Two on, two out, bottom of the ninth with the Royals down by two. It looked and felt like many other nights this season: the trailing Royals would do enough in the ninth to make it interesting, but ultimately not get the big hit. We have seen all too often.
Then, John Axford threw his fourth straight 97+ mph fastball to Alcides Escobar and Escobar, as he has a tendency to do with fastballs drilled it for a game tying triple. A couple innings later, Mike Moutaskas drew his third walk of the game to ‘drive’ in the winning run. Say what you want about the level of play (at times very good, at times pretty bad), but these two games with Milwaukee have been interesting.
Back to Escobar.
At the end of April, Alcides was hitting .295/.329/.449. I don’t think anyone really expected him to slug at that rate for an entire season and he didn’t. By the end of May, Escobar’s triple slash was .303/.344/.404 and after last night, it stands at .292/.330/.392. Let’s get one thing clear: Alcides Escobar can hit .292/.330/.392 from here until the end of his contract and I will have not one complaint about it.
There is starting to be a growing body of evidence that Escobar might be able to hit at something resembling that clip. Starting at June 1st of last year, Escboar finished out 2011 at a .274/.310/.391 pace. Certainly nothing special there, but a vast improvement over the .216/.252/.253 line he sported on May 31, 2011.
Now, we have bandied about the ‘arbitrary set of dates’ line fairly often around here. If you look hard enough, you can string together a start and end date for just about any player to make them look as good or bad as you want to. Fox Sports KC are experts at that: Yuniesky Betancourt leads all American League right handed second baseman in batting average with a runner on second and the temperature above 81 degrees.
However, I did not arbitrarily pick June 1, 2011 as a nice place to start out. Not to be THAT guy, but I have been told by someone who was there, that in the first week of June last season, Alcides Escobar was given a ‘come-to-Jesus’ talk about needing to change what he was doing at the plate. It’s outstanding to be a great fielding shortstop, but this is not 1965 and no team can carry anyone who hits .200 and slugs .250.
Since that point in time, Escobar started to hold his own at the plate. Carrying that into 2012, Escobar has done more than that with the bat and I think you could call him an average offensive player.
Escobar’s current fWar is 1.1, his wOBA is .326 and his OPS+ is 98. He has ten steals in eleven attempts. Although the defensive metrics don’t like him as much as most of us like him, I have to believe that will even out as the year goes on. It sticks in my head that early on last season, Alcides has some unappealing fielding metrics too, but ended up well into the positives by season’s end. Of course, I’m old and drink a lot, so that might not be true.
For what the Royals are paying him through 2017, if Alcides Escobar is a 2.2 WAR player each year it will be a tremendous contract. Buy your jerseys now, kids, because Alcides Escobar might end up being the best shortstop in Royals history when all is said and done.