Alcides Escobar So Far

Having acclimated himself to the majors reasonably well in 2009, Alcides Escobar became the Milwaukee Brewers’ long-term option at shortstop following the club’s decision to deal J.J. Hardy to the Minnesota Twins. Escobar entered 2010 as an intriguing fantasy option, given his upper-echelon speed and history of wreaking havoc on the base paths in the minors. Yet, the 23-year-old holds a roster spot in just 11 percent of Yahoo leagues. Escobar’s living up to his reputation in the field (+4.7 UZR/150), but not so much at the plate or on the bases. Let’s take a closer look at his performance this season.

Escobar put up a .304/.333/.368 line and a .311 wOBA in 134 plate appearances in 2009, without much in the way of walks (3 BB%) or power (.064 ISO). That was to be expected, though — the 6-1, 180 pound righty batter hit a cumulative .293/.333/.377 in the minors, with a five percent rate of free passes taken and a .084 ISO. Escobar did improve his offensive game as the climbed the ladder (.328/.363/.434, 5.2 BB%, .106 ISO in Double-A in 2008, .298/.353/.409, 6.6 BB% .111 ISO at Triple-A in 2009), but ZiPS and CHONE both projected a mild showing with the lumber:

ZiPS: .279/.321/.378, 5.4 BB%, .099 ISO, .315 wOBA
CHONE: .291/.334/.389, 5.2 BB%, .098 ISO, .322 wOBA

Thus far, Escobar has fallen short of those forecasts. He’s got a .246/.298/.340 triple-slash in 268 PA, with a .285 wOBA. His bat has been -8.1 runs below average already. While hardly a model of plate patience, Escobar hasn’t been a total hacker, with a 6.7 BB% and a 29.8 outside swing percentage (28.4% MLB average). He’s also hitting with the same authority as CHONE and ZiPS projected, which is to say, little (.094 ISO).

The reason Escobar’s wOBA thirty to forty points lower than predicted is his .272 BABIP. From ’05 to ’09, Alcides had a .346 BABIP in the minors, and his BABIP with the Brewers last season was .346. ZiPS projected a .323 BABIP for Escobar this season, while CHONE had a .340 estimate. His expected BABIP, based on his rate of homers, K’s, stolen bases, line drives, fly balls, pop ups and ground balls, is .309.

To this point, Escobar’s line drives have fallen for hits at a clip well below the NL average. Less surprisingly, he has an above-average BABIP on grounders, and little happens when he hits a fly ball:

(Numbers from Baseball-Reference)

Escobar will likely see his BABIP climb in the months to come, but it’s anyone’s guess what he’ll do once he reaches base. He stole 34 bases in 42 tries with Huntsville in 2008, and nabbed 42 bags in 52 attempts with Nashville in 2009. ZiPS projected 25 steals in 2010, and CHONE 26. Yet, Escobar has attempted just six steals so far, getting caught once. It’s a strange development for a guy Baseball America called “a constant threat to steal bases.”

Considering his defensive gifts, Alcides Escobar should be a quality starter for the Brewers as long as he manages to avoid being a total zero at the plate. But to gain favor in fantasy formats, he’ll need to use his wheels more often.

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on and, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

12 Responses to “Alcides Escobar So Far”

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  1. Drew says:

    Escobar isn’t stealing because he’s been hitting in front of the pitcher. I think the feeling is that if he gets caught the Brewers are giving up two outs (CS and pitcher) rather than one and don’t want to take the risk. They’d rather sacrifice him over when possible.

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  2. Shaun says:

    Great reasoning Drew. I didn’t think of that aspect. I bet you’re spot on. Brewers need to put him 9th.

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  3. totoro says:

    Is it weird that 3 out of his last 4 SB’s (the 4th being a pinch hit SB) have come when hitting in front of Manny Parra? Just coincidence?

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    • STEALTH says:

      Parra is a lefty who can hold his own with the bat. He’s not a great hitting pitcher, but he at least does better than some of the other pitchers at the plate.

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  4. Chris Cwik says:

    While I don’t necessarily disagree with Drew’s point, I think the lack of steals are more a result of Ken Macha. As someone who sees the Brewers often, it doesn’t look like anyone is willing to run this season. Rickie Weeks has four steals, Alcides has 6, and Corey Hart only has four. I’ve heard Macha talk about mistakes on the base-paths killing a team, so it’s certainly possible he has cautioned these guys against stealing bases.

    At the same time, Carlos Gomez has eight steals in limited playing time. Perhaps Macha trusts Gomez more than his regulars on the bases?

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    • STEALTH says:

      Braun leads the team in SBs, and he’s certainly not as fast as Alcides. I think as long as Macha is the manager, Escobar won’t accumulate huge SB numbers, but perhaps hitting in the 8th spot is the reason he’s had so unreasonably few thus far.

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  5. jimbo says:

    They started slowly last year too, but still finished ahead of only the Cubs and Braves in total steals.

    First two months: 11 sb, 10 cs
    Next two months: 24 sb, 12 cs
    Last two months: 33 sb, 15 cs

    One thing I wonder is if managers try to keep their players fresh by not letting them run earlier on in the season. It does take a toll on the body.

    So far this year they’re middle of the pack in sb, well ahead of last year’s pace. They’ve also improved their success rate dramatically. Gomez/Weeks probably help that happen?

    I’d guess Macha isn’t entirely against stolen bases, but demands a high success rate to keep the green light. If Alcides hit 9th I’m guessing his steals would increase a good bit although not up to his potential.

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  6. jrdo410 says:

    “His expected BABIP, based on his rate of homers, K’s, stolen bases, line drives, fly balls, pop ups and ground balls, is .309.”

    how does SB affect BABIP?

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    • jimbo says:

      For a simple xBABIP, stolen bases can be used as a measure of speed. Certainly Juan Pierre would have a higher xBABIP on ground balls than Brian McCann would.

      More complex xBABIP uses speed score I believe.

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  7. Drew says:

    The Brewers are among the league leaders in HRs so it’s not a big surprise they aren’t running much.

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  8. They seem to blow people out or get blown out, no? In either case, you’re not going to run. And no, hitting in front of a pitcher will not a base stealer make.

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  9. Lionofsenate says:

    I agree the Brewers get blown out or hammer people. What is the record for 10 runs being part of your season? I swear the Brewers have scored +10 ten times and allowed +10 ten time, just halfway.

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