Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's Prime Time for Betemit

We used to be really high on Wilson Betemit.  He was sort of a cult favorite of ours because he had little fan fare, but we liked the way he looked.  He looked a bit overweight in his early 20's, and he was a switch-hitter evoking memories of the great Terry Pendleton.

Wilson Betemit is only 28 years old, yet he's been in professional baseball for more than half of his life.

That was really unbelievable.  I had to double and triple check that, but it's true.  Betemit was was signed by the Atlanta Braves, in the Dominican Republic, when he was only 14 years old.

Five years later, as a 19-year old, he made his Major League debut in 8 games for the Braves.  During his cup of coffee, he went 0 for 3, with 2 walks, a stolen base, and a run scored.  Betemit had to wait another three years to wear a Major League uniform.  This time, he played 22 games and hit a disappointing .170/.231/.170 (Just 8 hits in 47 AB's, all singles).

He finally saw extended action and produced very good results as a 23-year-old in 2005.  He played 115 games, received 274 plate appearances, and hit .305/.359/.435.  It was around this time that he opened our eyes, and we thought he could be good.  He seemed to hit the ball with authority.

The Braves deemed Wilson Betemit expendable immediately before the 2006 trade deadline, as they sent him to the Dodgers for Willy Aybar, Danys Baez, and cash.  Betemit hit much better for the Braves than the Dodgers that season (113 OPS+ in Atl; 87 OPS+ in LA).

At the '07 trade deadline, the Dodgers flipped him to the Yankees, who gave him a year and a half in pinstripes before packaging him in a deal for the White Sox's Nick Swisher.

He played at under replacement lever for the Yankees, but they got the best return on him by trading for Swisher.  The Braves, Dodgers, and White Sox do not have anything that good to show for ever employing Betemit.

For the White Sox, he played in only 20 games before being granted free agency soon after the season ended on October 5th, 2009.

He was a free agent for just over a month before he decided to sign with the Kansas City Royals.

As fascinating as that decision may be, if you're choosing between the Royals and any other team, you're probably choosing the Royals for the opportunity at playing time, steak & bar-b-que, or there really wasn't another team to choose.

The reason we're talking about Wilson Betemit today is because I happened to notice that he's starting for the Royals today and batting .336.  I was about to tweet "It's 2010, Wilson Betemit is on the last place Royals, he's hitting .336 and OBP'ing .410 #Wha?", when I decided this should be a quick post on the ol' blog.

Even though he has mostly disappointed, we still like Betemit.  We're glad he's doing well, especially with a nonthreatening team like the Royals.  We even like the Royals a bit because of everything we read from Joe Posnanski (recommended!), Rany Jazayerly, Rob Neyer and others who we read, but not as often like Bob Dutton, Jason Whitlock, and Dick Kaegel.

His 2010 stats are outstanding.  This is the perfect opportunity for fans to study regression towards the mean.  In over 1,400 plate appearances, Wilson Betemit's career slash line is .265/.332/.441.  Given the opportunity to keep playing, his final stat line will inch closer to those numbers as the season goes on.  If Steve Stone taught me one thing it's that players' batting averages usually end very close to their career averages every year.  I don't think that he'll get enough AB's the rest of the way to end at .265, but a final season average under .300 is certainly possible.  Getting to .299 from .336 (or, losing more than 36 points in batting average) with 49 games left would leave some really ugly baseball forthcoming for Betemit.

That being said, the 14-year old who inspired the Braves organization to invest in him is in his prime season of 28-years old.  As Melvin Udall famously said to the other patients in his psychiatrist's waiting room, "What if this is as good as it gets?"  For our good friend, Wilson Betemit, this afternoon's stat line could possibly be his zenith.

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