Sep 27, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (2) throws to first for an out against the Chicago White Sox during the third inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Alcides Escobar Does Not Fit With the Kansas City Royals


 

Aug 30, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (2) throws out the baserunner in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays beat the Royals 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, barring injury or a dramatic change of plans, the Royals are expected to open the season with five outfielders, a backup catcher and Danny Valencia as the backup corner infielder. Unless the Royals surprisingly go with a six man bullpen or only four outfielders, they are unlikely to have a backup middle infielder.

Yet, that backup middle infielder could be important for the Royals. Already, both Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar have battled shoulder inflammation, with Escobar receiving a cortisone shot for the injury earlier today. Just in terms of a possible injury during a game, having someone who could theoretically man shortstop would be important.

The need for a backup middle infielder may go beyond that. While Escobar is an excellent defensive shortstop, he has been a complete nonentity with the bat. Aside from his 2012 season, when Escobar produced a .293/.331/.390 batting line with 35 stolen bases, he has yet to prove that he can contribute offensively in a manner other than stealing a base. In fact, Escobar is coming dangerously close to turning into yet another Rey Ordonez, a player who remained in the majors strictly due to his ability to field ground balls.

As excellent as Alcides Escobar is defensively, is his glove valuable enough to keep him in the lineup? Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen are all extreme fly ball pitchers, putting more of an emphasis on outfield defense than defense in the infield. While Escobar can make plays that few, if any, other shortstops can make, is that ability truly worth enough to the Royals if he does not hit?

For now, the Royals seem to feel as though that is the case. Despite Escobar’s woeful .234/.259/.300 batting line last season, his job appears to be safe. However, Pedro Ciriaco, a utility player who happens to be out of options, is doing his best to force his way onto the roster, producing a .435/.435/.696 batting line with four extra base hits. Should Escobar still not be entirely right by the time that the regular season comes around, Ciriaco may find himself with a role. And if Escobar continues to struggle at the plate, then Ciriaco may be in line for a lot more playing time.

There is no question that Alcides Escobar is an excellent defensive shortstop, one of the best in baseball. Yet, that defensive capability may be wasted on a team that does not generate a lot of ground balls. Unless Escobar can produce at a tolerable rate, batting .250 at a minimum, it may be in the Royals interest to seek other options.

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Tags: Alcides Escobar Kansas City Royals

  • Matthew.martin

    Esky prevents an average of an additional 3 or 4 singles or doubles per game potentially from getting to balls that we have no one else who can get to, and many of those come with runners in scoring position in 1 run ball games. If you take him out, you need to replace him with a guy who can go 5 for 5 practically every game to make up for the hits given up by his so-called replacement. C’mon man, Esky can hit .150 and it wouldn’t make sense to replace his defense. No replacement at short that we have could ever hit well enough to replace the runs they’d score on us without him. I don’t think you really thought this one through very well. Ciriaco is no Escobar.

    • Matthew.martin

      Just to clarify, it might be different if what you were talking about doing was replacing him with another premiere defensive shortstop who hits 290 or 300 by means of acquiring them from another team, but that’s not what you’re talking about. You’re talking about replacing him with Ciriaco, and average at best defender, who just may hit the same or possibly worse than Escobar has shown in the past that he is capable of hitting. Just let him play every day, and that’s how you get the best average out of him. Ciriaco could wind up hitting 225. just as easily.

    • Dave Hill

      The basic point is that Escobar, while a stellar defensive shortstop, plays for a team that has a flyball oriented pitching staff. His defensive acumen is sort of wasted there, since he does not get a level of groundballs that, to me, would make up for his offensive shortcomings.

      Ciriaco was mentioned mainly because he is performing well right now. If that continues and he does force his way onto the roster, then he could get playing time if Escobar continues to play like Rey Ordonez. Either way, I think that Christian Colon could end up there by the end of the season, since he is another contact hitter who feeds into the Royals philosophy for 2014 of putting the ball into play.

      Ciriaco was also serviceable during his one extended trial at the major league level, producing a .293/.315/.390 batting line in 2012. I don’t think he could hit like that over a full season, but a .260/.300/.350 line could be reasonable. Escobar only had the 2012 season as a better batting line than that.

      That is, at least, how I see it. While I value Escobar’s glove and absolutely enjoy watching him in the field, he just seems wasted on the Royals.

      • Matthew.Martin

        I just don’t get your meaning then I guess Dave. How is his defense wasted by saving runs and turning what would otherwise be singles, doubles or triples, into outs? That’s wasteful? I think you’re over-dramatizing Escobar’s lack of production at the plate. He could easily rake 275 to 290 again this year. Many good teams are in the same position, where they have one position on the field (at least) where a position player is an every day starter simply because they play stellar defense and don’t hit for beans. Freddy Patek was a career 242 hitter, and it’s arguable, buy I do believe Escobar gets to a lot of balls that Freddy couldn’t have. Don’t forget that Escobar is still a very young guy. To pull the plug on him now in favor of just the possibility of a replacement hitting for a few better points in AVG. could be ruining what could become a hall of fame career. Escobar could wind up with 7 or 8 gold gloves and a lifetime batting average in the .285 range. Replacing him now for a guy who will just be gone next year anyway, in my view would just cause irreparable damage to what is just on the verge of becoming a perennial all-stars emerging career. You have to be patient and believe in your players and coach them to be the best that they can be. But I will give you this – Escobar should have been down there working with Pedro like Moustakis on his hitting during winter ball. He still has some work ethic growing to do, and when that happens, I think you’ll see the true emergence of Alcides Escobar in all facets of the game.

        • Dave Hill

          If the Royals had a more groundball oriented pitching staff, then Escobar would be infinitely more valuable. I would be more willing to overlook his lack of offensive production in that case. In fact, if Escobar was a center fielder and provided the same level of defense and offense, I would be willing to accept that due to the nature of the Royals starting rotation.

          With the Royals pitching staff being what it is, I think they would be better served by having a better hitting option at short.

          That being said, if the Royals offense continues to produce like it has thus far in Spring Training, then it wouldn’t matter if Escobar hit .120 – that lineup would cover for him.

          • Matthew.Martin

            We won’t know whether the staff we field is going to be primarily, ground ball, fly ball, line drive outs, or whatever until after the season is over. The difference between a pop up and a grounder is about a half an inch from top to bottom where the bat meets the ball, and the hitters have as much control over which occurs than the pitcher does. To say we have a predominately fly-ball or ground ball pitching staff is like thinking you have some sort of crystal ball into the future, when for all we know at this point, we could have a predominately “base hit” staff. The majority of the types of outs the staff gets could fall into any category. It could be 90 percent grounders, or 90 percent fly-ball outs, and there is no true predictor for this for a new baseball season and a new schedule, with pitchers facing new and different hitters all of the time. To say that you’ve got all of that predicted to a matter of fact and to use it as the basis for arguing that a player should lose his starting job is at most, presumptuous and at least irresponsible blogging. I don’t believe anyone can predict such statistics with any degree of certainty better than anyone else who may think they know what the future holds. You could be right Dave, there could be more balls resulting in outs in the air than on the ground, but I’ve seen Escobar use his range to snag more than one of those out of the air also. In the meantime, let’s not pretend that it’s not just a wild guess for the coming year loosely based on past performance as a primary indicator, and that it could easily change in 2014 in the time it takes Esky to say…”look ma, no braces”. No one can predict this game that well with any degree of certainty, that’s why they play the games.

          • Matthew.Martin

            And hey Dave, I’m not trying to be difficult with you here, I enjoy reading all of your stuff on here, but when you write that our best defensive player who is under contract for a few more years is no longer a fit for the Royals, you have to expect some repercussions and opposing viewpoints.

          • Dave Hill

            Matt, I enjoy the give and take. Being able to connect with Royals fans, despite living in southeastern Massachusetts, is a major draw for me. I have no problem with opposing viewpoints. In fact, I fully expected that this post would generate a lot of opposition.

            Don’t worry about having an opposing viewpoint. I figured this would be a generally unpopular opinion.

          • Matthew.Martin

            You’re a good man Charlie Brown. Bye the way, Royals nation knows no boundries. I lived in Boston, Philly and New York. Still true blue. Keep on stirring the pot brother.

          • Matthew.Martin

            Btw, I still remember The Quiz winning the Rolaids Relief Man of the year awards like they happened yesterday. Quiz won it in 80, 82, 83, 84, and 85.

            The Quiz was the whipped cream on the chocolate sundae.

            Note: Dan Quisenberry and Mariano Rivera have both won the Rolaids Award five times. Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers have won it four times.

          • Matthew.Martin

            The Quiz was solely responsible for reducing gas passing in KC during the early 80′s by over 50%. lol.

          • Dave Hill

            Quiz and Sutter compare pretty favorably when looking at Hall of Fame candidacies. I was really hoping that the player that turned a six year old in Rhode Island into a Royals fan would get in this year.

          • Christian camlin

            Matt-This guy gets paid to write give him a little credit.We will have almost the same staff we had last year with maybe 2 new pitchers if that.They will not magically change.Their stuff produces more fly outs than groundballs.We can know this without a crystal ballThe Vargas also is known for producing flysmuch like Santana was.I can also predict that Billy butler will not win a 100 meter dash in the olympics.And that Esky will not lead the league in homers , Ever!!!!I can predict that Shields,Collins,Holland & Herrera will strike out a lot of the hitters they face but Chen will not.Some things we can predict with relative certainty.
            What I cannot do is predict the final position of each team in the standing with exact win loss numbers though I will try as I usually do.This year our Gold Glove Caliber outfield will be far more important to the team than our Gold Glove potential infield.Moustakas will be the only infielder with above average chance because he will get plentyof hot smashes off the bat near the line.That is if he stays as our 3rd sacker which is not Guaranteed.You are probably young and I do not want to comedown hard on you but you are arrogant for assuming you know more than someone who gets payed to write about the game.Try studying the numbers of the game before you start making ridiculous claims like Esky saves so many hits that a guy would have to bat 1.000 to replace Esky’s glove.A guy who hit’s 1.000 could make 1 error a game and still be more valuable then Escobar at his best.But guys don’t hit that.And Bonds was the only guy who could get on base more than half the time at his peak.

          • Matthew.Martin

            Lol. I’m 55. Used to sit in old municipal watching Camp Campaneris and Dick Green, and the like. I still don’t agree. You assume that there will be a specific type of contact against our staff over an entire 162 game schedule, and that the swings placed on the ball from the hitters, have zero to do with it. I just think past performance isn’t a perfect indicator of future results. You guys do and that’s fine. It’s precisely because I’ve been a fan of baseball for so long that I think the way I do. Not because of “youth”, although, I really wish that was the case. Hysterical man.

          • Matthew.Martin

            Also, I never said I knew more than Dave, in fact, I said he could be right, but stated I don’t believe we will know for sure until the outs are recorded, and that hasn’t occurred yet, but since you’re most likely a youngster, I understand the need to place words in a bloggers mouth that were never uttered, in order to give more weight to a faulty argument.

          • Matthew.Martin

            And I would agree that there are some things that we can predict with relative certainty.

            Here’s one of them: Ciriaco is sent down during the next round of cuts, as he should be.

          • Matthew.Martin

            Which will mean that the Royals management agrees with me, and others here, vs. the author. What about that? The author knows more than the Royals brass, but I can’t have a more valid opinion than the author? Let’s let logic prevail.

          • jessanders

            We know EXACTLY what kind of pitching staff we’re going to have, because we have years of previous data on the first 4 pitchers in our rotation. Shields is a power pitcher, strike-outs, ground balls, and when the ball gets hit in the air it’s usually hit hard. Guthrie, Vargas and Chen have all posted significantly higher career FB/GB ratios than league average. The odds of any of the three of them turning into ground ball pitchers (let alone two of the three or all three) over the course of a single off-season is slim to none, and slim might just be out the door, too.

          • Dave Hill

            Thanks Jess. That’s essentially what I was trying to explain.

    • Christian camlin

      Matthew-I appreciate your enthusiasm for Escobar but no shortstop in the history of the game saves 3-4 hits a game every game on Average.An outstanding Ozzie Smith with Wings type of defender might average saving just over 1 hit a game.Yes in some games it can be 3-4 hits saved .But in others he may not keep anything from getting through.In fact 3-5 plays is all a shortstop hadles the Ball in most games.100 years ago with the dead ball they might have handled 6 balls a game.But for a shortstop today to save 4 hits a game every ball he fields in most games would have to prevent a hit.No routine Grounders or balls hit straight at the Shortstop.
      Escobar deserved his nomination for a Gold Glove last year but handling 4 chances per game last season he at most might have prevented 1 hit per game he played.If you are saying he saved 474-632 hits for the Royals last season then he would have had the best year in the history of all major league shortstops ever.Instead of his Total Zone Ranking saying he saved the team 4 runs above average for his position it would be almost 400 runs he would have saved.He would be a household name and everyone on the planet would hale him as baseballs best defensive player ever at any position.Instead of his Defensive WAR (wins above Replacement player) being 1.4 for 2013 it would have been about 50 .Which would have shattered every record ever.To save that many hits a Shortstop would have to have over 10 chances agame fielded with hardly any errors and no overlapping another players territory. Last year Andrelton Simmons for Atlanta had one of the better Defensive seasons a shorstop has had in recent baseball history.But he saved nowhere near 3-4 hits a game.And many shortstops have won Gold Gloves by saving 50-60 hits in a season and about 20 total runs.I assume you are young and love the Royals and believe everything the Announcers say.But those Announcers work for the Royals and will always spin things in a positive light about the Royals.Escobar is good he’s very good but no one was ever that good.

      • jimfetterolf

        Even at one hit saved per game, that’s 150 per year. A hit saved is worth a hit made.

        • jessanders

          There’s no way he’s saving 1 hit a game. There’s no way he’s saving .5 hits per game.

          Statistically, over the entire breadth of a season, he probably saves, at most, 40 or so would-be singles (or saves the runner advancing from 2nd to home on a single by keeping it in the infield, etc). His value is, at most,10-15 runs per season saved.

          The question is then, could another short stop who plays worse defense (save, all the runs Escobar saves turn into runs, and he saves 0 runs) produce 10-15 more runs offensively over the course of the season?

          The answer is of course yes. I just don’t know that Ciriaco (or any other option the Royals have readily available) would be better in the aggregate.

          • jimfetterolf

            10-15 runs is how many hits? I admit I don’t trust statistical defensive metrics, but even fangraphs rates him highly in their most recent effort at quantifying. My eyeballs are quite comfortable with an average of a hit per game, but as we lack FieldF/x neither eyeballs nor stats can be considered conclusive.

          • Dave Hill

            That’s the problem. Unless Colon destroys AAA pitching, they may need to wait until next year to improve there.

      • Matthew.Martin

        Okay so I exaggerated a bit to make a point. Guilty as charged. But, even if he saves 1 hit every few games, with all the 1 run games we’re in his .WAR should be pretty good. I don’t know what the stat heads claim about him, but it’s gotta be higher than Ciriaco, and in a season where we could wind up neck and neck with Detroit at the end, replacing Escobar with Ciriaco could easily put us 3 games back at the end vs. tied with Detroit. We can’t afford to take that gamble.

  • Eric Akers

    I like Pedro, but he is not going to hit any better than Esky. Plus, I think Esky is going to get closer to average at the plate this year.

  • Jim allen

    You write as if Escobar had just 1 acceptable offensive season. His average in KC is .260 over 3 full seasons, which isn’t bad. Add to that his excellent defense, and the important fact that he has averaged 157 games per season

    • Matthew.Martin

      Agree most emphatically. We’re considered the best defense in baseball, in very large part, because Escobar is our shortstop.

  • moretrouble

    Well, Dave, I give you credit for presenting a controversial opinion. I disagree with it, of course, as do nearly all the other posters so far. You’re talking as though all a shortstop does is shag ground balls. He does far more than that — something I think you’d admit.

    And, you suggest because a few of the pitchers have hit charts that have a higher than average of flyballs — the Royals can afford to downgrade their defense at that position in favor of offense. Every RH hitter hits to short, Dave. And, how many of the pitchers are you referring to? Three guys? And, what kind of upgrade are you talking about? Who is out there who can make a significant difference in the offensive output of the club at short?

    For weeks, bloggers and posters have suggested that since KC is so strong in the pen, they ought to trade it away for hitting. Now, with Hoch going down, that talk has vanished. I suggest that if KC were to downgrade any of their strengths, they’d be a weaker club. The team is built around strong defense. The front office has already improved the offense and to weaken the defense to gain slightly more doesn’t make sense. Shortstop is a skill position — one of the most important on the field. Fans need to realize the value of having a great shortstop.

    • Matthew.Martin

      A-Men.

    • Matthew.Martin

      Controversial is a bit of an understatement don’t ya think?

      • Matthew.Martin

        Perhaps it wouldn’t be such a controversy if the notion wasn’t presented as a statement of fact which is not debatable:

        Alcides Escobar Does Not Fit With the Kansas City Royals

        That’s a statement, not a question. I think that may be what rubbed me the wrong way.

    • Dave Hill

      The Royals may not have any better options this year, unless they decide to sign Stephen Drew, which I feel would be a mistake, or if Christian Colon sets AAA on fire. I just don’t think that Escobar should be considered irreplaceable due to his glove.

      While there are three starters that are predominantly flyball pitchers, Shields also has slight tendencies towards the flyball in his career. As he gets older and loses a bit of velocity, I would expect that number to trend higher. Based on how these are pitchers in the rotation, and going with a conservative 750 inning total for the four, over half the innings (based on a nine inning game) would be pitched by flyball pitchers.

      To me, all Escobar really does is shag ground balls and popups. He does have excellent speed, but he does not get on base enough to use it. If he hit .250 and got on base at a roughly 30 to 31% clip, this wouldn’t even be something that crosses my mind.

      Escobar is a great defensive shortstop. I just don’t think that defense is enough of a reason not to look for a replacement.

  • unclejesse40

    Does it concern anyone else that Valencia is batting horrible in Spring Training. I know I haven’t looked at the advanced metrics stuff, but the BA is brutal and the OBP isnt that much better. I know ST stats can be bad base a decision off of, but maybe Valencia isn’t the one that we should be keeping.