CHART BREAK!
Graph1

This chart shows the RC/27 (a complex yet accurate measure of offense) for Yuni, Guillen, and Vizquel. Guillen and Vizquel have had long careers, so their lines are much longer than Yuni’s. However, Guillen left the Mariners after he turned 27 (right when he crosses the blue line representing average), while Vizquel left after he turned 26. This chart shows two things: first, the Mariners give up on shortstops far too soon. Second, at his age, Betancourt is a better hitter than either Guillen or Vizquel.

5. Spike Owen
There’s a big drop off after the top 4. Spike played a lot of games, and was the only team captain in Mariner history. He also has the best given name of all the shortstops.

6. Craig Reynolds
He was the Mariners’ only All-Star in 1978, though that says mores about the ’78 Mariners than it does Craig Reynolds. Leon Roberts should’ve been the team’s All-Star, though Reynolds did lead the ’78 M’s in singles and triples.

7. Rey Quinones
Q has the third most homers of any M’s shortstop (24). Shortstops are supposed to hit for power, right?

8. Luis Sojo
He had that one great double in the 1995 one-game playoff against the Angels.

9. Rich Aurilia
Mariners’ fans still consider the 2004 free agent signing of Aurilia a disaster. That speaks very poorly of the guys below him.

10. Felix Fermin
“El Gato” has one of the top five nicknames, though.

11. Willie Bloomquist
Willie Bloomquist can’t make any all-time Mariners top 10 lists.

12. Todd Cruz
At least Cruz won a World Series with the Orioles in 1983.

13. Jim Anderson
The only reason Anderson’s not in the bottom is because the M’s brought him in to replace this list’s cellar dweller.

14. Mario Mendoza
As George Brett taught us all, Mario Mendoza is the definition of terrible.

CHART BREAK (again)!
Graph2

This one’s for Willie Bloomquist fans. Look how much better he is that Mario Mendoza and Jim Anderson. Just ignore that blue line…

Mariners shortstop nickname rankings:
1. Little O
2. El Gato
3. Rikimbili
4. Spike (because it’s not actually a nickname)
5. A-Rod
6. “You Crazy Mexican!

Yuni made the roster! March 30, 2008

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Lost in all the hubbub over Cha Seung Baek making the Mariners roster is that, as everyone expected, Yuniesky Betancourt will be the Mariners’ starting shortstop tonight. Ryan Divish of the News-Tribune has a good breakdown of the final roster moves. Somehow, Yuni’s future sidekick R.A. Dickey didn’t make the team. Somehow the Twins didn’t want him back via Rule 5, and somehow he made it through waivers.  He’ll start the season in Tacoma, along with Jeremy Reed, Greg Norton, Jeff Clement, Wladimir Balentien, Yung Chi Chen, and plenty of other 20-somethings you may not have actually seen play, yet are convinced are talented.

Here’s Yuni’s final stats for spring training, along with other middle infielders:
Yuni: .294/.333/.456 (that’s Batting average/On-base percentage/Slugging Percentage). He stole one base, and was caught twice.
Jose Lopez: .278/.307/.361. Jose seems to have locked up the 2nd spot in the lineup, until he stops hitting in a few weeks.
Jose Vidro: .206/.243/.254. He’s the team’s starting DH, and he gets to head ahead of Yuni.
Miguel Cairo: .255/.255/.400. Yep, no walks.
Little Bill Blloomquist: .242/.350/.242. Yep, no extra base hits.
I should remind you (as Lookout Landing did) that these stats don’t mean anything. Although Bloomquist still can’t hit for any sort of power.

Yuni vs. his backup, part 1 March 28, 2008

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I’ve been focusing on Mariners shortstops that came before Yuniesky Betancourt. Today, one that came alongside Yuni.

2002-2007: Willie Bloomquist
Stats: .261/.313/.329 in 1,090 at-bats over 6 seasons. That slugging percentage is right–only 57 of his 284 hits have been for extra bases, all but 12 of which were doubles. Willie’s one useful skill is stealing bases: he has successfully stolen 57 bases, and failed just 13 times. Bloomquist has only played 99 games at shortstop, but he’s Yuni’s most likely replacement, so I figured I should give him a post.
Place in M’s fandom: fractured. He’s either the hometown hero or the hometown whipping boy, depending on whether you value hustle or statistical achievement more.
Willie Bloomquist has more nicknames among M’s fans than any other player. There’s The Igniter, Willie Effing Bloomquist, Willie Ballgame, Willie Boom-Boom, Princess Willie, etc. I’ve advocated calling him Little Bill, to continue William H. Macy’s future stranglehold on baseball player nicknames. (Also, Willie’s role on the Mariners is fairly equivalent to Little Bill’s job as camera operator for Jack Horner’s film empire.)
Still, some people like Willie Bloomquist. I believe it’s for the same reason that Sonics fans like point guard Luke Ridnour, according to Sherman Alexie:

I think that Luke Ridnour’s fans, no matter what color they are, root for him because they see this tiny little guy running around the court and they secretly think they are better basketball players than him.

Just switch “court” for “field” and take out the “k” and “t” in “basketball.” Plus, Ridnour and Bloomquist are both Washingtonians. Mariners team stores stock replica Willie Bloomquist jerseys. I think there’s absolutely no reason for this. Granted, I know a guy who bought one before a game last year.
Wikipedia/Google: Willie Bloomquist was voted the worst player in baseball in 2006.
His wikipedia page reads like it’s been heavily edited. Here’s a (long) sample:

He is a versatile player that can play many positions, but is a limited contributor due to his below average offensive and defensive production and prowess. He has above-average speed and good baseball senses, leading him to be often used in late innings as a pinch runner for slower players. He is also sometimes used as a defensive specialist, though he does not excel at any given position. Although he is applauded for his versatility and intangibles, his place on the roster is oft criticized by some fans because of his limitations as a Major League Baseball player.

The only praise in that paragraph is for his “baseball sense.” Right. Wikipedia also points out that Willie’s making $1 million dollars this year.
On his official profile, it says the Mariners have always been high on Willie. They tried drafting him before college, but he decided to spend a few years in Arizona (good choice). He was named Pac-10 Player of the Year in 1999. That’s surprising.

Is Willie Bloomquist better than Yuniesky Betancourt? Go ask manager John McLaren who’s going to start on Monday.