Yuniesky Betancourt is frustrating.
He’s one of those guys that always seems to complement a great play with a bonehead mistake.
He hits a double, then gets picked off second base.
He makes a seemingly impossible diving grab, then let’s a routine ground ball skip beneath his glove.
On top of all that, he has the plate discipline of Vladimir Guerrero on crack. Yuni has never seen a pitch he doesn’t like, and thus hacks at nearly everything that comes his way.
Sometimes he connects, like last Tuesday, when he went 4-5 with a home run and five RBI in the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox.
Other times he connects, but has nothing to show for it, like in game one of Tuesday’s twin bill in which Betancourt went 0-3.
The one thing you can bank on is that Yuniesky will not strike out or walk. You gotta give him credit for putting the ball in play.
In fact, Yuni has only struck out nine times this season, which is actually tops (and by tops I mean fewest number of strikeouts) among the Mariners regulars that have started all year (not including the likes of Ichiro, Kenji Johjima, and Rob Johnson, who have either been hurt or split time). The next fewest strikeouts belongs to Endy Chavez and Jose Lopez, who each have 11. So you can’t fault Yuni there.
But as is the Betancourt way, Yuni has to complement that great stat with a bad one. He has zero walks on the year.
Still, though, the M’s starting shortstop is batting over .300, and that’s an accomplishment on a team with little hitting prowess. That batting average alone should keep him in the lineup.
So why the big fuss over Yuni anyways?
Well, lately it seems like everyone wants the guy to get lost. Exit the lineup and be done with.
Sports radio “gurus” are calling for Betancourt’s head, demanding that manager Don Wakamatsu bench him in favor of light hitting utility man Ronny Cedeno. And while I can understand the argument for playing the more consistent Cedeno over the manic Betancourt, the reward for continuing to start Yuni is much higher than with that of Cedeno.
But so is the risk, and that’s what seems to scare off the fan base.
Yeah, Betancourt might screw up from time to time, but he’s a bona fide talent that has the ability to park a fastball with the best shortstops in the game. So what if he has yet to draw a walk, or is the absolute death of those pesky sabermetricians out there. Give the guy a break for now, and when he’s hitting .250 (if it ever reaches that point) then you can come back around and talk all you want.
For now, I’ll take Betancourt in that lineup every day. Because for now, he’s earned his spot.