What Brendan Ryan Has Done

Jeff Sullivan · May 30, 2013 at 8:10 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

First, a brief selection of screenshots from Brendan Ryan’s last two days:

ryan1

ryan2

ryan3

ryan4

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?

  • .336/.368/.523
  • .340/.375/.528
  • .296/.370/.556
  • .312/.371/.532

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.

Comments

20 Responses to “What Brendan Ryan Has Done”

  1. 83problems on May 30th, 2013 8:27 pm

    Amen.

  2. tdillon on May 30th, 2013 8:42 pm

    The San Diego broadcasters were highly impressed with Ryan’s defense. References to Omar Vizquel were made. Made me smile.

  3. G-Man on May 30th, 2013 8:59 pm

    When Ryan made the between-the-legs pickup in the first pic, I was appalled that Sims and Blowers never mentioned it, even though they replayed the play. Like the producer knew it was notable and called for the replay, even though it was not an out, and still.

    I like Brendan. I’ll miss him when he’s gone.

  4. don52656 on May 30th, 2013 9:14 pm

    Amen and thanks, Jeff. With all the depression over the season and recent uproar over Wedge’s comments (for some reason, I kept thinking that I had mistakenly wandered into a Fox News website for awhile), it is a pleasure to read a positive story. I think it is too easy for us to forget that these guys are human beings who are (almost always) trying their very best to succeed.

    Brendan Ryan can drive me crazy at the plate, but I love his effort and his fielding, and I’m rooting for him to end up the season hitting about .270 and get a nice contract.

    By the way, has anyone played anything close to the sadistic schedule the M’s have so far? A more favorable stretch of schedule awaits, and I’m guessing our W-L will start to reflect it.

  5. PackBob on May 30th, 2013 10:35 pm

    I didn’t care for Ryan at first, but his defense won me over, and he now seems like one of the more genuine people I know, however genuine someone can be that I’ve never met. With the M’s going nowhere, I’d much rather see Ryan in there than someone who could hit well but had no magic. Doing well comes along regularly; magic rarely.

  6. henryv on May 30th, 2013 11:16 pm

    He is like Jack Wilson but not viciously ugly. And kinda funny at that. This is about as good as the mariners are going to get from most players. Because, mariners.

  7. Lauren, token chick on May 30th, 2013 11:36 pm

    I’ve been downright tickled to see his hitting lately. Yay Brendan!

  8. scraps on May 31st, 2013 12:51 am

    I’ll miss him, to the point where, if the Mariners are still losing, losing Brendan Ryan will lose me more than half of my joy from the Mariners.

  9. ndrfx on May 31st, 2013 6:59 am

    Free publicity for Moneytree.

  10. MrZDevotee on May 31st, 2013 7:26 am

    Ryan’s also a victim of his own “magic” as PackBob aptly called it.

    He makes these plays look routine. To the point that it’s hard to remember there’s a REASON more guys don’t play shortstop like this. Because they can’t. The typical year’s All-Star short stop can’t make the plays that Ryan does. And yet Ryan has almost ho-hum-ness to his deep in the hole, twisting fires to first. Extended reaches behind second base to spin around and fire to first while falling.

    And the speed of this game is amazing. The speed of the game at SS is ridiculous. The speed of the guys he throws out can be amazing.

    He’s a treasure in half of the game. If he could hit .280 he’d be considered one of the best players in baseball.

  11. Mike S on May 31st, 2013 7:49 am

    On TV, Ryan’s defense looks very good, but I didn’t realize just how incredibly awesome he is until I sat over the third base dugout and watched him play. It is mind boggling how good he is, and he makes it all look so routine.

    I had the same realization when watching Beltre play third, and Cameron in center from good seats.

    No matter how much longer Ryan is a Mariner I will always ramble on and on about how the Mariners had this shortstop “back in the day” named Brendan Ryan who was unbelievable.

  12. MrZDevotee on May 31st, 2013 8:38 am

    In related news:

    “Mariners infielder Robert Andino has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A”

  13. scraps on May 31st, 2013 9:15 am

    G. Baker will be so relieved.

  14. Choo on May 31st, 2013 9:57 am

    Brendan Ryan is my favorite Mariner. I love the range, the arm, the creativity as much as I love his passion for the game, always right there on the surface, bi-polar episodes of anger and joy. In baseball, a wicked mistress beckons from each end of the emotional spectrum and Ryan brazenly courts them both.

  15. diderot on May 31st, 2013 12:48 pm

    Wouldn’t a surprise contender like the Pirates like to have the best defensive shortstop in baseball for the stretch run?
    In return for one of their juicy young prospects?

  16. djw on May 31st, 2013 3:06 pm

    I don’t expect too many of the posters in the “Can’t Replace Past Performance” thread who us we should throw standard projection systems and batted ball profiles out the window for Ryan and Ryan only and assume he’s a 150 hitter going forward a few weeks ago will actually admit they were wrong, but it’d be nice.

  17. Choo on May 31st, 2013 3:37 pm

    Barring an injury to one of the contender’s shortstops, the trade market for Brendan Ryan could prove to be fruitless:

    - The Braves, Giants, D-Backs, Orioles, Tigers, Indians and A’s appear to be set and the Red Sox have Iglesias to fall back on.
    - The Pirates & Cards could use an upgrade, but they have Barmes & Kozma who are less extreme (good glove/bad bat) versions of Ryan.
    - I am not sure how the Nationals feel about Ian Desmond and their current MI situation. A trade scenario with the Nats could make for an interesting debate/article, though.
    - Same with the Yankees if Jeter has a setback, although they did pick up Brignac not long ago.

  18. Choo on May 31st, 2013 3:56 pm

    I failed to mention the Rangers & Rockies – they are set. And the Reds, who are probably set with Cozart (good glove/bad bat with some power). And the Rays who are probably OK with Yunel/Zobrist/Rodriguez but you never know.

  19. marcus_andrews on May 31st, 2013 4:18 pm

    djw-

    I don’t know whether I posted in that thread but I can say that I was thinking it was time for a change from Brendan Ryan and was starting to believe he was a true talent .200 or so hitter. I try to be calm and rational in my evaluations of players but the fact is we’re all still fans and watching him try to hit was unenjoyable and it caused me to overreact.

    This is one example where I’m happy to be proven wrong.

  20. djw on May 31st, 2013 5:35 pm

    What annoyed me about the Ryan detractors is that they took tried and true projection systems, which Dave was using in his going-forward comparison of Ryan/Franklin, and which showed the median offense projection for Ryan going forward in the wOBA 260 range, and loudly, confidently declared them wrong, without giving any reasons why beyond “he seems worse!” It was classic emotion over rationalism.

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