Yunel Escobar struggled out of the gates in 2013, posting just a .169/.229/.286 line in the month of April. He was hoping to avoid a similar cold start this season, but he has been unable to do so, posting just a .217/.280/.293 line this April. With the Tampa Bay Rays offense being wildly inconsistent this season, they need a presence in the bottom half of the order to get them going. Thankfully, after Escobar went 2-4 with a double and the game-winning home run yesterday, he might finally be heating up to provide just that.
Lets take a look at last season- after Escobar struggled early on, he rebounded to put up a .287/.340/.426 line in May. That line isn’t going to win any MVP awards, but if your lineup has someone putting up those numbers somewhere in the 7th-9th slot, it is going to be doing pretty well. Part of the reason that Escobar has struggled early the last two years is because when he puts the ball in play, he is making more outs than average. This year, his BABIP is just at .244, well below his career average of .301. Similarly last season, his BABIP was well below average for the first part of the season until it spiked later in the season. The most likely explanation for this is that Escobar is just experiencing bad luck. He has had a sound plate approach and has not swung at many pitches out of the zone, and has also maintained an 85% contact rate, which is above-average. Therefore, it is easy to say that Escobar has just been hitting the ball right at people. With an already sound approach and knack for making contact, Escobar is going to heat up because his hits are going to start falling in the right places. Thursday’s game gave Escobar confidence moving forward, and you have to think with that and some better luck, he is going to experience another big May.
The Rays lineup has struggled to maintain consistency this year, and that all starts with the bottom half of the order. The first six spots in the order (with the exception of the leadoff spot) have produced at least a .689 OPS or above this season, with four of the spots putting up over a .733 OPS. But, the 7th, 8th, and 9th spots have put up an OPS of just .659, .566, and .636 respectively. For a lineup to click, there needs to be consistency from the one hole to the nine hole. If Escobar can put up a line similar to the one he did last May, the bottom of the lineup is going to look much better. With Ryan Hanigan, David DeJesus, and others also starting to heat up, the Rays offense could turn from tantalizingly inconsistent to among the league’s best- that is the true level of talent that they have. Some of the Rays bottom-half hitters are finally starting to reach expectations, and it might not be too long before the entire Rays offense begins to click, something they certainly need given their pitching struggles as of late.
Yunel Escobar has struggled so far this year, but after a 2-4 performance yesterday he might finally be starting to heat up. The Rays upgraded offense did not meet expectations this April, but with Escobar and others turning things around, they might finally establish themselves as one of the league’s better offense.The Rays finding consistency starts with the bottom half of the order, and Escobar has the ability to be the catalyst that the Rays need if he can post numbers that are similar to the ones he put up last May.