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Alcides Escobar: Back to normal?

Escobar is having a bounceback season, but there's a rut-roh, Scooby.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

WARNING: Slight tooting of own horn incoming. However, that horn is going to sound more like the brown noise than some other more pleasant noise.

I wrote back in March about Alcides Escobar's pit-of-despair black-hole terrible no-good 2013 season and what he could possibly do to improve his 2014 performance. For those of you who WON'T CLICK ON THE LINK, like me, the gist of what I concluded was that he should pull the ball more in the air for slightly better power, but he should also limit his FB% due to an inability to make those fly balls do anything other than plop into a fielder's waiting lazy glove. There were other things in there about plate discipline and such, but those aren't the things I'll be talking about here. It will be sufficient to say that his plate discipline metrics are pretty close to 2012 levels, which is good.

Again, for those of you who don't like to read, I stated that Escobar should pull the ball in the air more. And, wouldn't you know it, an examination of data from Baseball Heat Maps (thanks Jeff Zimmerman for making this website available to us!) shows that he is, in fact, pulling the ball more*. His production is back to 2012 levels. I'm right, horn tooted, etc, etc.

*A pull ratio as calculated here is the number of balls hit to each zone in this ratio (LF+LCF)/(RF+RCF).

2013 2014
Pull GB Ratio 1.71 4.86
Pull LD Ratio 0.73 1.20
Pull FB Ratio 0.67 0.84

Hey...didn't I mention he should hit the ball in the air less? And hasn't his FB% increased this year according to FanGraphs (up to 35%)? This is where the horn tooting becomes a brown noise. Let's look at Escobar's production by each type of batted ball according to Baseball Reference, which is the data I used in the previous article on this subject.

2013 BA 2013 SLG 2014 BA 2014 SLG
GB 0.235 0.261 0.319 0.371
LD 0.555 0.681 0.662 0.959
FB 0.109 0.231 Toilet Fire

This doesn't look good in some areas. Escobar is pulling line drives more, and his line drive production has regressed up to about league average. Great! Escobar is pulling the ball on the ground more, and he's producing like crazy on those ground balls. That GB pull ratio is above the 2013 league average, so shifting isn't out of the question. Regression downward is possible. Not great!

But the fly balls. Wow, the fly balls. Toilet fire is the technical term for what Baseball Reference has for his numbers, which are actually .049/.122. He's pulling the ball slightly more on fly balls, but it doesn't seem to be helping. According to Baseball Reference, Escobar is hitting more of his most ineffective batted ball type, and he's producing even less from them! If his ground ball performance proves unsustainable, Escobar is in for a serious drop in overall performance over the second half. Hopefully, Escobar's pretty good line drive rate and average production on line drives will help keep his performance from creating a new event horizon. Hopefully, the new level of fly ball performance proves to be unsustainable. I like an Escobar that is producing adequately offensively.

Hopefully, you didn't do anything inappropriate after hearing the brown noise.