That is Alcides Escobar's line through 161 plate appearances. According to this we now have an adequate sample to start discussing swing rate, contact rate, strikeout rate, line drive rate, and pitches per plate appearances. Can those things tell us if Escobar's improved production is here to stay?
Last year Escobar went .254/.290/.343, and most projections had him taking a modest step forward in 2012. Right now he is ahead of last years line by 50 points of on-base and 70 points of slugging, and compared to forecasts for this year he is ahead by 30 or more points of both as well. That is a significant improvement taking him from an OPS+ last year of 74 (quite a bit below average) to 108 (slightly above average as a hitter) so far this year. If Alcides becomes a consistently average or better hitter while playing some of the best defense at a premium position in the majors, then he becomes an extremely valuable player. For that reason, I am looking at the stats that have stabilized to see if we can learn about what he is doing better, or if it is just a mirage. (everything comes fom fangraphs.com)
From looking at swing and contact rates, I would say that Escobar's swing rates look similar to the past two seasons, but his contact rate is actually lower, which would tend to be a bad thing. If you move onto his other rates true improvements starts to look like a possibility. Line drive rate for 2012 is 22.8%, and that is almost 5% higher than last year. To go along with that is ground ball rate is also up, which leads to his fly ball rate of 20.3%. That is a HUGE improvement over past seasons. Last year it was 28.7% and his first sub-30% rate. Fly balls, especially for players who don't hit home runs, turn into outs at much higher rates than ground balls or line drives.
Looking at this makes me feel pretty confident that Escobar has become a better hitter, and at his age that is to be expected. What is better than that is that his growth is faster than what most have expected. His defense is unquestionably good at a tough spot on the field, and now there are signs that is bat can be a positive rather than something you live with due to the defensive value. That contract extension he signed in the off season could become a huge boon to the Royals in the coming years if this progression continues.