Wilson Betemit Goes to Detroit

Though they currently lead the wide-open AL Central by just a half game, the Detroit Tigers showed Wednesday that they aren’t willing to stand pat by acquiring Wilson Betemit from the Kansas City Royals. Betemit may not have been the “sexiest” name on the market, but he represents a massive upgrade over Brandon Inge; the Tigers’ current starter at third base. In a division still up for grabs, this move could be the push the Tigers need to stay on top.

Although the move doesn’t seem like a massive upgrade at first glance, Betemit was viewed as a decent target for teams looking for infield help. While he won’t contribute anything defensively, Betemit has always shown the ability to take a walk and hit for power. Betemit is a career-journeyman, however, and has never received more than 412 plate appearances in a single season. Despite decent production in limited at-bats, Betemit has never been able to stick with one team for an extended period of time; making the move somewhat of a risk for the Tigers.

A quick glance at the Tigers’ complete ineptitude at third base this season justifies that risk. Brandon Inge — the Tigers’ primary starter at third base this season — has completely cratered offensively; hitting .177/.242/.242. Among third baseman with at least 200 plate appearances this season, Inge’s on-base percentage rates as the second worst in all of baseball and his slugging percentage puts him dead last. That’s right, Brandon Inge has hit for less power than Chone Figgins this season. While Inge has been a fantastic defender over his career, the Tigers could not afford to deal with his regression at the plate any longer. Inge’s performance this season has led to a -0.9 WAR; easily the worst of his career.

Inge’s complete failure at the plate is what makes this deal a massive upgrade for the Tigers. Betemit’s current slash line of .281/.341/.409 completely obliterates Inge’s offensive performance this season. Even though Betemit has only been worth 0.4 WAR this season, that’s a nice upgrade for the Tigers considering they have been employing a black hole at third all season.

By employing Betemit in a full-time role, the Tigers are going to suffer defensively. Over his career, Betemit has been a truly awful defender at third base while Inge has been a fantastic defender at the hot corner. This might not affect the Tigers all that much, however, as they can still employ Inge as a defensive replacement later in games; effectively hiding Betemit’s major weakness. Betemit also has the ability to play multiple positions, and while he plays none of them particularly well that versatility could come in handy if the Tigers suffer from any injuries during the second half.

Even though it seems like a minor move, the Tigers’ acquisition of Wilson Betemit could pay big dividends going forward. With the move, the Tigers effectively replaced one of the worst players in baseball this season with a player that should give them average numbers going forward. In a division where one win could be the difference between making the playoffs and playing golf in October, the acquisition of Betemit could tip the scales in the Tigers’ direction.

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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

54 Responses to “Wilson Betemit Goes to Detroit”

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  1. TK says:

    I’m guessing Detroit gave up mediocre-at-best talent in return. It’s like smelling a burp instead of a fart.

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    • Jeff says:

      Yeah, it was a couple of fringe prospects in A-ball. And it’s more like smelling a burp instead of a rendering plant located inside a sewer.

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  2. Brian Wilson's Beard says:

    “That’s right, Brandon Inge has hit for less power than Chone Figgins this season.”

    0_0 that’s depressing. What happened to him? He was always good for a low batting average, but compensated for it with good power.

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    • Shaun Catron says:

      Father time.

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      • gnomez says:

        Not necessarily. He’s had mono and came back from it far more quickly than I would have expected. He also had a revamped batting stance from day 1 of spring training and has admitted that at this point he’s trying anything he can to break his slump, which has translated into throwing any consistency out the window and swinging wildly at everything.

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  3. Will says:

    Is this article missing the last two paragraphs? It seemed to end abruptly.

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  4. MikeS says:

    So 1 or 2 innings of Inge’s defense will cover up Betemit’s 7 or 8 innings of weak defense? This insight from a website that consistently tells us that relievers are overvalued because they don’t pitch enough innings?

    I’m not saying this isn’t an upgrade and the pluses will probably outweigh the minuses over 60 games but Betemit will cost them games defensively. Booting a ball, failing to knock one down or throwing one away in the fourth inning may not be as glaring as in the ninth but runs are runs and giving teams extra outs to play with never helps.

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    • jim says:

      with a starting rotation that begins and ends with justin verlander, that’s not really as big an issue as i think you’re making of it

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    • Mike says:

      Betimit will help them offensively and hurt them defensively. Since he’s like to help offensively more than he hurts defensively, it’s an upgrade over what was Detroit’s 3b situation prior to the trade.

      Nobody’s going to ignore what Betimit is or isn’t. The fact he’s a clear upgrade over what they had before the trade says more about how bad Inge and Don Kelly have been than anything else. Your defense point is noted, but not really relevant to the idea that he’s a clear upgrade anyway.

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      • MikeS says:

        We agree. My point is you can’t wave away his defense with:

        “This might not affect the Tigers all that much, however, as they can still employ Inge as a defensive replacement later in games; effectively hiding Betemit’s major weakness.”

        He’s still going to be getting 80 – 90% of the chances at 3B

        Mostly I take issues with the word “effective.” It’s like saying you can ignore the weakness of the back end of the Yankees rotation because they have Mariano Rivera except that I exaggerate to make my point. You have to get through the first 8 innings to make that last inning relevant.

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      • Barkey Walker says:

        I’m with you MikeS.

        The overall thrust of the article is goo, but that quote rubbed me the wrong way for the same reasons and is just bizarre .

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    • Cameron says:

      You do realize Inge was a -.9 WAR, right?

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    • DD says:

      Inge was DFA’d, so he’s not gonna be a defensive replacement anywhere but in AAA.

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  5. mscharer says:

    Inge’s defensive skills have been eroding. It is pretty apparent in anyone who watches him regularly and in his metrics.

    I think Don Kelly might be the defensive caddy instead with Inge getting DFA.

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  6. Cameron says:

    Inge has not been good defensively this year. At all.

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  7. Hank says:

    Betemit – .372 BABIP (35-40pt over his career average)
    Inge – .237 BABIP (45 pt below his career average)

    While I think this is an upgrade, I wonder if/when the BABIP normalize toward career averages if the upgrade will be as substantial as folks think.

    Betemit will give some more pop (at the expense of defense), but over ~60-70 games we’re not talking a significant impact.

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    • Chris says:

      Even though Inge’s BABIP is way below his career average, it isn’t really bad luck, he just can’t swing the bat with any authority whatsoever anymore. Thats shown big time in his power drop too..

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      • Hank says:

        And Betemit’s 372 is real and sustainable as well?

        While certainly BABIP can decline without it all being about luck, it ‘s a pretty severe dropoff and the batted ball profile doesn’t suggest it’s 100% real.

        While you can refer anecdotally about hitting with authority- look at his batted ball profile:

        His line drive rate is actually slightly higher than his career avg, and his GB anf FB rates aren’t all that different (His GB rate is down which should drag down his BABIp a little bit) His infield hit % is down and his IFFB is way up…. hard to say if IFFB rate is something real and suggest skill decline os is some variance over a small sample..

        My point is the ~WAR difference people are thinking is potentially confounded with BABIP variation (which impact offensive #’s), UZR small sample size variation, and thankfully now we can toss in UBR variation and pretend that’s real over a 1 season sample size (or partial season in this case)… that’s a metric which doesn’t even consider how deep a ball is hit when figuring out advance rates. (while that may smooth out over large samples, there’s no way it does over even 1 season).

        I doubt this is even a 1 win upgrade – of course I don’t believe in raw WAR #’s (especially UZR) that apparently are accurate to one decimal place… over a half season (slightly more) you have to lok at the numbers feeding the WAR and ask should they be regressed a bit… in this case I think they should.

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      • wobatus says:

        Hank, Betemit has a career .336 babip in over 1800 plate appearances. So he likely won’t fall off a cliff. He’ll lose a few singles and a double or 2 maybe. But his walk rate is also a tad below his career average and his even better recent performance. Plus his hr/fb rate is around 5% this year compared to a 13% career norm. If we can expect some babip regression, we also have to expect some pick-up in his walk and homer rates. It washes out. Betemit just as a slightly above league average hitter is an upgrade over Inge, even with poor defense. Even if he is only a .5 WAR player rest of way, since Inge seems like a -.5 WAR rest of way. That’s a win.

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      • Chris says:

        I didn’t say Betemit’s is sustainable, at any point, although I don’t think it will drop much.

        Usually I would point to the same things about Inge, except I’ve watched him alot this year, and even those line drives are kind of pathetic.

        It feels weird arguing against those stats, and usually I wouldn’t, but Inge has a special case

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  8. Shaggychild says:

    By massive upgrade what are we talking about? One win, going forward? 2?

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    • maguro says:

      1 or 2 wins is pretty big over the course of 60 games.

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      • Shaggychild says:

        Agreed, I’m just looking for a number.

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      • twinsfan says:

        1.1 wins

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      • Joe says:

        1.1 wins +/- 1.5 wins

        Or did I miss the article which explained how 90 games of UZR and UBR became solid and statistically valid and we can just do simple linear projections?

        Assuming Wilson Betemit hasn’t suddenly developed better batted ball skills than Albert Pujols (Like someone mentioned above, I don’t think his .372 BABIP is sustainable for the rest of the season) , you can’t even linearly project the offensive #’s like people here seem to be doing.

        At some point I wish Fangraphs would publish a range or std error on the 1 season WAR #’s and explain the pitfalls of doing simple linear extrapolations of partial season WAR totals.

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  9. Sultan of Schwwingg says:

    “Betemit may not have been the “sexiest” name on the market, but he represents a massive upgrade…”

    I laughed. I also don’t believe Chris Cwik has any idea how terrible Betemit is at 3B.

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  10. Chair says:

    Oh noooo a trade within a divison, what is the world coming to!?!?!?!

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  11. Stringer Bell says:

    That loud yelp is the sound coming from Rick Porcello when he realized that he’s going to have an infield of Miguel Cabrera/Carlos Guillen/Jhonny Peralta/Wilson Betemit fielding his grounders.

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  13. aj says:

    betemit cant hit lefties at all, if they can find someone to platoon with him it will be a massssive boost since hes like a 850 ops vs righties and 5somthing vs lefties. His offense more then carries the defensive liability vs righties but vs lefties anyone with decent defense needs to be playing over him.

    Inge over his career raked lefties but yeah hes been a mess this year, if he could do his career average vs lefties they would make a really fantastic platoon.

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  14. Templeton1979 says:

    A little off-topic, but:

    It’s amazing how overpayed Adam Dunn is considering all he has to do is hit…and he can’t even do that!!

    Most of the baseball game is spent on the field (by normal position players), as opposed to how much time they spend at the plate during the season (All position players take the field at once for half of the total playing time in a baseball game, the other half of the game they take turns at the plate).

    So of the time spent on the field, roughly 1/9 of that time is spent at the plate (on average. Some obviously more than others, but no player exceeds 1/5 of their time spent on the field).

    That said, it doesn’t really make sense that Dunn or any DH should get that much money ($12 million a year!) in the first place whether he produces or not. He hasn’t put any more fans in the park than
    teammate Alexei Ramirez has this season (much less fans than Alexei considering his numbers at the plate, and Alexei gets less than 1/4 of Dunn’s total paycheck!).

    Maybe Dunn feels useless being a DH as it’s kind of a useless position: most of the game they sit on the bench. But he should at least do SOMETHING to earn that paycheck!! Hopefully other AL teams will learn that lesson next time they consider overpaying a DH. Horrible signing by the White Sox.

    Personally, I’d rather see a pitcher who can hit. There are a good amount of them this season as opposed to seasons in the past, especially lately (Tim Hudson, Zach Duke, Zambrano, Billingsley. Daniel Hudson of the Dbacks is hitting .359 this season!). And if they don’t get a good hit, they’re a quick out. Simple! DH doesn’t make too much more of a difference in games offensively.

    But from an unbiased and practical standpoint:

    Why pay a lot more money for less than half a player who should either just be a pinch hitter or retire?? I can’t think of many quality DHs other than Ortiz and Edgar Martinez in the history of the position. Waste of time and money.

    Also, the DH rule hasn’t created more fans as a whole. The Yankees were already the most popular team before the DH rule was created. Red Sox were already very popular and then gained more popularity by winning two more championships and creating a “rivalry” with the Yankees in the past ten years.

    Phillies and Giants have done the same thing recently, and they did this by winning the World Series with exciting pitchers and position players in their lineup. Championships and franchise players create more fans, not an extra hitter who “needs” a few million more dollars a year (some a lot more than that like Dunn) than a bench player. Why not build a successful franchise while spending less money??

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    • Templeton1979 says:

      Whoops, this part is my opinion and should be before the announcement of the unbiased and practical standpoint:

      Why pay a lot more money for less than half a player who should either just be a pinch hitter or retire?? I can’t think of many quality DHs other than Ortiz and Edgar Martinez in the history of the position. Waste of time and money.

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    • davisnc says:

      That left “a little off-topic” in the dust seven or eight states ago.

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    • jim says:

      that’s a ‘little off-topic’ like yuni betancourt should be playing major league baseball

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  15. Bookbook says:

    Why watch a pitcher try to hit, or worse injure himself running the bases? This is a stale argument.

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  16. Ree says:

    Well, they aren’t going to be using Inge as a defensive replacement as he’s to be DFA’d and sent to Triple-A should he clear waivers.

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  17. Even with Betemit’s weaknesses, it’s a good move for Detroit. Even with his inability to hit left-handed pitching, he still ought to be a total improvement over Inge in all situations. It’s difficult to overstate how bad he has been this year. When as a fan you’re happier to see Don Kelly start over anyone, things are really brutal. That’s the way it has been.

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  18. Juancho says:

    Over the years Betemit has been fine against RHP (wOBA .347 wRC+ 111) and bad against LHP (wOBA .299 wRC+ 79). This year he’s hitting righties about the same (wOBA .347 wRC+ 118) but his performance against lefties is even worse than usual (wOBA .255 wRC+ 54). The Tigers will want to sit him against LHP.

    His defense is as bad as advertised: -4.4 Fld this season and like -12 last season. His total WAR this season is +0.4. If Inge has racked up -0.9 WAR so far, then Wilson ought to be an improvement of about one win for the rest of the year as his replacement.

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  19. wahooo says:

    I’m surprised that KC couldn’t have gotten a little more for Betemit.

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  20. Paul says:

    Would Sizemore have been a better solution? Is David Purcey more valuable than the players they gave up to get Betemit?

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    • ToddM says:

      Purcey sucks, and Sizemore doesn’t suck. That was a dumb move by the Tigers, even if Sizemore spent the rest of the year in AAA. Note that he probably wouldn’t have, as they certainly would have tried him at third if he’d been available.

      Having those single A guys back + Sizemore is definitely better than having Purcey and Benemit, but you can’t turn back the clock, and I still view this move as smart independently.

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      • Ian says:

        That Sizemore-Purcey trade is an embarrassment to the Tigers. If Sizemore was still around in AAA, he could at least be called up here to platoon at 3B with Betemit…instead we have the lefty-hitting Don Kelly, who has difficulty catching up to my fastball, and the cataract-ridden Inge. I’d guess that Worth will be the other half of the platoon – good defender…hopefully he can hit lefties a bit…his limited AB’s indicate that he might be able to.

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  21. Randy says:

    Better they trade Sizemore out west for crap than trade him in the division for Betemit where he can hurt us more, I guess… :/

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  22. Ben says:

    By the numbers, Betemit has been much better this season that the last 2-3 years, at least at third base, where he will been playing in Detroit.

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  23. Matt says:

    I’m sure it’s been mentioned already but my god is the Tigers infield defense going to suck. I mean when Jhonny Peralta is considered the best defender of the bunch you know they’re not very good. Hopefully Leyland uses Santiago and/or Kelly more when a groundball pitcher like Porcello is on the mound. With that said I still think this is probably a net win for the Tigers, even if Betemit only finishes with .260/.330/.400 the rest of the way it would be a huge improvement over the garbage that Inge has been giving them.

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  24. Harmony Hyatte says:

    WOW! I this Launch Pad blows the competition out of the water.

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