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The Season That Was: Yunel Escobar

Yunel didn't exactly hit the way we were hoping he would and then there were other moments we didn't expect on top of that.

The lasting image of Yunel Escobar's season.
The lasting image of Yunel Escobar's season.

We had pretty high hopes for Yunel, coming into the season, after a great first full season with the Jays.

You all know the story, Yunel was picked up in the middle of the 2010 season along with JoJo Reyes for Alex Gonzalez, Tim Collins and Tyler Pastornicky. Yunel wasn't well loved in Atlanta, but we liked him, at least until this year.

Our preseason prediction thread for Yunel, had guesses that ranged from, well, terrific season to absolutely amazing season. I think the low mark amount the guesses was MJwW at .280/.360/.390, with 10 home runs and even that turned out to be well above what he actually did. My guess was .295/.375/.445 with 17 home runs. What he actually put up:

2012 - Yunel Escobar 145 558 58 141 22 1 9 51 35 70 5 1 .253 .300 .344

Yeah we were a little off. Fangraphs had him at a 1.8 WAR, largely on the strength of great defensive numbers, for a value of $8 million. That's a bit of a drop from his 4.3 WAR in 2011. His BABIP dropped from .316 in 2011 to .273 in 2012.

Comparing to 2011, Yunel walked a lot less (5.8% or the time, compared to 10.3%) and stuck out a tiny bit less (11.5% from 11.9%). He hit about the same number of line drives (18.7% from 18.2%), a few less ground balls (56.3% from 57.2%) and a few more fly balls (25.1% from 24.7%). That all surprises me because I thought all he hit was ground balls this year. Yunel popped up a bunch more (4.1%, up from 0.9% last year, but still down from the 10.6 in 2010). Fewer of his fly balls made it over the fence (7.4% from 10.0%).

Yunel was about equally bad against LHP (.258/.318/..319) as RHP (.251/.292/.351).

He hit about the same on the road (.258/.303/.332) as at home (.247/.296/.356).

Yunel didn't hit much with RISP either, .232/.286/.312.

By month Escobar hit:

April: .216/.257/.275

May: .284/.342/.373

June: .265/.311/.378

July: .260/.298/.377

August: .239/.286/.337

September: .253/.301/.333

So he was pretty consistent, if consistently bad.

His favorite team to face? Pretty much a tie, he hit .364/.417/.636 in 3 games against the Phillies and .407/.429/.593 in 7 games against the Angels. His least favorite team to face? He hit just .083/.083/.083 in 3 games against the Nationals. Among AL teams, he hit just .133/.133/.267 in 6 games against the Indians.

Yunel's longest hitting streak was 9 games in late July, longest on base streak was 12 games. His longest hitless streak was only 3 games, done a couple of times.

I have no complaints about his defense, he made 12 errors for a .983 fielding percentage and had a UZR of 5.0/150. I'd think that Adeiny Hechavarria would be better defensively at short but Yunel is pretty decent. A bit was made of Yunel taking charge of most of the popups hit anywhere in the infield, personally I have nothing against it, I like that someone was taking it upon himself to make sure none fell to the ground between fielders. After the last couple of years, I've seen way too much of that.

Of course, what happened on the field wasn't the whole story for Yunel. The eyeblack thing was regrettable, stupid and showed that maybe a little more could be done to teach these young guys about the culture here. I thought Yunel did ok at his press conference, minus the unfortunate answer to the question about the homosexuals he knows. Maybe he could have been prepared a bit better for a question that was sure to come. Anyway, I'd imagine it isn't something that will happen again.

Yunel seems to be on a good year/bad year cycle at the moment. Since 2009 he's had WARs of 4.4, 2.0, 4.2, 1.8. I'm hoping that will continue for one more season. I guess there is a possibly that he could be moved to second base and Hechavarria could play short. I'm not sure how well Yunel would handle runners coming at him from behind on the double play, but, if he could handle that, we'd have a pretty good defensive middle of the infield.

I'd like to think that Yunel would have to have a better season next year but I didn't see this one coming,