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Friday, March 21, 2014

Wilson Betamit is the most underrated player in major USA team sports?

Betemit is a couple of years past 30 now and missed almost all of last year with injuries, so, you know. . .it’s anybody’s guess whether he has anything left to give. But in 2010 Wilson Betemit, filling in as a place-holder third baseman for the Royals, hit .297 with 13 homers in 276 at bats, .889 OPS. The first half of 2011 Betemit hit .281, with disappointing power but a .750 OPS. They took his job away, and gave it to Mike Moustakas. Moustakas’ career OPS is 93 points lower than Betemit’s, .774 to .681. Think about it. . .almost 100 points OPS. Career. Betemit moved on to Detroit…

Betemit is a couple of years past 30 now and missed almost all of last year with injuries, so, you know. . .it’s anybody’s guess whether he has anything left to give. But in 2010 Wilson Betemit, filling in as a place-holder third baseman for the Royals, hit .297 with 13 homers in 276 at bats, .889 OPS. The first half of 2011 Betemit hit .281, with disappointing power but a .750 OPS. They took his job away, and gave it to Mike Moustakas. Moustakas’ career OPS is 93 points lower than Betemit’s, .774 to .681. Think about it. . .almost 100 points OPS. Career. Betemit moved on to Detroit, where he hit .292 with an .871 OPS. Detroit took his job away, signed Prince Fielder for a huge amount of money, and moved Miguel Cabrera to third so that Fielder could play first. Fielder’s OPS in 2013 was .819, plus he cost a TON of money, plus the Tigers’ infield defense would have been better at two positions with Cabrera at first and Betemit at third. (Granted, I left out the 2012 season in which Fielder played well, and granted, Betemit was hurt in 2013 and couldn’t have played third for the Tigers anyway, and granted, the Tigers have done extremely well. But I’m making Betemits’ case; I’m entitled to state it in the most favorable terms.) Betemit moved on to Baltimore, where he again played well, hitting .261 with 12 homers, 40 RBI in 341 RBI. They took his job away, and gave it to Manny Machado. (Get it. ..Mike Moustakas, Manny Machado. It’s a theme.) Manny Machado’s major league OPS is .744—thirty points lower than Betemits’. And people think Machado’s a big star. If you go back to the beginning of his career, Betemit has generally played well. He hit .305 in 115 games for Atlanta in 2005. He hit 18 homers in 373 at bats in 2006, splitting the season between Atlanta and the Dodgers. His career OPS is higher than Asdrubal Cabrera, Melky Cabrera, Alberto Castillo. His career OPS is higher than many if not most of the regular third basemen—higher than Juan Uribe, Kyle Seager, Chase Headley, David Freese, Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Pedro Alvarez, Placido Polanco, Will Middlebrooks or Conor Gillaspie. And it’s not like he can’t play third base; he can, or could anyway a few years ago. He’s a far better hitter than, let’s say, Delmon Young. But for some reason, Delmon Young gets chance after chance after chance to be a regular, while Betemit was always just a fill-in player waiting for somebody else to get ready.

attaboy Posted: March 21, 2014 at 12:41 PM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bill james

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   1. McCoy Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:04 PM (#4674891)
As all things come back to my experiences in OOTP, Moustakas is basically a coin flip as to whether he'll be a dud or a superstar in that game. Half the time he develops into .330 hitter with 30+ homers and the other half of the time he devolves into minor league player.

Freakin Zach Wheeler does the same thing to me as well.
   2. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:19 PM (#4674896)
I like Betemit, always have - but this is silly. Not a lot of guys get longstanding regular gigs as okay hitters (career OPS+ of 104) with bad defense (below average range, error prone) and a giant platoon split. Rather, I can see an expanded role for him in the 80s, maybe, when teams platooned more, but he's doesn't offer enough as an everyday guy for most teams to plan for that (rather than settle for it) if they want to carry a large pitching staff. He is a guy I wouldn't have minded having on my roster, though...

ZiPS projects him to be below replacement this year.
   3. Sweatpants Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:21 PM (#4674898)
His career OPS is higher than many if not most of the regular third basemen—higher than Juan Uribe, Kyle Seager, Chase Headley, David Freese, Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Pedro Alvarez, Placido Polanco, Will Middlebrooks or Conor Gillaspie.
...most of whom have spent their whole careers playing in an offensive environment far less favorable to hitters than Betemit's, and pretty much all of whom are better defenders than Betemit.

If someone here were making the same arguments that James makes on his site, I'd probably write that person off as a troll.

Edit: Oops, I think he's saying that all of those guys had a lower OPS last year than Betemit has for his career, but the point still stands - 2013 was very different from the mid-'00s.
   4. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:23 PM (#4674899)
I think Mark Ellis and his ZERO gold gloves has been more underrated than Betemit.
   5. valuearbitrageur Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:25 PM (#4674901)
Moustakas’ career age is 7 years lower than Betemit’s, 32 to 25. Think about it. . .


It is sad that KC finally found a winning lottery ticket with Betemit, who was virtually unwanted for two years prior, and weren't able to get much fir it, but that's life.

Being bad with the glove carries a hefty cost that renders OPS comparisons sort of moot. Moussakas only put up a 91 OPS+ the next year but his defense rated so well his season was worth as many wins as Betemit has been worth in his entire 800 game career.
   6. Jacob Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:33 PM (#4674906)
Nevermind.
   7. Jacob Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:36 PM (#4674907)
Oops...
   8. zonk Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:38 PM (#4674909)
I like Betemit, always have - but this is silly. Not a lot of guys get longstanding regular gigs as okay hitters (career OPS+ of 104) with bad defense (below average range, error prone) and a giant platoon split. Rather, I can see an expanded role for him in the 80s, maybe, when teams platooned more, but he's doesn't offer enough as an everyday guy for most teams to plan for that (rather than settle for it) if they want to carry a large pitching staff. He is a guy I wouldn't have minded having on my roster, though...


This.

I mean, I think it's true Betemit is underrated and I likewise think it's a bit odd that he always seems to be scrounging for a job when he's certainly valuable enough to have a bit more job security but "most" underrated?

I don't think so...

   9. Greg K Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:43 PM (#4674911)
I don't see a ton of Twins games, but whenever I do Brian Dozier always seems to be doing something cool. I kind of think of him as a new model Mark Ellis.

(Upon looking it up, Ellis is the #7 comp for Dozier through age 26).
   10. The District Attorney Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:43 PM (#4674912)
Yeah, I considered bringing up that Bill said this myself, but wasn't sure where :)

Betemit in all probability isn't the most underrated player now, but I could totally buy that he was a couple of years ago. It definitely is true that it's weird for an 800 OPS 3B to keep losing jobs¹, unless there are other factors (e.g., lead-glove defense, or horrible personality), which don't appear to be the case here.

(I do think it's very possible that Betemit got a reputation as an awful defender from early in his career when they tried to play him up the middle. But I don't think he actually was one, at 3B. He was still not good, but plenty good enough to carry his bat.)

Platoon players do have a tough time nowadays finding jobs, and Betemit is indeed that -- 636 OPS vs. LHP, 819 OPS vs. RHP. (One wonders now, of course, whether he should have just hit lefty rather than switch-hitting.) But, that tends to be a career-killing liability only for 1B/DH. There are few enough quality 3B around that the ability to provide good offense there 75% of the time should be useful to somebody.

If you can accept that Russ Branyan was underrated, I think you should have no problem accepting that Betemit was underrated. I think their offense was similar (Betemit's better on-base compensating for Branyan's superior power), but Betemit could fake 3B better and was less injury-prone.

(I'll also say this is at least closer to being correct than Carmelo being the most overrated player in sports, which was never correct. :P

¹ James is obviously wrong to imply that the Royals should have even entertained the possibility of choosing Betemit over Moustakas at 3B -- that would have been stupid. Rany Jazayerli did suggest that the team move Betemit to OF prior to 2011. Although their 2011 OF was in fact extremely good, this would at least have avoided the pain that Jeff Francoeur later inflicted. It would have been interesting to see how Betemit would have handled it defensively, and how he would have hit.
   11. Gaelan Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:52 PM (#4674920)
Footnotes. Cool.
   12. zonk Posted: March 21, 2014 at 02:04 PM (#4674923)
I do have a vague recollection that Betemit can be -- maybe not quite a malcontent, but a bit... difficult... and also that he developed a reputation at one point as being a bit lazy -- the sort that cranks it up in contract years. Obviously, he's been playing on year-to-year contracts for a while now - and it's corresponded with him posting pretty good seasons, so maybe there's something to it.

Of course, he's also fighting that old stigma of being a one-time blue chip prospect that never quite reached the heights predicted for him -- I think at one point, he was a top 10 list overall guy... I recall that it was an open question as to whether he or Furcal would be the Braves' "SS of hte future".

Guys like that tend to have a tough time hanging onto jobs and settling into 'solid player' roles in peoples' minds... there's always this whiff of disappointment that lingers, I think.
   13. BDC Posted: March 21, 2014 at 03:00 PM (#4674960)
I guess it hinges (as always) on who was doing the rating. Betemit has been largely just a name to me, even though I've seen him often enough: one of those generic infielders who washes up with a different team every year. Useful and versatile guys who hit .267 with modest power can indeed be underrated, but he doesn't have good plate discipline, and he doesn't run well: features that you often see with overrated players. But if you were to see him as a total cipher, I guess you would be underrating him.
   14. AROM Posted: March 21, 2014 at 03:03 PM (#4674962)
Betemit was good in 2010-2011. You know who else was?

Roy Halladay. 40 wins, 2.40 ERA, 65 starts, 480 innings.

And all he got was a one day contract.
   15. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: March 21, 2014 at 03:49 PM (#4674984)
I do like that Betemit is misspelled. There is something appropriate about misspelling a guys name when you call him underrated.
   16. attaboy Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:28 PM (#4675020)
I do like that Betemit is misspelled.

To be fair, the person asking the question misspelled the name, James spelled it correctly multiple times in his answer.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: March 21, 2014 at 05:10 PM (#4675044)
Betemit would seem to be exactly what his career line says he is -- a league average 3B 2/3 of the time. He should probably have more seasons with 400-450 PA than the 250-300 he seems to usually get. Better defense would help a lot -- the bat is still good enough to hold a bench job but obviously he's more valuable if he can handle 2B/3B.

It's not really until the end that you get the reasonable point -- even with his flaws, he's a better player than Delmon Young. He's also probably better than Ty Wigginton, no worse than McGehee, probably better but less versatile than Bloomquist. He might be as good as Uribe although it's really hard to tell how good Uribe is -- dWAR loves him and he's got 18 career WAR and even 4 WAR last year ... although he was slightly below replacement the two previous years and was barely above replacement in his "prime".

So I'm a bit more comfortable with the idea that Betemit is the type of player that is often under-appreciated than I am with the idea that he individually is the most under-rated guy. He has probably deserved more playing time than he's gotten.

Still I don't buy it. James is stumping for the decent bat, bad glove guy but they are everywhere in baseball and usually keep getting chances (D Young). Shooty's already mentioned Ellis. If you believe WAR, Uribe is quite under-rated. If you believe WAR, Punto is terribly under-rated -- most people seem to think he sucks. The under-rated guys are the guys who can't hit but can field. We seem to still tend towards our old attitude that there's no way defense (and baserunning) can make up for the weak bat unless the guy is Ozzie-like. (I do too.)

In the Hamilton thread, I pulled out a few guys who put up OPS+ in the 80 range who made up for their sucky bat with their Rbase and Rdp alone.

WAR's not gospel, but at the end of the day WAR (and probably Win Shares) says Betemit has been about a 1 WAR per full season player. Maybe he deserved another 100 PA a year but it's hardly a crime that he rides the bench.

Now, whether Betemit and $20+ M is worth more than Prince Fielder and Cabrera shifted to 3B is an interesting question.
   18. Lars6788 Posted: March 21, 2014 at 07:28 PM (#4675091)
He's bounced around - not a lasting impression to be made if you are a journeyman, not white or scrappy.
   19. The District Attorney Posted: March 21, 2014 at 07:38 PM (#4675094)
The weird thing is that James cited Ben Zobrist and Ryan Hanigan as most underrated prior to last season, and I sure don't think Betemit passed them in the interim...
   20. AndrewJ Posted: March 21, 2014 at 09:20 PM (#4675128)
Unrelated to the topic, but I appreciated this exchange:

Just noticed a copy of the 1981 Baseball Abstract by Bill James sold on ebay for over $200. Pretty much out of my budget. Ever think of re-releasing the old pre-Ballantine abstracts?
Asked by: shthar

Answered: 3/21/2014
It's been suggested to us.


In the best of all possible worlds, the 1977-81 Abstracts would be available through Lulu.com or some other self-printing site...
   21. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: March 22, 2014 at 12:09 AM (#4675183)
In the best of all possible worlds, the 1977-81 Abstracts would be available through Lulu.com or some other self-printing site...

Bill was selling reprints out of his house for a while.... I think identical to the originals except with "REPRINT" stamped on the cover. I got a set of them several years back. He even signed one for me.
   22. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 22, 2014 at 08:24 AM (#4675283)
this will read as homerism but i think if you believe in the concept of pitch framing jonathan lucroy has a case of being very underrated.

has almost 1000 at bats the last 2 seasons of real offense. his defense is very good. if molina were not active lucroy might be considered for a gold glove

and he steals plenty of strikes for the pitching staff. and let me tell ya', this staff needs every one of them

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