The Royals offense has leveled off after getting off an amazing start in the month of April. After averaging 5.41 runs per game in the first month of the season, the Royals averaged just 4.04 runs per game the second month, well below the overall league average of 4.25 runs per game. That regression was going to happen no matter what, I certainly won't put that at the feet of Alcides Escobar, the curious choice of Ned Yost to be the leadoff hitter. But if the Royals want to have an effective offense this year, they need to take Alcides out of the leadoff spot.
Alcides Escobar has lead off in 39 of 48 Royals games this year (Alex Gordon has led off seven times, and Paulo Orlando has led off twice). In those games, he has hit .276/.310/.374, which is above his career line of .264/.300/.350. However, it still makes for a poor leadoff man.
Here are how all American League teams have fared out of the leadoff spot this year, sorted by on-base percentage.
The Royals are not the worst (dear lord, what is happening in Seattle?), but they're certainly not good. Alex Gordon hit just .222/.300/.259 in his seven games from the leadoff spot, but historically some of his best numbers have come leading off (not that too much should be read into historic numbers in a specific spot in the lineup). In his career he is hitting .284/.357/.462 from the top spot, compared to just .284/.322/.376 from Escobar in his career.
There was hope that moving Escobar to leadoff would change his mindset and make him a more patient hitter. That hasn't been the case. Escobar has seen just 3.36 pitchers per plate appearance, the fourth-fewest out of all hitters in the league (it should come as no surprise that Omar Infante and Salvador Perez are also in the top eight). At the risk of quoting Lee Judge, this puts the pressure on other hitters.
Esky making an out on the game's first swing meant Infante had to take a strike.#Royals— Lee Judge (@leejudge8) May 31, 2015
I will concede that I slammed Ned Yost for hitting Mike Moustakas second and that turned out to be a genius move, so its possible that Ned Yost knows what he's doing a bit more than I do. Still, most everyone seems to agree that the most important job for a leadoff hitter is to get on base and set the table for the rest of the lineup. With Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas having turned the proverbial corner in their careers, and with a rejuvenated Kendrys Morales and healthy Lorenzo Cain, the Royals have a lot of good options near the top of their lineup. Having a hitter that makes outs 69% of the time does not maximize their ability to score runs. Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain - even Mike Moustakas with the way he's hitting - would all make much more suitable options than Alcides Escobar.
He may be an All-Star, he may be a Gold Glover, but a leadoff man, he is not.