For whom the bell horns.

From a Globe article about Monday’s game:

When it was all said and done, ”the play that will get lost,” the skipper pointed out, ”was Mark Bellhorn’s base running.” Bellhorn made an excellent slide in the fifth, scoring the Sox’s ninth run by stepping around a bat and just sweeping his hand across the plate before Martinez could tag him.

Since I’m always having to defend the King of Grimness against those who would shun him, I thought I’d have Chris Snow do a bit of the work for me. Bellhorn’s not a flashy player, but I promise you that he’s better than you think he is. Despite the fact that he either dips his head in a vat of olive oil before every game or showers after every inning (we suspect the former); despite the fact that his shirt is crooked even in his official MLB photo; despite the fact that he leads the AL in strikeouts; he’s a player whose merits are too often unsung. He’s a patient hitter, he works the strike zone, he turns double plays, he knows how to slide and is apparently an excellent base runner when he does get on base — and every so often he hits a three-run homer. Sadly, he’s the type of quiet player that people only seem to notice when he makes an error or fails to drive in a run. I think this is why it’s easy to see Bellhorn as a weak link, when he really isn’t at all.

Let’s take Edgar Renteria, for comparison: also not a stellar hitter, also prone to unfortunate errors, but for some reason not booed with anywhere near the same frequency as Bellhorn (or, at least, he doesn’t seem to immediately elicit the same vitriol that Bellhorn seems to from some people with whom I have spoken). They’ve played in the same number of games (65) — let’s see how they stack up at the plate.

Bellhorn 218 .229 4 21 36 79 .336 .362
Renteria 267 .266 5 26 19 38 .317 .390

Stats grabbed from

Okay, so Bellhorn strikes out a lot — this we know. But Bellhorn has walked twice as often as Renteria, despite having been at the plate on fewer occasions, and he actually has a higher on-base percentage. They’re pretty comparable in terms of home runs and RBIs (which I always want to be RsBI, but I’m a fool like that). It’s just this strikeout thing that seems to mark him (no pun intended) as a poor player.

For the record, I back Bellhorn. Plus, no one’s come up with a good nickname for Renteria, and Bellhorn’s got good nicknames in spades. And he’s a local boy. How often, these days, do you actually get a hometown guy playing for the hometown team? There’s something nice about that.

Okay, I’m done. I’ll shut up now.


3 thoughts on “For whom the bell horns.

  1. thanks so much for your trackback / links and for your kind words re my photos (next post). have to quibble with a few things in this post, however.
    renteria is “not a stellar hitter” for the Red Sox, this year. In general, however, Renteria has historically been among the strongest hitters in the national league and probably will be in the AL once he gets through the adjustment period that inevitably comes with east coast baseball. it’s apples and oranges, imho, to compare a settled-in mark bellhorn who is fairly WYSIWYG as far as a decent sample size of play with a somewhat floundering renteria just a few months into his career in the daunting boston spotlight, against all new pitching staffs surrounded by a different lineup than the one he played with in st. louis.
    like the old saying goes, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. the facts here are unequivocal…except when you look at the context.
    that’s my $0.02.
    P.S. As the profile in the Red Sox Magazine i purchased at June 14th’s game told me, Bellhorn was born in Boston, MA, but actually grew up in Florida and that’s where he calls home.

  2. At the game on Friday, the guy in front of us was there, it seemed, just to see Bellhorn. He hooted and cheered wildly at any mention of him and ignored most of the rest of the game. Bellhorn had a good night, having hit a big home run, and this guy in front said as the game finished that this was the greatest game *of his life*. Crazy, but it looks like Bellhorn has a few advocates out there. Renteria, on the other hand, seems to get less credit than he deserves, I suspect cause he’s a newbie.

  3. Man, I’m hanging out with the wrong people! Actually, there are only a few fools to whom I have to stand up when it comes to Marcus Bellhornicus — the usual A-Side crew has fallen into line after last season, I think. (The story goes something like: Jeff berates Bellhorn all season, begs Tito to bench him; Mike is hesitant to go that far, sticks up for Mark; Bellhorn is awarded a number of points; Bellhorn steps up, surprises everyone; Sox win World Series; &c., &c.)
    Okay, so, Beth, you’ve totally caught me talking out of my ass, which I think is okay, because I gladly defer to those who know more about this sort of thing than I do, and I’m kind of weirdly flattered that you’re commenting, so the dialogue is definitely worth the possibility that my entry is totally wrong. Consider it my first narrative foray into baseball stats, gleefully full of ignorance, written with big smile on face (oh, what a great break from the work day!), smile still present even now, with the embarrassment.
    I’ll admit that I am somewhat bummed to learn that Bellhorn considers Florida to be home. Ah, well. Another display of ignorance, but maybe a less egregious one. (I think the last paragraph of the entry was probably supposed to signify that I was really just looking for an excuse to defend Bellhorn with something resembling reason. I’m frankly not at all surprised that it turns out I built everything on shaky ground.)
    For what it’s worth, Renteria has gotten a lot of props from my game-watching companions, so perhaps I’ve not been noticing a slump. The season seemed to start off rough, but when he turns those amazing plays to first, our jaws all drop. You’d think we could figure out a good gametime nickname for the guy, but we’re at a loss. Jaws too often on the ground I suppose. I guess this just drives home how difficult it is to make any sort of reasoned, rigorous judgments and statements about this stuff — for the fan it’s an emotional thing, and a social thing (hence its rewards), and blah blah blah let’s not get to pseudoacademic here, Amrys, it’s late at night.
    Okay, time for boat updates.
    (In closing, quibble away! I welcome the quibbles.)

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