Other factors 1, numbers behind numbers 0

Brian Bannister was knocked out of his start Friday night after allowing five runs to the Oakland Athletics in the fourth inning. What happened? Well, it certainly didn’t help that Bannister threw only 20 of 36 pitches in that inning for strikes. He walked Tommy Everidge and Adam Kennedy, both of whom came around to score. But aside from that, did Bannister’s “numbers behind numbers” fail him?

He allowed seven balls in play in the inning: five ground balls, one line drive, and one fly ball. So in that sense, he got what he wanted–70 percent ground balls. That’s good, right? Did they hit the ball too hard on the ground? Did he just get unlucky? Or was he trumped by, as Dayton Moore puts it, the “other factors” of the defense behind him? Let’s take a look.

Batted ball #1: a sharp ground ball single scoots between second baseman Alberto Callaspo and first baseman Billy Butler into right field. This one was hit pretty solidly.

Batted ball #2: a bouncing ground ball fielded by first baseman Billy Butler at the edge of the grass, toss to Bannister coming over for the out. Well-executed defense, but a typical ground ball out on the infield.

Batted ball #3: a line drive out straight to center fielder Josh Anderson. The ball was hit right on the nose but Bannister got a little lucky with this one.

Batted ball #4: a three-hop ground ball single past the shortstop side of second base and into center field. Why was Betancourt positioned so far into the hole that he couldn’t even come close to this one?


Batted ball #5: a fly ball double off the wall in right field. This was a change-up down but right over the middle of the plate, and Cliff Pennington hit it hard and deep. Blame Bannister for this one.

Batted ball #6: a two-hop ground ball single cut off by second baseman Alberto Callaspo on the shortstop side of second base. Callaspo’s throw was unable to beat a speedy Rajai Davis at first. Once again, Betancourt is playing deep in the hole and can’t seem to range over to get this one, although it looked like he could have made the play on the ball and the throw to first on Davis if he’d called Callaspo off. On both this ball and the Ellis single it looked like Callaspo was running about twice as fast to the ball as Betancourt.


Batted ball #7: a two-hop ground ball single past shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt in the hole between short and third and into left field.


Betancourt can’t field balls hit up the middle on the shortstop side of second base, even if the second baseman can reach them. He can’t field balls hit into the hole. I must be missing some of those “other factors” like defensive positioning and what not, although I’m not sure what positioning gives you problems with balls up the middle and in the hole.

I don’t watch as many games as Dayton Moore’s scouts or Willie Bloomquist’s memory, though, so you should draw your own conclusions.

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  1. Mike Rogers said...

    I was ready to say that Betancourt was in the hole because Ellis is a RHB, but then I kept reading. He’s so awful at SS. How Dayton Moore or anyone can’t see that is baffling to me.

  2. Ian said...

    I’m not disagreeing with anything you wrote – it seems that he’s not playing hard out there and, shockingly, the Royals D set up is poor – but at the same time you’re using one inning of one game to show your point but attack the Royals for using a larger sample size to come to thier (opposite) view.

  3. Troy Patterson said...


    There is no “larger sample size” that agrees with Dayton Moore.  Only using fielding percentage as a measure of defense could have been a defense of getting Betancourt and we all know FD% is a flawed stat.

    As a SS Betancourt has cost his teams 6.5 runs every 150 defensive games according to UZR/150, but in 2008 and 2009 his UZR/150 has gone to -12.7 and -18.8.

    Not only is he bad, but getting worse.  According to Fangraphs his value stands at ($-6.8) for 2009 so far.  That is third worst in the league behind only Jose Guillen and Brian Giles.

  4. John said...

    Why hasn’t Dayton gotten ahold of Giles’ agent yet?  He seems like a perfect fit.  sub-200 avg, poor defender, and on the DL!

  5. Mike Fast said...


    Here’s the comment I made in a thread about this post at the Book blog:


    I don’t think any of the three ground balls in the shortstop area were simple plays.  But it was frustrating as both a Royals fan and a Bannister fan to see all three go for hits in an inning where Bannister was already struggling with his control and needing all the help he could get from his defense.

    My impression is that an average defensive shortstop could have turned two of the three balls into outs.  That would have saved a couple runs and probably kept Bannister in the game.

    I didn’t intend this as analytical piece.  It was more of a commentary on three separate issues that had been percolating in my brain and were brought together by watching the game last night.

    1) Bannister has transformed into a groundball pitcher.  This seems like a good thing; however it means he is more dependent on his infield defense.  It’s unfortunate his GM just acquired a poor defender at SS.

    2) I was curious about Dayton Moore’s comments about defense, as represented by the widely-noted quote, “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.”

    Last night I finally got to listen to the whole Moore interview.  I think he’s gotten short shrift in the perception of his one comment taken out its context in the whole interview.  The interviewer basically asked him (paraphrased), “Sabermetricians are saying that you made a bad trade because you got a shorstop that is bad defensively and has a bad on base percentage.  Is that true?” And Moore’s response (again paraphrased), “Statistics are just one thing we consider.  Defensive stats don’t capture everything.  There are other factors like defensive positioning.  I trust what my scouts had to say about Betancourt having good defensive skills.  OBP is just one facet offense, Betancourt has had above average power for a SS in the past.” I’m not sure I agree with all that on balance, but it doesn’t make him out to be as stupid as the previous widely-quoted excerpt does.

    3) I have been curious about measuring Yuniesky Betancourt’s defense.  I know that what I saw last night was a very small sample size—only three ground balls.  So I don’t feel that I really know much more about his defense than I did before.  But in that small sample size, my “scouting” impressions of Betancourt were very poor.  Either he just has very limited range, or he’s not trying very hard.  Callaspo was certainly moving around the infield much, much faster than Betancourt.  On the first ball hit by Ellis, I didn’t necessarily expect Betancourt to get to it, but I was disappointed that he didn’t even get within 15 feet of it.

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