Playing Yuni is like starving children in Africa

Ok, at this point we know that Yunieski Betancourt is a bad baseball player. In spite of the much-higher-than-minimum contract that he was offered in the offseason that is filled with incentives that we can only hope are actually tied to production and not just sayin "OK, coach" and whistling as ground balls as they roll past, it is generally known that Yuni is one of the worst players in baseball.

Yes, he has the ability to hit home runs. However, this is mostly the result of being thrown MLB fastballs and swinging at everything. This isn't an exaggeration, Yuni regularly leads the league in fewest pitches per plate appearance, and is among the all-time leaders in baseball history (yes, even include the silly pre-1900 stats) in fewest walks per plate appearance. He doesn't strike out a lot, so all you need to do is get the ball near the plate and you get yourself an easy ball in play. Most of the time he doesn't even require the effort of throwing three pitches, he gets himself out for you.

Earlier in the season there was a short period of time where Yuni was actually hitting productively. I am hesitant to mention it at all because it was just a small sample size, but he got a couple big hits and chipped in a little timely production, peaking with his grand slam off Barry Zito. It was his 5th career slam. That's pretty incredible for a guy who has over 4000 PA and only 10 career multiple-walks games. For a very brief moment it looked like he was focused and valuable.

That would soon pass.

In a stretch of 13 games in April he had 18 RBI, and he has only 13 since, in spite of having plenty of opportunities to move runners around. He didn't just fool us, he fooled his manager too. He got moved up in the batting order and played 22 games in the 4th, 5th and 6th spots (3 RBI total). Since the calendar moved on to May, Yuni has regressed to Yuni. And then he got even worse.

If we break out his production into 10-game blocks it looks like this:

4/2 - 4/14 .267 .303 .333 .636
4/16 - 4/26 .286 .297 .686 .983
4/27 - 5/7 .275 .310 .575 .885
5/8 - 5/18 .081 .105 .108 .213
5/19 - 5/30 .200 .243 .200 .443
5/30 - 6/9 .194 .219 .258 .477
6/11 - 6/26 .107 .107 .179 .286


If a normal player puts of numbers like these you wonder if he's injured. As bad as Rickie Weeks was for the first two months of the season, even he wasn't performing this badly. This is "take some time in the minors" or "maybe you should start thinking about what you're going to do after your life in baseball" type numbers. Sadly, Ron Roenicke keeps giving him playing time.

Yuni's sole asset seems to be a lack of shame. Regardless of how bad he is, he's willing to do anything the manager asks, so he gets an opportunity to be bad as a cleanup hitter, bad at first base, bad at pinch hitting, and even occasionally bad in the outfield. It has been an exercise in ugly baseball. And then last night... it got even uglier.

There is a stat called WPA, which in general terms tells you how much a player contributed (or detracted) from the team's chances of winning a game. If you have a good game your WPA is positive, if you have a bad game, it's negative. These numbers are weighted based on the leverage of the situation - in more critical situations, the stakes are higher.

In looking at Yuni's WPA numbers and adjusting his 70 games of performance into 47 data points with a heat map applied, I discovered something:


Yuni's numbers are mostly bad, he has very few games in which you could actually call him an asset, and was almost never a positive deciding factor in a game. Instead, he's been gradually eroding the team's ability to win on a daily basis, eating away at our chances like rust on a Pinto.

And the colors immediately reminded me of something - a map of the poverty and starvation in Africa:


And last night's game was his worst yet. In only 2 plate appearances he managed to obliterate 33% of our opportunity for victory. Even in his own performance log it stands out like his own personal Rwanda, a critical failure on many levels. It's a failure we all share. Roenicke is to be blamed for playing him and trusting him with the team's chances to win, and we have failed by not complaining loud enough that this player is on our roster, is getting regular playing time, and is called on to produce in situations where quality plate appearances are essential.

So once I saw this I was unable to forget it, and now every time I see Yuni at bat I will feel the pity like I feel for a starving child in Africa. Like Sam Kinison said, you're right there, can't you give little starving Haji a sandwich? You're right there, Ron. You make the lineup, Don't put him in!

It's a tragedy, but an avoidable tragedy, and it's so easy to fix. Cut him off the roster, Doug. Don't let Ron use him.

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