What Brendan Ryan Has Done
First, a brief selection of screenshots from Brendan Ryan’s last two days:
In fairness, Ryan didn’t complete the first play, as the batter reached safely, but the defensive effort still included something amazing, something few shortstops would’ve been able to do. I’ve long believed we don’t give enough appreciation to amazing defensive plays that don’t result in outs. They’re anticlimactic, but amazing’s amazing. Brendan Ryan grabbed a sharp grounder between his legs, and not in the way that you usually do, facing forward.
Now then, some slash lines. Who doesn’t like randomly selected slash lines?
One of those is Manny Machado, one of those is Mike Trout, one of those is Evan Longoria, and one of those is Brendan Ryan over the last two weeks and change. Of course, for Ryan, that’s an arbitrary window, selected to make Ryan look as good as possible. But it’s still a stretch that’s happened. For more than two weeks, Ryan has played like one of baseball’s elite. Yeah, today’s homer easily could’ve been foul, or caught in a different ballpark. Homers are homers. Ryan’s WAR is back in the black, and he’s still been terrible at the plate overall. He’s a bad hitter who can be a decent contributor, and he’s a bad hitter who’s recently hit like a superstar.
Interestingly, this stretch has immediately followed a different stretch in which Ryan went hitless over 20 consecutive plate appearances. No. 20 was an out against CC Sabathia on May 14. Then Ryan legged out an infield single, and he arrived at first base smiling. Since then, he’s been awesome, right after people most wanted him to go away and yield to Nick Franklin.
I don’t have a greater point, here. Brendan Ryan is pretty well understood, even if it isn’t understood why he isn’t better. He’s 31 years old and he’s been in the bigs long enough to play against Craig Biggio. He’s not going to be a Mariner much longer, probably, since his contract is up and this year’s Mariners will want to audition younger players. His performance is another knock against believing in the predictive value of streaks, since his hot streak immediately followed a miserable cold streak. It’s a reminder that slumping players regress, and that sometimes “regression” can be a good thing instead of a bad thing. It’s a reminder that just about anyone in the majors can play like one of the elites for a few weeks at a time. Vernon Wells had a four-digit OPS on April 21. Since then he’s made almost three-quarters outs. It’s a reminder that you shouldn’t predict this game. You shouldn’t try, and you definitely shouldn’t try with money on the line. No matter how smart you are, baseball, if you give it a chance, will make you look like an idiot. Baseball’s great in that it makes sense and doesn’t. It offers, genuinely, something for everyone.
Brendan Ryan isn’t good, now. He wasn’t bad before. He was and still is Brendan Ryan, and Ryan, sometimes, is incredible. At his worst, he’s still a rare pleasure to watch half of the time, and if we’re coming up on his departure from Seattle, I’m glad to see him no longer scuffling. I hope he leaves having left a positive impression, and his defense will be most appreciated when it’s no longer there. Ryan’s one of the fun ones. He doesn’t deserve to have people mad at him. Hopefully, from here to the unknowable end, nobody’s mad, not anymore. They don’t make many like this one.