New acquisition Yuniesky Betancourt came off the disabled list
yesterday and the Royals cleared room on the 25-man roster for their
new starting shortstop by designating Tony Pena Jr. for assignment.
After years in the Braves’ front office Dayton Moore became the
Royals’ general manager in mid-2006 and brought Pena over from Atlanta
the next spring. Pena was the team’s shortstop as a 26-year-old rookie,
starting 145 games while hitting .267/.284/.356 for the third-worst OPS
in the league. Last season his starts dropped to 61 and his hitting
line fell to .169/.189/.209, and this year he went 5-for-51 (.098) in a
Add it all up an you get a career line of .228/.248/.300 in 870
plate appearances. Baseball-Reference.com has a great stat called
adjusted OPS+ that measures offensive production relative to the
league, ballpark, and era someone played in. An adjusted OPS+ of 100 is
considered average and Albert Pujols leads MLB at 209 this season.
Pena’s adjusted OPS+ is 44, which ranks as the seventh-worst mark of the past 50 years:
Angel Salazar 36
Donnie Sadler 39
Luis Gomez 40
Mario Mendoza 41
Mick Kelleher 42
Jerry Zimmerman 42
TONY PENA 44
Luis Pujols 44
Rafael Belliard 46
Luis Alvarado 46
Any time you can get on a futility list with the man behind “The
Mendoza Line” you’re really doing something. It’s also worth noting
that the next-worst adjusted OPS+ this decade belongs to John McDonald
at 56, which makes him look like Babe Ruth compared to the above list,
so Pena stands alone as the worst hitter of the 2000s. And the beauty
of the whole thing is that he batted .252/.285/.332 in 2,748 plate
appearances as a minor leaguer, so realistically he probably hit better
than should have been expected. Seriously.
Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.
Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.
Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.
It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.
After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.
The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.
Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.
The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.
Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.
Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.
After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.
The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.