Sometimes, good defense can be the difference between a win and a loss. We saw it for much of last season, and we’ve seen it a few times already this season. It’s not always the obvious mishaps that can cost a team a game — sometimes it’s as simple as a slow roller finding a hole up the middle, allowing a runner to go first to third and extending a rally, or a couple balls dropping just in front of an outfielder that took a poor route.
And just like bad defense can cost a team games, good defense can secure a close win. We saw that on Monday night.
You’ll see the video of the Yuniesky Betancourt–Rickie Weeks double play for awhile, and for as miraculous as it was, it’s hard to understate just how important that was to the Brewers ultimately coming out on top. The first two runners of the 8th inning had reached for San Diego, and if that ball scoots past Yuni up the middle, not only does Chris Denorfia score, but Will Venable also likely goes first-to-third, and the Padres again have guys on the corners with nobody out.
Following the Venable single, FanGraphs had the Brewers’ odds of winning at 64.4%, down from 85.7% to start the inning. Following the double play, their win expectancy jumped over 19%. That’s what you call a huge, momentum-changing play.
I’ve been as hard on Yuni as anybody, but it’s only fair to give him credit for a great play. We’ve all harped on his defense, but over the years, turning double plays has been one area of defense where he’s been consistently above average — he’s 3.3 runs above average in Double Play Runs over the course of his career, but that’s a number skewed by the terrible year he had last year, when he was -3.5 in DPR. So far this year, he’s been 0.8 runs above average.
Yuni has (and likely always will) struggle with range. He’s 3 runs below average in that area already this year, and it will always drag his UZR numbers down. But credit him for finding ways to turn double plays, and credit Ron Roenicke for putting on the shifts that do a good job of hiding the lack of range across the infield. Tonight, it paid off in a big way.