Lost in the shuffle of the struggles of potential superstar Eric Hosmer as well as the unexpected emergence of offensive skills that Salvador Perez added to his already-stellar defensive game, was an impressive improvement in Alcides Escobar‘s offensive game.
In 2011, Escobar hit: .254/.290/.343/.633. He also had 73 SO, 25 BB, stole 25 bases and was caught 9 times.
In 2012, Escobar hit: .293/.331/.390/.721. This was coupled with 100 SO, 27 BB and 35 stolen bases while being caught only 5 times.
I don’t consider myself a player-analysis guru. Far from it, in fact. I originally thought that Escobar’s improvement must have come from a increased amount of patience at the plate. However, I don’t know that that’s true. Escobar only walked 2 more times in 2012. I generally look and see if there was a significant change on the kinds of counts a player swung on throughout the season.
Alcides’ “first-pitch swinging” percentage went up from 24% in 2011 to 25% in 2012. His “swinging-strike percentage” went up as well from 12% to 14%. I don’t know if these are stats that are big factors or what the league average of such statistics is, but I expected to see significant change in these advanced statistics and others, and I”m not seeing much of a bump.
One reason for the uptick in production probably has something to do with Alcides’ somewhat inflated BABIP of .344. The traditional idea is that a BABIP should average out around .300. Escobar’s BABIP from 2011 was .285, so, if you believe in sabermetrics, it’s reasonable to imagine that Esky’s production should be expected to fall somewhere near the median of the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Even if that’s so, and Escobar hits somewhere in the “.270″ area, his ability to steal bases has shown growth and that makes him even more of a danger. Stealing 10 more bases in 2012 while getting caught 4 FEWER times is nothing to sniff at.
In my opinion, Escobar’s ability to swing the lumber and become an offensive threat is merely gravy upon the meat and potatoes of my estimation of him as a player.
Escobar has great range and is capable of making highlight-reel plays. He is, in my opinion, one of the best defensive shortstops in the A.L., if not baseball. He made a few more errors in 2012 than he did in 2011, but his incredible ability to get to the baseball makes up for that slight bump.
And if he is somehow able to maintain this sudden outburst of offensive prowess?
It’s gravy, Baby. Gravy.