Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Most Pointless Post in HoGstory

In a sense, this post is all about love. I love the fact that typing the letter 'y' into my Google search bar immediately brings up Yuniesky Betancourt's Baseball Reference page. From there, the love is like a chain letter. It simply explodes into sub-categories of love and runs like hot lava down the side of the imploding Mordor. The second recipient of this love is the simple, and widely shared, I think, love I have for Baseball Reference. I love it so much, in fact, that, were I sitting at the cafeteria table in my fourth-grade lunchroom, and a girl heard me say that, and promptly responded, "So, why don't you marry it?", I would tell her that I would if I could.

I love the fact that being a fan of a terrible baseball team will lead one down the most peculiar of paths, just as the Kansas City Royals have done to me in this very moment. I love the fact that, thanks to the Twitters, I had the opportunity to ask Joe Posnanski in person if the off-season acquisition of Jason Kendall was worse than the previous year's signing of Yuniesky Betancourt. Part of me wanted him to confirm that yes, it was, but I was pleasantly delighted that he put me back on track -- at least then -- by saying, "No. Nothing is worse than the Yuni signing."

Given Kendall's play this season, along with the play of both Miguel Olivo and John Buck, I'm again on the fence about who the worse Royal is, but we'll just say, for the sake of having a side, that it's Yuni. Now, if you throw out sides, I've closely watched the play of both this season, and their performances have been nothing shy of terrible.

In sum, Jason Kendall has not hit one home run or one triple, and his veteran leadership regarding leading the pitching staff has been about as visible as the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge. And, he has been, for most of the season, on pace to break the most-games-caught-by-starting-catchers record that dates back to the middle part of last century.

In sum, I have not seen Betancourt field one grounder to his left side all season. Last week against the Yankees, he got to one hit by Derek Jeter. The moment I saw the ball make contact with his glove, I had one of those love-to-hate moments, where I almost leaped out of my seat out of sheer confusion. It was an emotional crossroads wherein in one fleeting flash of a second I wondered if Yuni was suddenly taking a step in the direction of becoming a better fielder, which, in theory, makes my team better. The other side of that flash, however, was something along the lines of Don't start fielding better now; the season's almost over, and that puts us one step closer to the end of your tenure in Kansas City. There is, strangely, a third angle to that play and that is that it's important, for the sake of our opinions, that Betancourt's resume of miserable defensive baseball continue to give us good material or else we second-guess ourselves.

But there, right in the heart of that dilemna, the most perfect thing in the world happened: Yuniesky Betancourt booted the ball, and somebody not named Scott Podsednik had to be there to back it up. Ironically, Ryan Lefebvre noted that, had Betancourt fielded that ball, Jeter would likely have been safe anyway, thanks to his still-existing speed.

As it goes with fans' perspectives of everyday players, the love is a two-tiered platform, and my sick affinity for watching Betancourt field poorly immediately transitioned to my passion for watching his undying trend for less-than-good plate appearances. And this is where the thing gets even murkier. If there's one thing my wife -- who I love dearly -- and I have shared more than any other aspect of Royals baseball this season, it's her love-based hopes and desires to get me to stop talking trash on Yuni when he comes to the plate. She has even gone so far as to call me a hater, which, ironically, occurred when I dissed Yuni coming to bat with the bases loaded and he smacked a grand slam. Even more ironical, that shot put Betancourt just past Jeter for career grand slams, which was also a fact shared by Lefebvre.

I love the fact that I was wrong in that situation because, hey -- grand slams are an awesome rarity, and that one put the Royals ahead. I do not, however, love the fact that the jaded side of me, immediately after my elation dissipated, thought that, because it was a Betancourt bomb, the Royals would likely lose the game. Which they did.

So that got me to thinking: Have all of Betancourt's 2010 homers come in losing efforts? Surely, they have, I thought. And this is why I'm writing this today, and I love to admit, at least in this instance, that I was wrong. Why do I love to admit that? Simple: a) It gave me something to look up, and something to write about, and b) It gave me an excuse to go to Yuni's Baseball Reference page, which I've already noted that I love, but it is on that page that one of my favorite sentences ever typed exists, and that is this: "According to one scout, well respected by the sponsor of this page, Yuniesky Betancourt is a serious dark horse in the American League MVP race."

I remember when my pal Old No. 7 had the idea to sponsor former Royal Kyle Farnsworth's page, which we did. I don't recall the precise details regarding page-sponsorship options, but I know we did it for a year, and that it wasn't that expensive, and that it was, if only to us, absolutely hysterical. That year has since lapsed, and insert token line about the economy/us not renewing. As of today, the page remains unsponsored, which triggers my inner civic duty to take up sponsorship again, but as I mentioned, I do love my wife, and I also like staying out of the proverbial doghouse. Also, sadly, The Professor is no longer a Royal.

My point, though, is that I'm led, based on our own experience, to believe that the anonymous sponsor that coughed up the cash for Yuni's page, typed that quote at some point this season. Which, naturally, I love. Betancourt, because I know you're dying to know, is hitting .266/.288/.411 this year. There are two angles to this and they are these: 1) I would love to slug .411 in the Bigs, but I am not, as they say, big-league material, and as a whole, those are not good numbers, and 2) Those numbers are not representative of a career-high stat that Betancourt has achieved this season, and that is the long ball.

Among the many reasons for having the professed love for Baseball Reference are the many options available to the end user. Today's example (Editor's Note: Do not for one minute think that there will be a new example tomorrow, or...ever.) is the home run log, which I accessed, along with the game log, for the purposes of examining whether or not I was right in supposing that all of Betancourt's homers this year came in losing efforts. We'll get to those results in just a moment, but in the meantime, there are a few YuniJack facts I'd like to point out:

1) Yuniesky Betancourt has gone yard off of a few pretty good pitchers.
2) That list includes, but is not limited to: Joe Blanton, the Weaver brothers, Boof Bonser, Johan Santana, John Danks, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kenny Rogers, Tim Wakefield, Doug Fister (Fister!), Francisco Liriano, and Josh Beckett.
3) Betancourt has, for three consecutive seasons now, hit a homer off of Mark Buehrle.
4) Spanning his career, Yuni has homered 41 times, in 13 different parks, and off of 35 different pitchers.
5) His 10 bombs through 108 games in 2010 are the most he's ever hit in one season.

So finally, we get to his long-ball efforts this year, and now that we know how many he has, we'll examine the final score of the games in which he's put one out of the park:

1) April 5: an 8-4 loss in which he homered off of Justin Verlander
2) April 16: a 10-3 loss in which he homered off of Scott Baker
3) May 14: a 6-1 win in which he homered off of Mark Buehrle
4) May 28: a 12-5 win in which he homered off of Tim Wakefield
5) June 11: a 6-5 win in which he homered off of Bronson Arroyo
6) July 17: a 6-2 loss in which he homered off of Jeff Marquez
7) July 17: a 5-2 win in which he homered off of Trevor Cahill
8) August 4: a 4-3 loss in which he homered off of Craig Breslow
9) August 9: a 6-4 loss in which he homered off of Ervin Santana
10) August 11: a 2-1 loss in which he homered off of Jered Weaver

Do the simple math and you'll see that the Royals are 4-6 in games in which one Yuniesky Betancourt hits a round-tripper. Now, what does it mean? Not a gosh-durned thing. I'm 100 per cent certain that you could compile very similar stats using any other Royal that's hit at least 10 homers this year. And for the record, that list includes Billy Butler, who has 11, and the-now-San Francisco-Giant Jose Guillen, who had 16 at the time of his departure.

It was, nonetheless, a fun thing to look up, and really, now -- who doesn't love fun things?