04 December 2012

2012 Orioles Retrospective: Wilson Betemit

When the Orioles signed Wilson Betemit to a two-year contract, it was initially a little confusing. Multiple years for a part-time player? But the price was low enough ($3.25 M total), and Betemit's adequate production in 2012 has things looking alright even if the O's decide to cut ties with him.

Though he missed a fair bit of time later in the season, Betemit started often in the first four months and still amassed his most plate appearances since 2006 (376). At the plate, he largely repeated his 2011 season, minus over 50 points of BABIP - it fell all the way to .336 (still well above average and around his .341 career mark). Betemit was able to walk (even if his 8.2% rate of drawing free passes was down a bit) and hit for some power though, which kept his batting line of .261/.322/.422 just barely above average (101 wRC+) despite him striking out in over 27% of his plate appearances.

It's been said before, but it might be a good idea for Betemit to give up on the switch-hitting entirely - and 2012 was a new low for the guy as a right-handed swinger. As a lefty, Betemit's .302/.357/.502 is more than worthy of a starting job even if his third-base defense leaves a little to be desired*. As a righty, it was a disaster; .140/.219/.186 and a wRC+ of 10. 10! Almost 30% of the pitchers who had at least 50 PA on the season finished with a wRC+ above 10. Though he might not have always been able to maximize it, Buck did get Betemit in there against righties a touch more often than had been the case for Wilson in recent years.

* Betemit was pressed into service at the position when it became clear that Mark Reynolds was not going to be able to handle it, and was more or less his usual self over there with a -5.5 UZR (-12 UZR per 150 games, compared to -14 per 150 career).

Overall, Betemit's 0.7 fWAR (0.6 rWAR) made him a fine contributor to the team and worth his $1 M (and then some). Having him as a "left-handed" bat of the bench who can fill in various positions (he also played some first and left-field) when needed for 2013 isn't bad, but counting on him to be play almost every day (when healthy) might not be for the best (especially given that 324 more PA would cause his 2013 option for $3.2 M to vest).

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