Did Esky Really Help At Leadoff?
Were the Kansas City Royals winning because Escobar was leading off and he is some sort of catalyst that gets the offense going? Or, was it a multitude of factors and the KC Royals might have won in spite of Escobar leading off?
Were the Royals winning because Escobar was leading off? Or did the KC Royals win in spite of Escobar leading off?
The same post by John Dewan at Bill James Online highlights the difference in the average number of RBI opportunities each position in the lineup will have over the course of a season. Not surprisingly the numbers three, four and five hitters have the greatest number of RBI opportunities and therefore it makes sense for those positions to have the greatest ability to drive in runs.
It also makes sense to then fill the numbers’ one and two positions in the lineup with high OBP guys so that they have runners on to drive in. When a lineup is constructed in the most SABRE metrically friendly fashion, it becomes a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy that the middle of the order has the most runners on base when they come up since the manager put high OBP guys at the top of the lineup in the first place.
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The Kansas City Royals however, are not the most SABRE Metrically friendly team. They typically do not walk much, and do not strikeout much, and put the ball in play a lot. The KC Royals also hit for a high average: in 2015 the Royals hit .269 as a team. The .269 average was good enough for 2nd in all of baseball and only .001 point behind the Tigers who were number 1.
Yet, the KC Royals only had one hitter in 2015, Lorenzo Cain, who hit over .300. The lowest average on the Kansas City Royals when you consider players who played in September of 2015, and the post season, was Alex Rios who was hitting .255.
What the KC Royals lineup statistics may imply is that there is a greater deal of parity up and down the lineup than other teams. This creates an environment where the middle of the order isn’t counted on to drive in as big a portion of the runs as other teams. If true, then the traditional value of the lead off hitter is reduced and Escobar leading off does’t cost as much in terms of run production than it would for other teams.
However, there is no getting around the fact that the KC Royals player with one of the lowest batting averages and OBP is going to get at least 18 more plate appearances than Moustakas, and 72 more plate appearances than Eric Hosmer.