I know a ton of people would just as well say “yes” and let that be that. His stay with the Yankees hasn’t been too impressive, and certainly hasn’t been near expectations. Yes, he’s an upgrade at the plate over Miguel Cairo. Then again, who isn’t? So as we head towards Betemit’s one-year anniversary, I’m sure many Yankees fans are wondering whether he’s worth carrying on the team.
While Damon and Matsui are out, the Yanks probably have to keep him around. He’s the only guy on the bench right now who can give Jason Giambi a day away from first base, and he’s the only conceivable threat off the bench. With Jose Molina getting more playing time, and with light-hitting Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner playing with regularity, the Yanks simply need a guy who can rake on the bench.
Betemit, we know, can rake. He’s got 10 extra base hits in his 100 plate appearances this year, which is about double the rate of Melky. It’s well above Derek Jeter, even the Derek Jeter of the past few years. It’s a better rate than Robinson Cano, Bobby Abreu, and Jorge Posada. Basically, the only players on the team with a better XBH/PA ratio than Betemit are Jason Giambi (barely), and Alex Rodriguez.
There are two glaring problems with Betemit. First is that the dude refuses to take a walk. In those 100 plate appearances this year, he has walked just three times. In 192 plate appearances for the Dodgers last year, he walked 32 times. That’s more freakin’ like it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s what the Yankees signed up for. So instead of getting a guy who walks once every six plate appearances, we’ve got a guy who walks once every 33.33 plate appearances. This is especially frustrating, since he maintained a similar XBH/PA ratio last year in LA before coming east.
This problem is complicated by his strikeouts. We all knew coming into this that Wilson Betemit has a longish swing, and is sent down swinging on a decently frequent occasion. His percentage isn’t much higher than what we expected, a strikeout every four plate appearances, but because he isn’t walking it’s all the worse. It means that he’s simply making more outs, as evidenced by his .280 OBP. It is simply unacceptable.
The second problem with Betemit is his pitiful defense. We’ve seen him have difficulties taking grounders at first freakin’ base this year. He’s got no range at short. We’ve seen him make enough throwing mistakes to make any start at third an uneasy one. Even if he can rake, how can we carry a utility infielder who can’t play D?
Clearly, the Yanks will have a few questions to answer about Betemit heading into the trading deadline. His bat remains intriguing, but unless he can take a few pitches and not swing at everything in the dirt, he’s not going to have much of a role on this team. If Damon and Matsui come back healthy, there doesn’t figure to be many big-time pinch hitting opportunities for the Yankees bench. You’ll have Melky or Gardner, and maybe Molina, but that’s it. Do you need a guy like Betmit to fill that role? Or is the team better served with a more defensive-minded utility infielder?