Vina vs. Belliard

on 10/26/2001

The much unappreciated Ron Belliard

Can anyone tell me why Brewer fans pine away for the "good 'ol days" of Fernando Vina at second base? I was reading John Rivett's piece and was surprised to see the "Vina was great" myth posted at Brewerfan.com. The sad thing is that there are many Brewer fans who think Vina was better than he ever really was. These same Brewer fans don't realize how good the current second baseman is. In Ron Belliard, we have a second baseman who is better both offensively and defensively, younger, cheaper and has the potential to be one of the top second baggers in the game. I've heard folks cry "Dealing away Vina left the Brewers without a top flight leadoff man". What quantifies a quality leadoff man? In my opinion, a leadoff man's number one job is to get on base at a frequent pace. Vina's career on base percentage is .356. That's a solid figure, but not exactly awe inspiring or in the league of what the best leadoff men are capable of doing. In fact, the Brewers current second baseman actually has a higher career on base percentage (.357) than Vina. Ok, what about the fact that Vina has "wheels" or the ability to steal a base. Speed is great, a stolen base can move a runner into scoring position and a speed threat also helps to distract the pitcher at times and also forces the first baseman to play close to the bag. However, Vina's stolen bases have a downside. He is caught stealing frequently. For example, this year Vina stole 35 bases, but was thrown out 17 times! Think of all the rallies that possibly were squelched due to an out being made on the basepaths. Making an out on the bases hurts a team a lot more than actually stealing a base benefits the team. Belliard doesn't steal much, he only had five steals this past season. However, he also was only caught stealing twice. I'd rather keep my leadoff hitter on the bases and give the bats behind him a chance to knock him in. Heaven knows the Brewers have a hard enough time getting men on base without giving away outs on the bases. As for Vina being a player "who can take pitches to draw walks", that's not really accurate, either. This past season, Vina managed to only draw 32 walks in 631 at bats and has never walked more than 54 times in a season, which he did in 1998. His next highest total of walks in a season was 38. Ron Belliard is MUCH better at drawing walks. In fact, this year he had 35 walks in only 364 at bats. Ronnie has averaged 60 walks a season in his career, and that total is misleadingly low, since he is averaging only about 128 games a season so far. In a full season, it's safe to say Ronnie could be expected to walk at least 80 times, as he did in 2000 when he walked 82 times. I just don't see why we miss Vina so much, when Ron Belliard is capable of doing everything that Vina can do that benefits a team and does it at a lower price. I'm not even addressing the advantage Ronnie has on Vina when it comes to slugging percentage, but that is something else that solidly weighs in the favor of the current Brewers second sacker.

In conclusion, the only possible reason I can think of for people being so down on Belliard while lamenting over Vina's departure is just a case of perception. I think that people remember Vina fondly because Milwaukee was the place where Vina finally had some career success in 1998 after doing little in his career since his major league debut in 1993 with the Mets. Vina is seen as scrappy and a player who made the most out of the limited amount of talent he possesses. On the other hand, Belliard is seen as the cocky upstart who forced the Brewers to trade Vina. Most feel that Belliard is a bit of a hot dog, lackadaisical, and that he just tries to get by on his talent without working hard. Personally, I wish people would just open their minds, analyze the stats, and see the talent that is possessed by Belliard. People in Milwaukee seem too concerned in my opinion about fielding a team of nice guys, when I think we need to just focus on talent, and worry about team chemistry later. After all, winning creates the greatest team chemistry of all.