Today Mariners manager Eric Wedge made it clear that Brendan Ryan isn’t the team’s starting shortstop anymore, and that the change has some degree of permanence. Brendan Ryan hasn’t hit well, really ever, and that has carried over into this season, and Eric Wedge doesn’t like it, evidently.
Without going too deep into the mechanics of a move like this and the chances of it having a substantial, measurable, positive effect on the team’s production, I’ll say simply that it’s unlikely to.
Ryan is a bad hitter. He’s not a bad hitter because his approach is terrible, he’s not a bad hitter because he doesn’t try hard enough, he’s a bad hitter because he’s just not gifted in that area. Put Brendan Ryan in the mental state of peak clarity, give him the perfectly-sized bat, equip him with the best pitching coach, he probably still sucks at the plate. I don’t want to spend a large amount of time looking at his advanced metrics to find information that everyone already agrees with.
The problem with the move is that the team didn’t replace him with someone better. They replaced him with Robert Andino, who is barely a better hitter and who is substantially worse defensively. They replace.
Replacing Brendan Ryan with Robert Andino is like punching yourself in the dick and balls (or ovaries for the ladies) out of frustration with your own inability to conceive a child: I can empathize with the sentiment, but it’s a near-certainty that it won’t tangibly improve your situation.
This is a poor move strategically, and undermines considerable time and money spent on having Ryan in the lineup in the past. In Andino you’ve replaced an elite defender with an average one, and a guy that has actually been worse at the plate than Ryan over the course of his career (66 wRC+ to Ryan’s 73).
It’s also a move that doesn’t make a ton of sense from a “message-sending” perspective. You’ll hear words like “grit,” and “wanting it more” or whatever the fuck people say when it’s a convenient way to put down a player without researching said player’s overall production. But Brendan Ryan’s future with this team is limited, and the magnitude of this move is likely to be minimal. The team has effectively replaced a glove-only, lame-duck shortstop with a backup utility infielder. They’ve swapped a guy who has more than 8.0 WAR in his last less-than 1,900 plate appearances for a guy that has barely cracked replacement level in more than 1,400 plate appearances.
All of this commotion, of course, is occuring at a position that was 14 percent worse than league average at the plate last year.
For those that like analogies, this is like punishing your place kicker when your team gives up a kickoff return for a touchdown. It’s like demoting your janitor because stock prices dropped. It remedies a problem with an objectively worse solution, and in a spot that is unlikely to have any lasting impact on the long-term or short-term success of the team.
The Mariners have made a scapegoat of a player that was known to be a poor hitter, at a position where most guys who can play the position well defensively are poor hitters, on a team that has three former top prospects with remaining options who are struggling nearly as bad.
Of course, maybe Brendan Ryan is an asshole and a cancer. Maybe he’s the equivalent of asshole cancer as it relates to the anatomy of a team. I don’t know that, I don’t know him at all. That was ostensibly the reason why he was so easily-available from the St. Louis Cardinals, and also a rumor floated about Casper Wells, who has been bouncing around on the waiver wire for the better part of a month.
From the perspective of the fan though, this is just a pseudo-ceremonious demotion of an apparently-undervalued asset.