Wilson Betemit Should Be Starting at 3B

Yes, you heard me correctly. Wilson Betemit, who as recently as the first of this month was hitting a robust .190, should be the starting third baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, right now. That’s right – even though his current .225 represents the highest its been all season, he is currently of more value to the Dodgers than former All-Star and all around folk hero Nomar Garciaparra.

There’s two main reasons for this bold statement:

1) Nomar’s been just plain awful. That’s the easy part.
2) Meat hasn’t actually been as bad as a quick glance as his batting average makes it seem. Batting average is a completely overrated statistic. This is going to be the harder part to sell to the common fan.

So first, let’s start with why Nomar shouldn’t be playing every day. (For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to include Nomar’s entire season stats, despite the fact that he piled up most of it at 1B – he’s in the 3B mix now).

Now, there’s lots of reasons and stats I could toss out here – and I will. There’s the fact that of the 12 NL third basemen with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, Nomar’s dead last in both SLG and OPS, and by wide margins. There’s the fact that he’s on pace for a whopping 4 HR’s this season. There’s the fact that from 2001-2006, he was consistently putting up mid-.800 OPS seasons, and has now dropped to .650. And there’s also the fact that, although he’s been adequate thus far, there was obviously a defensive concern or he wouldn’t have been moved off SS and 3B in the first place. All of those are perfectly valid reasons.

But that’s not my favorite reason to point out how awful Nomar has been this season. This is:

Juan Pierre is outslugging Nomar by 7 points.

Let me repeat that for you.

Juan Pierre, perhaps the least powerful hitter in baseball even at his peak. Juan Pierre, who is actually having a weaker season than usual – however that’s even possible – by slugging 27 points less than his career average. Juan Pierre, who has only 17 extra base hits, many of which are just singles that he runs out, and has 0 homers.

Juan Pierre is outslugging Nomar Garciaparra.

I would repeat that once more, but my brain is eating through my scalp trying to get out.

So obviously, Nomar’s not getting it done. But just as obviously, we’d need a replacement. And I say, Wilson Betemit. You might reply, “but he’s only hitting .225.” To which I would say, “batting average is monumentally overrated – but sad, isn’t it, that a guy hitting .225 is clearly a better option?” And then you might say, “but he’s only hitting .225! You can’t replace All Star Nomar Garciaparra with him!” And then I’d grab a bat and it all sort of went black from there. But when I woke up, I’d present you with the following stats:

(Remember, friends, Nomar has 178 more at-bats this season than Meat)

OBP
Nomar: .318
Betemit: .341 (6 more walks in 178 fewer at-bats)

SLG
Nomar: .332 (did I mention Juan Pierre’s slugging .339? Did I?)
Betemit: .474 (behind only Martin in Dodgers with over 100 at-bats)

OPS
Nomar: .650
Betemit: .815 (this is what they call in the business, a BIG F&*$^ING DIFFERENCE)

OPS+ (compares OPS to rest of league, 100 being average)
Nomar: 75 (massively BELOW average)
Betemit 107 (slightly ABOVE average)

VORP
Nomar: -5.0
Betemit: 4.5 (it’s almost like one is helping the team.. and one is not)

HR
Nomar: 2
Betemit: 10 (hey, it’s not like this team is in search of power, is it? Hmmmm.)

Even on defense, the underrated Betemit wins out:

Career 3B fielding %
Nomar: .939
Betemit: .955

And off the field?

Age
Nomar: 34 on July 23
Betemit: 26 on July 28 (it’s almost like one is on the downside.. and one has time to improve.. Hmmmm..)

Bouncing twin babies
Nomar: 2
Betemit: 0

Look, I don’t think Betemit is the next big thing. It’s not a great situation when he’s the upside here. If a trade can be made to upgrade the position, I’m all for it. But if we’re just staffing using internal personnel, it’s time to give Meat a shot. Nomar’s already been shifted off 1B because he stinks; now it’s time to shift him to the bench. Because lest we forget.. Juan Pierre is outslugging him.

Ow. My brain.

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