AL Gold Gloves look more like Silver Sluggers

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The Gold Gloves aren’t worthy of any real analysis and never have been, but we won’t completely ignore them, even if it’s likely the best way to treat them.
The AL choices were announced Tuesday, and the managers and coaches voting for them clearly went for offense over defense:
C Joe Mauer
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Placido Polanco
3B Evan Longoria
SS Derek Jeter
OF Torii Hunter
OF Ichiro Suzuki
OF Adam Jones
P Mark Buehrle
It looks like a legitimate All-Star team, with only Polanco standing out as someone who wasn’t an offensive force this year.
Of course, overlooked were plenty of elite defenders.
The American League has two standout outfielders, neither of whom was honored. It’s baffling that Carl Crawford was again ignored, despite his outstanding reputation throughout the game. Of course, the voters prefer center fielders to corner outfielders, but they’re willing to keep going with Ichiro. It’s amazing that Jones, who is hardly an exceptional center fielder, beat out Crawford.
That the American League’s best outfielder was overlooked was hardly surprising. Franklin Gutierrez was simply brilliant in center field for the Mariners, and he probably rates as the game’s best defensive outfielder right now. If he hits 30 homers next year, perhaps the managers will start to take note.
Shortstop was the worst call, as it has been several times before. Actually, Jeter is playing better defense now than he did when he won his first three Gold Gloves, but there’s still no way he’s better than Cesar Izturis or Adam Everett. Unfortunately, those two didn’t put in full seasons. Erick Aybar and Elvis Andrus came closer. But since there was no consensus on who was really the best, Jeter somehow added to his collection.
That’s one of the problems with the Gold Gloves. Since the field never gets narrowed down at any point, Jeter could have conceivably won with 25 percent of the vote.
The others are all justifiable selections. Gerald Laird probably had a better season than Mauer behind the dish, but he’s hardly spectacular. There were no true standouts at first base. I’d put Dustin Pedroia ahead of Polanco at second, but UZR agrees with managers’ pick. Longoria and Chone Figgins were close at third. Ichiro had as good a case as any for the third outfielder along with Gutierrez and Crawford, and Hunter is still clearly above average.
I probably would have gone with Roy Halladay as the pitcher, but then I don’t think pickoffs should factor into it — I see that as a pitching statistic, not a fielding stat. Buehrle is very good even without taking into account his ability to limit the running game, so I’m fine with that one.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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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.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

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.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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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.