In my comment on this week’s edition of ESPN’s Power Rankings (the Brewers sit in the sixth spot), I mention Yuniesky Betancourt’s actual, tangible contribution to the Brewers final two victories in this past weekend’s sweep of the Minnesota Twins. Betancourt was five-for-eight with a home run, and his bat showed a legitimate amount of pop. Although it’s hard to be too optimistic for a player with a .293 career on-base percentage, this weekend’s performance could be the beginning of of relative respectability for the Brewers’ much-maligned shortstop.
It’s difficult to describe Betancourt’s performance to date as luck. His .249 BABIP is probably too low to be sustainable, but Betancourt is a poor enough hitter where we shouldn’t be surprised by it either. That said, over the next few months we should expect that number to tick upwards. ZiPS projects Betancourt for a .273 BABIP the rest of the way, and a .300 mark isn’t out of the question, as his numbers hovered around that point from 2005-2008.
Much has been made of the Brewers’ inability to find a replacement for Betancourt despite his horrid performance so far this season. The idea that players are out there who are easily attainable and can clearly outperform Betancourt, however, may not be rooted in truth. Despite Betancourt’s horrid .241/.262/.358 batting line and unimpressive defense — rated 4 runs below average by UZR, 5 runs below average by +/- — adds up to only -0.1 Wins Above Replacement.
That’s right. Despite how completely unwatchable and agonizing Betancourt’s performance this season has been, he’s only been one run worse than the freely available shortstop. With a legitimate expectation of improved hitting — ZiPS projects a .263/.293/.398 line going forward — Betancourt may actually be a productive player going forward, even if it’s marginally so.
The Brewers should still look to add a shortstop if they can, but given their stark lack of assets, they may be stuck with Betancourt. Over the second half, Brewers fans can at least take solace in the expectation of a few more series like last weekend’s out of their much-maligned shortstop.