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The 15 intentional walks of Alcides Escobar's career

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Looking at the puzzling history of intentionally walking Escobar

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Okay so the title is a bit misleading. We aren't going to cover every single intentional walk in Alcides Escobar's career. Why? Because he played for a NL team. More importantly he batted at the bottom of the lineup for a NL team which usually means the pitcher is due up to hit next. No matter how bad a hitter Escobar has been, pitchers would rather face another pitcher than a professional hitter...or at least in Escobar's case, not a professional pitcher. So teams often intentionally walk the #8 hitter to reach the pitcher, assuming it's basically a guaranteed out.

Intentional walks by year for Escobar:

2010: 7

2011: 1

2012: 2

2013: 1

2014: 1

2015: 1

2016: 2

Escobar actually was among the top 30 in intentional walks in 2010 but of course moving to an AL team in 2011 changed all of that. This year Escobar though has as many intentional walks as Robinson Cano, Edwin Encarnacion, Ian Desmond, George Springer, and Francisco Lindor. Lorenzo Cain only has one more intentional walk this year than Escobar.

What's most peculiar perhaps is that those two IBB this year came in the same game when the White Sox opted to intentionally walk Escobar in back-to-back plate appearances last Wednesday. At first I thought "how often do we see two intentional walks on the same day in games playing under AL-rules?" Maybe it was rare to have that many intentional walks in an AL-rules game. NL games seem like they far outnumber AL rules games in intentional walks. However it's a seemingly common occurrence (for instance June 15th saw ten Al-rules intentional walks).

What about a batter having two intentional walks in the same game? That's a little more rare, only being done 26 times this year so far. Now how about in games played under AL-rules?

Player Date
Kyle Seager 6/30/2016
David Ortiz 8/10/2016
Victor Martinez 7/22/2016
Manny Machado 5/25/2016
Evan Gattis 5/17/2016
Alcides Escobar 8/10/2016
Corey Dickerson 4/26/2016
Nelson Cruz 6/15/2016
Jackie Bradley 5/21/2016

Ah-ha! Now that's a bit more rare. Just ten times has that happened and something should stand out to you. One of those players isn't quite as good a hitter as the others. Do you see it? No? How about now:

Player wRC+
David Ortiz 163
Nelson Cruz 148
Manny Machado 139
Kyle Seager 136
Jackie Bradley Jr. 131
Victor Martinez 124
Evan Gattis 95
Corey Dickerson 87
Alcides Escobar 60

There are different ranges of hitters there. Most of them are pretty damn good hitters. Then there is Evan Gattis who is a roughly league average hitter, followed by Corey Dickerson who for his career has a 113 wRC+ (13% above league average). After that though, at the very bottom, is Alcides Escobar. A 27% worse hitter than the next guy and more than a 100% worse hitter than David Ortiz at #1. Despite his offensive woes, Escobar finds himself on a list with hitters way out of his league.

So again in my quest to fulfill life's burning questions of existence I asked internally "Who is the worst hitter to be intentionally walked this year?" That seems obvious; it's probably Alcides Escobar. He's one of the worst hitters in the league and he's been intentionally walked twice! However I also need to know for sure. So after some digging (and removing NL-rules games from my results) I came up with this list:

Date Batter Pitcher wRC+ Score Inn Runners On Out WPA RE24 LI
5/24/2016 Chris Coghlan Nick Vincent 48 ahead 2-3 t6 -23 1 0.01 0.17 1.66
5/23/2016 Billy Burns Taijuan Walker 50 ahead 0-2 t8 -23 1 0 0.17 0.82
5/11/2016 Carlos Gomez Cody Allen 58 tied 3-3 b11 3 2 0.01 0.13 4.63
7/4/2016 Carlos Gomez David Rollins 58 ahead 1-2 b8 -23 2 0.01 0.17 1.15
8/10/2016 Alcides Escobar Nate Jones 60 tied 1-1 b9 -2- 2 0 0.12 3.86
8/10/2016 Alcides Escobar David Robertson 60 tied 2-2 b11 -2- 2 0 0.12 3.86
4/26/2016 Prince Fielder Luis Severino 63 ahead 0-1 b3 -23 2 0.01 0.17 1.81

So no, Escobar isn't the worst hitter walked this year (by 2016 wRC+). In fact his teammate Billy Burns is a worse hitter and has been intentionally walked himself. However there are some things that do stand out. Escobar is of course the only name on this list and the only player to be walked twice in the same game. He also was the only one walked with a runner only on second. Meanwhile both of his intentional walks came in very high leverage situations, double the ones below that (Carlos Gomez's walk was of course a higher leverage situation). Also it's worth noting that the wRC+ listed as are of 8/16/2016. This is particularly worth noting in both Fielder and Gomez's case. Both have shown before to be pretty good hitters. Fielders IBB came early on in the year when Fielder could have been seen as the old Fielder perhaps. Gomez was as recently as 12 months ago an above average hitter and has a 132 wRC+ in 2014.

Most of these were done to load the bases to have a force out at any bag. Carlos Gomez's May 11th walk was so that Erik Kratz and his .040/.077/.04 and -80 wRC+ line at the time could come up (Kratz would strike out on four pitches). Escobar was walked to face Raul Mondesi, owner of a similar but not quite as putrid line as Kratz (.217/.234/.261, 27 wRC+).

It takes a lot to think in your mind grapes "I should intentionally walk Alcides Escobar" and yet, it's happened fifteen times. That's as many times as it has happened to Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Heyward, and JD Martinez. That's more times than Matt Carpenter, Manny Machado, Jason Kipnis, and Josh Donaldson. Of course, none of those guys ever spent a long time batting 8th on a NL team.

So I said we wouldn't look at all of Escobar's career intentional walks. Mainly because many of them were to face a pitcher but we can look at all of them since 2011 when he joined the Royals.

2011

July 2nd at Colorado: Top 2nd, down 1-0 2 outs

Escobar was walked to face Kyle Davies. Awful pitcher and maybe worse human being.

Did it work? Yes!

Davies struck out to end the inning.

2012

June 17th at St. Louis: Top 14th, ahead 2-3 2 outs

Escobar was walked to face Nate Adcock (!!!). This was after this terrible, awful sequence of events kind of reminder:

Yuniesky Betancourt doubled

Eric Hosmer flied out

Jeff Francoeur struck out

My god I don't miss Betancourt or Francoeur... Then Eduardo Sanchez intentionally walked Mike Moustakas. Yes...back-to-back intentional walks.

Did it work? Yes!

Adcock struck out on three pitches

September 19th against the Chicago White Sox: Bottom 7th, ahead 1-0 2 outs

Escobar was intentionally walked by CHRIS SALE to face Alex Gordon

Eric Hosmer lead off the bottom of the 7th of a 1-0 Royals lead with a double. Then Johnny Giavotella struck out swinging and Jason Bourgeois (a name that has been purged from my memory) advanced Hosmer to third with a ground out. Escobar was then walked.

Did it work? No

Gordon sent an opposite field double to left to score Hosmer and Escobar.

2013

April 25th at Detroit: Top 9 tied 3-3 2 outs

Escobar was walked by Phil Coke.

Salvador Perez had a leadoff single and Chris Getz would bunt pinch runner Elliot Johnson (holy cow how did this team almost make the playoffs...) to second. Gordon would strike out and then Esky would get a free pass.

Did it work? Yes!

Jarrod Dyson flied out to center

This game though was crazy. The 10th inning:

Eric Hosmer groundout

Lorenzo Cain double

Mike Moustakas walk

JEFF FRANCOEUR INTENTIONAL WALK

George Kottaras walk (run scores)

Alex Gordon grand slam

I think that Gordon homer is the highlight you always see to deep center of his.

2014

August 5th at Arizona: Top 5th ahead 7-1 2 outs

Escobar was walked by Wade Miley

Sigh. NL park so not as fun. Miley was getting rocked by the Royals offense, including giving up a hit to Omar Infante and his dented face. Miley gave up four runs before walking Escobar out of mercy to face Danny Duffy.

Did it work? Yes! (kinda)

Duffy struck out swinging on a wild pitch but reached first. Then Bo Schultz replaced Miley to face Nori Aoki...and Aoki homered to score everyone.

2015

July 3rd vs Minnesota: Bottom 9, tied 2-2 1 out

Escobar was walked by Ryan Pressly

The inning started with Salvador Perez and Alex Rios singling, then Omar Infante (sigh) moving Dusty Coleman (pinch running for Perez)/Rios over. Then Alcides was walked. Wait...Dusty Coleman...Oh yeah, now you probably remember this game.

Did it work? Yes! (kinda)

Yeah it worked technically thanks to an awful baserunning decision by Coleman. Moustakas did make an out and didn't really hit the ball far enough to guarantee a sac fly. We'll never know if Coleman would have scored or not.

2016

August 10th (1) vs the Chicago White Sox: Bottom 9th, tied 1-1 2 outs

With two outs in the inning Alex Gordon doubled to put the winning run at second. With Raul "Better than Erik Kratz" Mondesi due up after him, Nate Jones intentionally walked Escobar.

Did it work? Yes!

Mondesi struck out

August 10th (2) vs the Chicago White Sox: Bottom 11th, tied 2-2

Instead of Gordon doubling, Salvador Perez did (then Gordon struck out). David Robertson has had an awful year and an awful time at Kauffman this year. He pitched around Escobar to bring up what Mondesi. However Ned Yost opted to pinch hit Christian "Big Hit" Colon instead.

Did it work? Yes!

Colon grounded out to end the inning.

Tally:

Yes: 5

Yes (kinda): 2

No: 1

You probably shouldn't walk Alcides Escobar unless there is a pitcher due up next...and even that could be questionable.

Player 2016 wRC+ 2016 Position Player WAR
Jake Arrieta 113 0.8
Patrick Corbin 89 0.6
Francisco Liriano 79 0.5
Bud Norris 70 0.4
Adam Wainwright 67 0.5
Joe Ross 66 0.4
Alcides Escobar 60 -0.5
Madison Bumgarner 60 0.7