Will The M’s Miss Yuni?
Last night, Yuniesky Betancourt pulled a hamstring, and Wak said after the game that there’s a strong chance he’ll land on the disabled list. Given how bad Yuni has been this year, both offensively and defensively, this looks to be an addition by subtraction thing. With a .270 wOBA and -8.6 UZR, Yuni has been worth almost a win less than a replacement level shortstop, so the M’s should actually hope for better production from Josh Wilson/Ronny Cedeno than they got from Yuni the first couple of months.
However, as much as we’ve bashed Betancourt for his reverse development, regressing every year since he got to the majors, over the last few weeks, it looked like Wak might have actually been getting through to the guy. There have been multiple plays recently where I found myself shocked that Yuni got to the ball – grounders up the middle, balls in the hole, slow rollers that he’s had to charge. He’s made plays defensively that he simply wasn’t even getting close to in April and May. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has spent the last few weeks saying “ahh, crap, base hi – wow, Yuni, where’d that come from?”
UZR agrees with my shocked eyes, too. After the May 24th update on FanGraphs, Yuni’s UZR stood at -9.1, on pace for a -30 season and easily the worst mark of any shortstop in baseball. A month later, he stands at -8.6. Yes, UZR is prone to noise in small samples, but it’s heartening that the best defensive metric we have thinks that he’s been making more plays at the same time we’re watching him and saying “hey, he didn’t make that play a month ago”.
It’s not just on defense, either. After swinging at nearly 40% of pitches outside the strikezone the first two months, he’s only chased 26% out of the strike zone this month. Yes, it’s small sample size, but after getting benched and lectured repeatedly about his lousy approach at the plate, an improvement in his decision making about which pitches to swing at shouldn’t be ignored. The results haven’t been what you’d hope for, but the process is more important than the results, and if Yuni’s process at the plate is taking steps forward at the same time that he’s putting a little more effort into his defensive play, well, that’s reason for optimism.
So, amazingly enough, I’m not convinced that Yuni to the DL is a good thing. Two months ago, it would have been a pretty big help, but I’d have been interested in seeing if he could keep showing improved range and discipline at the plate. Instead, now we get to watch Cedeno and Wilson fight over who can make more outs.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but hurry back Yuni.