Yunel Escobar is having a very good season, hitting .303/.380/.445 while rating slightly below average defensively according to Ultimate Zone Rating, which makes him one of the half-dozen most valuable shortstops in all of baseball as a 26-year-old.
However, he continues to frustrate manager Bobby Cox and the Braves with what Mark Bowman of MLB.com portrays as “a lackadaisical” attitude and “mental lapses.” Over the weekend he was benched mid-game for the second time this season, and here’s how Bowman described the scene:
Escobar moved gingerly out of the box when he grounded out to end the first inning. His slow approach might have prevented him from taking advantage of Chase Utley’s errant throw, which slightly pulled Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard off the bag.
Cox inserted Omar Infante to play shortstop before the start of the third inning. He said his decision to wait an inning was based on his desire to allow Infante to get loose. “I didn’t want to put anybody in just off the bench on the third out not loose,” Cox said.
Escobar’s name has been attached to various trade rumors for the past year or so, and if the Braves are truly tiring of his act there should be no shortage of teams lining up to take him off their hands. Among all big-league shortstops with at least 1,000 plate appearances during the past three seasons, here’s how Escobar ranks in batting average, on-base percentage, and adjusted OPS+:
AVG OBP OPS+
Hanley Ramirez .327 Hanley Ramirez .400 Hanley Ramirez 148
Derek Jeter .317 Derek Jeter .383 Derek Jeter 117
Cristian Guzman .306 YUNEL ESCOBAR .376 YUNEL ESCOBAR 112
YUNEL ESCOBAR .303 Jose Reyes .356 Troy Tulowitzki 110
Miguel Tejada .293 Troy Tulowitzki .356 Jose Reyes 109
Couple things. First, Hanley Ramirez is really good. Second, since his 2007 debut Escobar has hit .303 with a .376 on-base percentage and .429 slugging percentage. During that same time Derek Jeter has hit .317 with a .383 on-base percentage and .442 slugging percentage. Escobar is also a decade younger than Jeter, won’t even be eligible for salary arbitration until 2011, and is under team control for another four seasons.
He’s a 26-year-old career .303 hitter with a .376 OBP who’s averaged 12 homers and 31 doubles per 150 games, draws plenty of walks while rarely striking out, has sure hands and decent range at shortstop, and won’t be a free agent until after 2013. All of which is why when it comes to long-term, team-building assets there aren’t five more valuable shortstops in baseball, annoying but ultimately mild transgressions included.
The Cardinals went from winning 100 games last season to 82 entering Wednesday evening’s game, and they might not even make the playoffs. Still, the organization will bring back manager Mike Matheny for the 2017 season, Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Owner Bill DeWitt, Jr. said, “Mike’s done a really good job for us. There’s no thought that we’re going to go in any different direction.”
GM John Mozeliak also expressed his support, saying, “Mike takes a lot of heat, and I’ve defended him and I will continue to. I really feel like some of the things that we’re dealing with aren’t fair to put on the manager.”
Mozeliak continued, “I do feel like all of us are always held accountable for what we do here, so there’s nobody excluded from that. But having said that, I don’t look at him as someone that we are where we are because of that.”
Matheny has received criticism for his bullpen usage, but the Cardinals have only 15 blown saves as a team, the fourth-lowest total in baseball this season.
The Phillies’ bullpen led to yet another loss on Tuesday. Severino Gonzalez, Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez, and David Hernandez combined to allow six runs in five innings, allowing the Braves to come back and win 7-6 after falling behind 6-0 after the first two innings.
The game prior, the Phillies’ bullpen surrendered 14 runs in four innings in a 17-0 loss to the Mets. The game before that, the bullpen yielded four runs in four innings, nearly squandering the Phillies’ 10-0 lead after four innings. And last Thursday, the Phillies had taken an 8-6 lead in the top of the 11th, but Edubray Ramos served up a walk-off three-run home run to Asdrubal Cabrera. It’s been a tough month.
Manager Pete Mackanin ripped the bullpen when speaking to the media after Tuesday’s game. Via Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly:
Neris was going to close for us. I thought about using him with two outs in the eighth. But, at some point, somebody else has to do a (bleeping) job. Somebody else has to (bleeping) step up. In two games now, every reliever I brought in has given up a (bleeping) run. That’s unheard of.
The Phillies currently own the fourth-worst bullpen ERA in baseball at 4.97. Only the Rockies (5.12), Reds (5.07), and Diamondbacks (4.98) have been worse.
In fairness to the bullpen, aside from Jeanmar Gomez (who lost his job as closer earlier this month) and free agent signee David Hernandez, the bullpen is intentionally comprised of young, inexperienced pitchers as the Phillies are still rebuilding. If the Phillies were aiming for a playoff spot, it would be one thing, but the struggles are to be expected when one throws 24-year-olds into the deep end.