A Quick Note On Yuniesky Betancourt And Replacement Level

If by "some" you mean "more than none," then yes, Yuniesky Betancourt has some value. If by "some" you mean "more than others," then that phrase is no longer accurate.

We talk a lot about Yuniesky Betancourt in this space (and all over the internet, really). He's a lightning rod: a player with clear and reasonably obvious deficiencies who somehow seems to continue to find work and is harder to get rid of than toxic waste.

When we discuss Betancourt, though, one point always seems to come up: "He was worth 0.5 fWAR in 2011, so he must have some value." That point is true, but its validity is overstated.

There were 145 major league players who qualified for the batting title last season. Of them, five produced a negative fWAR:

Player Team fWAR
Raul Ibanez Phillies -1.3
Alex Rios White Sox -0.7
Aubrey Huff Giants -0.6
Juan Pierre White Sox -0.4
Kosuke Fukudome Cubs/Indians -0.2

So if you're saying that Betancourt must have some value because he produced a positive fWAR, you're right. He managed to produce enough value to stay outside of the bottom 3.4% of qualified major league position players. But that's a pretty low bar.

Furthermore, I think it's instructive to look at the composition of Betancourt's fWAR number:

Batting WAR Base Running WAR Fielding WAR Replacement Adjustment Positional Adjustment WAR
-1.7 +.2 -.7 +2.0 +.7 +0.5

Betancourt loses a lot of value as a hitter, plus a fair amount more defensively. He gets a little bit back for not making outs on the basepaths, but the primary (only, really) source of his value is the fact that he played a lot (hence the replacement adjustment), plus the fact that he plays a premium defensive position, even though he doesn't play it well.

Let me put this another way: By virtue of playing in 152 games and appearing almost exclusively at shortstop, Betancourt started off with a 2.7 fWAR handicap. Yet his play over the course of those games was so poor he whittled that number all the way down to 0.5. There's only one shortstop in all of baseball who made at least 400 plate appearances last season and provided less value, and there's only one other that was even really close:

Player Team fWAR
Orlando Cabrera Indians/Giants -1.3
Yuniesky Betancourt Brewers 0.5
Ryan Theriot Cardinals 0.7
Alex Gonzalez Braves 1.1
Ronny Cedeno Pirates 1.4

The fifth least valuable shortstop in all of baseball was still nearly a full win better than Betancourt in 2011.

So if you'd like to make the case that Betancourt has some value, you're technically correct. But if someone responds to you by telling you that nearly every player in baseball was more valuable than Betancourt in 2011, they're also correct.

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