Batting orders are almost always talked about too much. ALMOST always...
The Kansas City Star
If you read this blog regularly — and why WOULDN’T you??? — then you might know I am firmly in the camp of “we fans spend way, way too much time complaining about lineups.”
This manifests itself in many ways, like arguing whether Billy Butler should hit third or fourth, or whether Alex Gordon should leadoff or be in the middle of the order, or the importance of going right-left-right-left, or the importance of having a steady lineup or, really, blah-blah-blah-blah.
I do have at least one exception to my stance, and it goes something like this:
If you bat your eighth-best hitter in the two-hole, a guy who is OBP-ing .277, then, well, you deserve everything you get.
There is so much to hate about this — Craig Brown does a good job hating it here^ — and we’re not having this discussion only because of the poetic justice of Escobar making the last out with the bases loaded in last night’s one-run loss.
^ UPDATE: Posnanski weighs in here.
This is one of those mistakes that anyone could see coming.
I’ll pause for a few paragraphs of equal time here. When you are making a lineup limited to players under contract with the Royals, it’s going to be a bad lineup^.
^ This doesn’t have anything to do with Escobar hitting second, but … we spend a lot of time around here talking about how bad the Royals offense is, and deservedly so. It is awful. But talking about it over and over can sort of stretch the point, to where we start to think this is like The Worst Offense Ever and, well, it’s just not. They’re on a historically inept pace for home runs, but other than that they’re merely crappy: seventh in hitting (.257), 11th in OBP (.311), last in slugging (.369, eight points behind 14th-place Chicago) and 12th in runs per game (3.89).
You could’ve joked that the fifth- or -sixth best hitter on the team is the new hitting coach, but that joke is a little less joke-y after George Brett apparently got a clean base hit off Felipe Paulino in a simulated game the other day. The Royals have two very good hitters (Billy Butler and Alex Gordon, though both are struggling), three more who you’re hopeful for (Sal Perez, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, though Cain sat last night) and then a whole bunch of maybes. If you could somehow transport the 2012 version of Alcides Escobar (.293/.331/.390) then you’ve got a fine No. 2 hitter.
Unfortunately, that season is an absolute outlier in Escobar’s career, this is 2013 and he is hitting — kids, you might want to turn away — .251/.280/.337.
That means Ned Yost had his second-worst on-base guy hitting second. Hey, he’s the best hit-and-run guy on the team, whatever that’s worth.
If baseball had a rule where the opposing manager could pick out your lineup, there’s a decent chance it would have Escobar hitting second.
What makes this even more frustrating is that the Royals had, honest-to-goodness, a lineup that made sense. Yost even credited the team’s numbers guys: Gordon, Hosmer, Perez, Butler, Cain and then you figure the rest out. That’s your five best hitters in the first five spots, the ones that will get the most plate appearances. It just made so much sense.
Look, again, there are no awesome options here. Jarrod Dyson’s return from the DL and the decision to carry five outfielders further complicate things. I think my regular lineup would be Gordon, Hosmer, Perez, Butler, Lough, Cain, Moustakas, Johnson, Escobar, but I spent, literally, about 20 seconds thinking that through.
I’m fairly certain it’s better than any lineup that has Escobar hitting second, though.