The 2016 Kansas City Royals are not looking remotely dangerous as Major League Baseball teams get ready for the 2nd half of the season. The Royals are 7 games back of the lead in the AL Central and getting back into the picture could be complicated. Not only are they chasing the Cleveland Indians, but Kansas City have Detroit and the White Sox to contend with as well.
However, like a whole bunch of teams, KC are in the Wild Card picture at this point. If they can play something like .580 baseball from now until September, then they could be in striking range of the one-game playoff down the stretch run. That’s certainly not a great spot to be heading in into the post-season. However, I think KC fans might settle for it now.
But a big problem with KC so far this season that has not received anywhere near the proper amount of commentary is the bad season that Alcides Escobar is having. Max Rieper of Royals Review made some fair comments on the topic in an article titled “Is Alcides Escobar playing his way out of next year’s lineup?” however there’s not that much criticism of Escobar’s play out there. The Rieper article was published in June, but I think some similar criticisms of Escobar could be made here in mid-July. Except for Alexia Ramirez, the truth is that you’ll be hard pressed to find an everyday shortstop that is having a worse season than Escobar, offense and defense combined.
As of the All-Star break Escobar has a laughable .609 OPS, a number that is derived from slugging percentage plus on-base percentage. A low offensive output like that might not be such a big deal if he only had 50 plate appearances. However, there is no shortstop with more plate appearances than Escobar in the majors, and he also leads all batters on his team from that point of view. Basically, KC’s worst offensive starting player has carried the biggest offensive load, a formula that just can’t add up to success.
There are other shortstops in the majors tallying a lot of at-bats with little production, in fact, it’s not too unusual for the position given how important fielding is. However, currently, Escobar is 16th among Major League shortstops when it comes to fielding percentage at .972. His range factor is below average, and he’s also in double digits for errors.
I guess maybe KC feel as though they have to play Escobar, because of his salary. He’s making $5.25M this year according to Spotrac. In looking over KC’s roster, it’s hard to find a player to put into shortstop instead that might clearly be an improvement. Transactions between teams can get complicated, and a weak-hitting bad-fielding shortstop is a tough sell, so the Royals appear stuck with their SS for the balance of the season.
Lastly, there’s definitely more to KC’s mediocrity than one player. However, my guess is that the World Series champs are going to be missing the playoffs this season. A part of that had to do with Ned Yost, who I think is guilty of having waited a little too long before addressing some problems.