Monday, August 15, 2011

The Two Escobars

Alcides Escobar is having a weird season. He struggled for two months but then on June 7th he decided to start hitting I guess, or something like that. If you break his season into two parts you notice he has the same amount of plate appearances in both halves but the results couldn't be more different.

3/31-6/6 60 230 7 13 6 .203 .237 .236 .472
6/7-8/14 60 230 18 24 12 .300 .339 .429 .768

So which is the real Escobar? The answer of course is neither, and both. It's not unusual for a bad hitter to have a great 60 game run, or vice versa. In 1978 Freddie Patek hit .248/.312/.318, but included in those numbers was a 60 game stretch where he put up a .294/.364/.358 line. That's just one example, I'm sure there are thousands, in fact I have another one you're probably not going to like.

The one year in which Tony Pena successfully imitated a big leaguer, his season could be broken up into three parts, one of which is not like the others.

4/2-5/14 39 144 .237 .275 .319
5/15-7/29 61 232 .317 .320 .421
7/30-9/30 52 160 .222 .241 .294
So TPJ had a very similar stretch to what Escobar is enjoying now. There are, however, two obvious differences that should set your mind at ease - 1) TPJ was 26 at the time, two years older than Escobar is now and 2) TPJ never set the minor leagues on fire with his bat. Nobody expected him to hit and nobody was surprised when he didn't. So the comparisons stop there as far as I'm concerned, Escobar is better offensively and defensively.

A popular topic when Escobar was struggling was what could his lowest offensive output be to keep him in the lineup. I maintained, and still do, that his on base percentage should be around .300. He hasn't got there yet but I suspect he will by the end of the season, there's no doubt that he looks more comfortable in the batters box than he did earlier in the year. 

I'm weirdly optimistic when it comes to Escobar, I think because he reminds me so much of Patek - speed, defense and #2. If I had to make a prediction on his numbers going forward I'd suggest something in the .275/.315/.385 range, which given his defense, would make him one of the more valuable shortstops in baseball.

Just for the heck of it here are the top stolen base seasons by shortstops in Royals history.

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