“The defensive statistics – I still really don’t understand how some of those statistics are evaluated, I really don’t. When you watch baseball games every single day, its very apparent who can play defensively and who can’t.”
That quote comes from Dayton Moore on a Kansas City radio station yesterday morning. Let’s ignore that Moore probably shouldn’t publicly admit that he doesn’t know about defensive metrics and assume he’s not the only GM with this ‘flaw’. He could easily say defensive statistics are imperfect and should be combined with some good scouting and had his point made just as easily, but he didn’t. Whatever, the larger point is that he’s claiming Yuniesky Betancourt looks like a good defender if you watch him every single game. That’s simply untrue.
For someone to think Betancourt is a good defender that person either has no idea what a good defender looks like, or simply can’t evaluate defensive ability. You know who watched Betancourt seemingly every day since his career began? The Mariners fan base. Thanks to Tom Tango and the Fans Scouting Report, we have their honest evaluations of Betancourt’s defensive ability dating back to his rookie season.
Betancourt was appraised highly in 2005, receiving a 86 overall position-neutral score. The number of ballots shot up by nearly 200 in 2006 and Betancourt retained a fair score of 82. Even more ballots were cast in 2007 and his score again slipped to 69. Then 2008, Betancourt’s position neutral score sat at 39. The obvious retort is that fans aren’t qualified to scout defensive qualities either, but compare the scores to what UZR has said and a trend emerges:
Year – FSR/( UZR/150)
2005 – 89/2.1
2006 – 82/0.7
2007 – 69/-1.4
2008 – 39/-12.7
The fans say Betancourt has lost defensive quality steadily since 2005 and so does UZR. Both agree the biggest jump happened between 2007 and 2008. I suppose you could say the numbers have influenced the fans a bit – we are talking about a pretty intelligent fan base with Seattle – but our version of UZR only became readily available last winter.
The fans and UZR agree that Betancourt has gotten progressively worse and is a below average shortstop, Moore and the Royals scouts don’t. Odds are, Moore and company have the least amount of data to form their opinion on Betancourt. We’ll see if Moore is right after all.