Dear Ned Yost: Please Hit Escobar Ninth

Baseball managers, it seems to me, have it rougher than the coaches and managers of other sports. They are, in so many ways, prisoners of chance. The perfect pinch-hitter at the perfect time still fails most of the time. The lousiest reliever will, most often than not, get the out. A stupidly constructed lineup might score 12 runs one day, a brilliantly constructed one might get shut out the next. The in-game moves simply don’t impact the game the way they can in other sports, and the best baseball managers probably do their best work behind closed doors away from everything.Sparky Anderson always said the best game he ever managed he lost … and I think that’s pretty representative.So I don’t think that Royals manager Ned Yost’s insistence on hitting Alcides Escobar second in the lineup is all that important in the grand scheme of things. It’s not even important in the shrimpy scheme of things. We’re talking a handful of runs at most … we’re talking a one or two game swing at most … we’re talking a Kansas City Royals team that is four games under .500 ...It just drives me crazy because it’s so bleeping illogical.First off, Alcides Escobar is a very good baseball player. He’s a dynamic and excellent defensive shortstop who makes highlight players several times a week, and he’s not an offensive zero by any means. He’s pretty fast, and he hit .293 last year, and he will hit the occasional extra-base hit. He’s the kind of guy a team can win with, assuming the rest of the team is pretty good.He is not, however, much good at getting on base. And this skill is the single most important one for an offensive player. Don’t … make … outs. In more than 2,000 plate appearances, Escobar has a .303 career on-base percentage. Even last year, when he got hit lucky (his .344 average on balls in play is simply unsustainable), he walked only 27 times and had a barely league average on-base percentage.This year, as he has been relatively hit unlucky (a .273 average on balls in play), his on-base percentage is a hideous .280.Escobar’s talents are obvious. So are his deficiencies. He doesn’t walk. He does not handle the bat well (100 strikeouts last year), he does not avoid the double play (14 last year, 10 already this year), he is so clearly and obviously a bottom of the lineup hitter that it should be his middle name.So why does Ned Yost insist on hitting him second?This is where it gets tricky -- and why it’s hard to be a baseball manager. We can talk about the statistical absurdity of hitting Escobar second (and will in just a second) but it might not have anything at all to do with strategy. As mentioned above, a big part of a manager’s job is to do things behind closed doors that they can’t talk about, that fans can’t know about, that are more about management than baseball. We do know that Escobar

Read →

Comments on this post are for paying subscribers