Heading into the season, the Rays expectations for Yunel Escobar were fairly high. He was expected to finally solidify the shortstop position defensively, and to provide offensive production not seen at the position since the halcyon years of Jason Bartlett, or, at minimum, Bartlett circa 2009. At least, that was how everything was expected to happen.
However, you know what they say about best laid plans. Escobar struggled through the first twenty six games of the year, not producing at the plate and making mistakes in the field. Through May 6th, he had compiled a batting line of only .172/.234/.276, while his reputation as a solid defensive player appeared to have been left behind.
Yet, over the past week, Escobar has begun to hit. Over the past week, he has gone 8-25 with two doubles, a home run, and two walks. His batting average has crept over .200 for the first time all season, as he has improved his line to .204/.262/.327 in the past week. Escobar has hit in six of his last seven games, and has five hits in his past three. Does this mean that Escobar is finally getting himself on track?
A positive sign is that Escobar is seeing a large number of pitches. Never known for his patience, he has seen 110 pitches over the past week, an average of just under 16 per game, and just under 3.8 innings per at bat. This is far more than his career average of 3.49 pitches per at bat, and brings him to just about the league average. Perhaps this new, more patient approach at the plate is paying off for Escobar, as he may be swinging at better pitches, instead of getting himself out on borderline pitches or balls thrown out of the strikezone.
It may only be a week, but given how poorly Escobar started the season, the recent hot streak is certainly great to see. If he is able to continue his recent performance, then Yunel Escobar may exactly what the Rays were hoping to get – a player that can help solidify the defense in the middle of the diamond and be productive offensively. Perhaps this week is the start of Escobar getting himself back on track.