Royals add to collection of terrible shortstops by acquiring Betancourt

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Two and a half years later, the Royals finally got their man. It’s
believed that they offered Billy Butler to the Mariners for Yuniesky
Betancourt after a 2006 season in which Betancourt, then 25, hit
.289/.310/.403 in his first full year as a big leaguer. The Mariners
saw Betancourt as a future Gold Glover who would likely improve
offensively with more experience and turned them down.

Betancourt, of course, never improved. He hit at roughly the same
level in 2007 and 2008, but his defense declined enormously as he added
weight and lost range. Things got even worse this year, as he
completely stopped hitting after the first month of the season, coming
in at .214/.277/.274 in May and .234/.258/.297 in 64 at-bats before
landing on the DL in June. According to Ultimate Zone Rating, he was
also baseball’s worst regular shortstop
defensively. And this is no longer a case where the numbers and the
scouts disagree: no one would argue that Betancourt has looked anything
other than atrocious on defense this year.

Betancourt was known to be on the block, and it came as no surprise
to see him land with the Royals. What is shocking is that Kansas City
gave up Daniel Cortes to make it happen. Cortes, a 6-foot-6
right-hander, appeared to be shaping up as one of the game’s top 25
pitching prospects in 2007 and early 2008. His stock dropped as his
command regressed, but he was still arguably the most interesting arm
in the Royals’ farm system. He was 6-6 with a 3.92 ERA, 77 H and 57/50
K/BB in 80 1/3 IP for Double-A Northwest Arkansas this season. It may
be that he’ll end up in the pen, but he could be a force in the late

Also traded was 21-year-old lefty Derrick Saito. A pure reliever, he
had a 4.15 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB in 52 innings for low Single-A
Burlington. The possibility exists that he’ll make it to the majors as
a specialist, though his size — he’s just 5-foot-9 — could work
against him.

Philosophically, the Royals may have their hearts in the right place
here. With their 2009 season having fallen apart, looking for
high-upside talents to gamble on is a good idea and shortstop is the
biggest hole in the organization. Betancourt, though, seems like a long
shot to ever again resemble an above average regular. He’d have to show
a much greater commitment than he has so far. It’s a must that he get
into better shape, and he also needs to find someone to help him with
his footwork at shortstop. He’s probably never going to change as a
hitter, but if he were a quality defensive shortstop, it’d be easy to
live with him at the bottom of the lineup. As is, he’s on a path that
will see him out of the majors once his current four-year, $13.75
million deal expires after 2011.

Jacob deGrom outduels Clayton Kershaw, Mets take 1-0 NLDS lead

Jacob de Grom
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Jacob deGrom put together one of the best post-season starts in Mets history, outdueling three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to pitch his team into a 1-0 NLDS lead. The right-hander fanned 13 over seven shutout innings, holding the Dodgers to five hits and a walk as the Mets won 3-1.

deGrom’s game score of 79 is the fifth-best by a Mets starter in the playoffs, behind Jon Matlack, Mike Hampton, Bobby Jones, and Tom Seaver, according to Baseball Reference. As Katie Sharp notes on Twitter, deGrom is one of three pitchers to hold the opposition scoreless on 13 or more strikeouts and one or fewer walks. The other two are Tim Lincecum and Mike Scott.

In the eighth inning, reliever Tyler Clippard allowed a one-out double to Howie Kendrick followed by an RBI single to Adrian Gonzalez as the Dodgers finally got on the board. Closer Jeurys Familia entered and recorded the final out of the eighth inning by inducing a weak line out from Justin Turner. In the ninth, Familia worked a 1-2-3 frame to wrap up the game.

Kershaw remains winless in the post-season since Game 1 of the 2013 NLDS, a span of seven starts. He gave up a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning, then walked the bases loaded in the seventh inning before departing with two outs. Reliever Pedro Baez entered and allowed two of his inherited runners to score when David Wright lined a single to center field. On the evening, Kershaw was on the hook for three runs on four hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts. Though he lost his command a bit towards the end of his start, the lefty pitched quite well and will be on the receiving end of some unnecessary criticism as a result of taking another post-season loss.

deGrom and Kershaw both struck out 11 batters, the first time that has happened in a major league post-season game.

Michael Cuddyer didn’t look too good out in left field for the Mets.

Game 2 of the NLDS will continue on Saturday at 9:00 PM EDT. Noah Syndergaard will start for the Mets opposite Zack Greinke of the Dodgers.

Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom create MLB first with 11 strikeouts each in the playoffs

Jacob deGrom
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

For the first time in major league history, both pitchers in a playoff game have struck out at least 11 batters, per’s Paul Casella. Mets starter Jacob deGrom has pitched just a hair better than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw overall. deGrom has blanked the Dodgers over six frames on five hits and a walk. Kershaw made one mistake, resulting in a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning. He’s allowed four hits and four walks total in 6 2/3 innings.

The last time opposing starters each struck out 10 in a post-season game was back in 1944 in Game 5 of the World Series when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.

Michael Cuddyer not shining in left field early in NLDS Game 1

Michael Cuddyer
AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek

Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.

Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.

With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.

Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.