Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Shortstop Problem: Part One

     First off, I'm back. I had a busy last month and didn't have the time or energy to write or post anything, though I'm sure no one noticed.
     Now, let's talk about baseball. The Brewers currently seem poised to be in the thick of the NL Central race and are just half a game out of first place. They have done so with two offensive black holes at shortstop and centerfield. The latter is probably solved by the emergence of Nyjer Morgan, even if he cools off a little. But, the shortstop problem isn't being ameliorated in any way, in fact, it's getting worse by the minute, drug down by the two-headed monster of Yuni Betancourt's implosion and the scattered ashes of Craig Counsell's bat. You could certainly express optimism over Josh Wilson, but his 2010 line of .227/.278/.294 should damper your enthusiasm over eleven hot plate appearances with a new team.
     Before we look at anything else, let's survey the damage:
     Dude      G     PA     AVG     OBP     SLG     SB     CS     RC 
Yuni           61    229     .228      .253      .340      0        2       17
Counsell     48     91      .221      .326      .273      2        0        8
Wilson         8      11     .400      .455      1.100    0         0        5
     Between these three, the Brewers have more problems than ____________.  (I don't want to date this post too quickly, so I'll just leave this space open so you can make fun of Charlie Sheen, Anthony Weiner, or the latest violater of the laws of stupidity.) When Betancourt packed for Milwaukee, he must have forgot either his bat or the lucky charm that helped him maintain a normal BABIP. Whatever happened to Betancourt's bat, you can rule out Craig Counsell as having it, and Josh Wilson and his brief hot streak have received the one sentence that they currently merit.
     Though a low BABIP is certainly a part of Betancourt's troubles, it doesn't explain away his offensive collapse, as he is well on his way to Replacement-Level Killer status. His ISO has come down from last year's career high (to a figure more in line with his career numbers, incidentally), and his walk rate has regressed in the same manner. His horrendous hitting is only mitigated by his sudden fit of competence with the glove, a fact the club has been quick to point out. But, in light of his replacement level hitting, it doesn't really matter. Or does it?
     Betancourt's 19 RC in 229 PA is nine runs below the average NL shortstop this season, which, if you want to get hypothetical, equates to about one win. If Average NL Shortstop also replaces Counsell's plate appearances, you have 38 imaginary runs over the current total of 27*. Plugged in to the Pythagorean formula (and completely abandoning reality), Average Shortstop adds 1.2 wins the team's (expected) total, which will only grow as the season goes on. Altogether, the punchless trio is bringing down the Brewers' offense enough to make a big difference in a race that will likely go down to the wire and should force the hand of the team to go out and acquire a competent hitter to handle the shortstop position, pronto.  

*I calculated RC myself using (OBP x SLG) x PA, not the version found on Baseball Reference. Every other stat is from BR.

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