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Mookie Betts not impressed with play at shortstop: ‘It’s been not very good’

Mookie Betts Dodgers
Dodgers shortstop Mookie Betts hasn’t been impressed with his play in the field to begin the 2024 season. (Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports)

Mookie Betts not impressed with play at shortstop: ‘It’s been not very good’

As a rookie with the Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts transitioned from second base to the outfield. While it’s an unusual shift for any fielder to make, Betts eventually became one of the best defensive right fielders of this generation, winning six gold gloves with 126 defensive runs saved and 55 outs above average in RF from 2016-22.

Though he transitioned back into the infield this season, but this time to shortstop, the most demanding of infield positions, amid Gavin Lux‘s previous struggles at the position.

Though Betts, a phenomenal athlete, hasn’t quite been impressed with his play at short thus far.

“I think it’s been not very good,” he said, according to Bill Plunket of the Orange County Register. “It’s a work in progress. It’s my first time doing it in a long time. You have to start somewhere and at least with me feeling like I’m on the lower end, there’s nowhere to go but up from here.

“Sometimes it’s good to get hit in the mouth a lot. But it is what it is. Take it on the chin and keep it moving.”

Betts, who’s having an MVP-like season, is tied with Cleveland’s Brayan Rocchio and New York’s Anthony Volpe for the third-most defensive runs saved in baseball at shortstop. Though he’s tied for the fewest outs above average (minus-4) with the third-lowest ultimate zone rating–a stat used for calculating runs saved factoring in errors, range, double play ability and outfield arm.

Shortstop is a demanding position that’s difficult to master without much experience. Betts has shown he can be one of the most versatile players on a roster. He’s slashed .337/.435/.553 (.988 OPS; 180 OPS+) with eight home runs, 29 RBIs, 11 doubles and three triples–so his transition clearly hasn’t affected him at the plate.

The Dodgers don’t have a better shortstop on their roster, either. Even though the eye test doesn’t necessarily align with a few of the deeper fielding sabermetrics, nobody’s going to work harder than Betts to iron out any shortcomings–just like he did with Boston as a rookie in 2014.

“He expects a lot of himself,” Roberts said. “I don’t expect the workload before games to continue through the season. He’s trying to continue to build a foundation. But yeah, I think if anyone can handle it, he can. But he expects a lot of himself, whether he’s playing second base or right field or performing at the plate, he expects a lot of himself.

“I think offensively he’s been very good and defensively he continues to get repetitions. And he has superseded everything I expected from him at this point at shortstop.”

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