KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The sabermetrics gang isn’t going to like this, and neither will the rest of the Royals’ fan base, but it appears shortstop Alcides Escobar is back in the No. 2 slot for a while.
Royals manager Ned Yost said Wednesday he wanted to get Escobar back hitting second to utilize Escobar’s hit-and-run skills as well as his bunting ability.
“There’s pros and cons to it,” Yost said. “We know Escobar’s past history and what he can do when he gets it going in that spot. He’s a great hit-and-run guy. He can bunt to set up run-scoring opportunities for the 3, 4 and 5 guys.”
Yost clearly is basing the move on last year’s Escobar — well, sort of. Escobar hit .293 overall with a .331 on-base percentage, but hit just .264 with a .303 on-base percentage last year hitting second, which is where he hit in 86 games.
This year, Escobar is hitting just .247 with a paltry .277 on-base percentage from the second spot.
Still, it’s where Escobar prefers to hit.
“That’s what I like. I like hitting there,” he said before Wednesday’s game. “It’s where I hit in the minor leagues and where I hit last year. It’s better for me.”
Yet Escobar admits he doesn’t try to see more pitches or draw more walks when he’s hitting second as opposed to when he hits lower in the order.
“No, I’m still the same guy if I’m batting second or ninth,” he said. “My first year I batted second a little and last year did it all the time. I’m not saying I don’t like hitting eighth or ninth, but second is better.”
But Escobar has been a better hitter hitting lower in the order.
Last year, hitting ninth, Escobar posted a .309 average, a .341 on-base percentage and a .472 slugging percentage. This year hitting ninth, Escobar’s numbers were .296-.327-.426.
But moving Escobar up to second also was inspired by Yost’s intention to get Eric Hosmer to the No. 3 spot, as well as shifting Sal Perez to the No. 5 hole to protect cleanup hitter Billy Butler.
“You get into situations where Hoz is swinging the bat well and you want production,” Yost said. “Like (Tuesday) night, in the first inning, we’re not bunting Hoz there with a guy on base if he’s hitting second. But we do with Esky and now Hoz has an RBI opportunity he wouldn’t have had hitting second.
“You know, when Hoz was hitting second, there were bunt opportunities but I was cringing to do it. You don’t want to bunt Hoz. Now I don’t have to think about that.”
Hosmer, though, flourished in the second spot, averaging .308 with a .352 on-base percentage and a .508 slugging percentage.
But while moving Hosmer to No. 2 and bumping Escobar to No. 9 jumpstarted their bats, it did not jumpstart the offense, Yost said.
“You look at it and you try to find ways to score runs,” Yost said. “Over the course of time, we got some guys going (by shifting them in the order) but we were scoring the same amount of runs.
“There’s a lot that goes into it. I still think that no matter how you line it up, until you get three or four guys going at once, it’s all the same. Hoz is swinging better and Moose (Mike Moustakas) is coming around. We’ve got Billy and we know what he can do. You just put it out there and hope to see it come together eventually. “
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