Escobar Does Simple Best | The Process Report

Escobar Does Simple Best

“The biggest thing I want them to understand is to do simple better, so everything is as simple as possible, but do simple better.” – Joe Maddon

As it turns out doing simple is not always easy. Take the 2012 season for example. The Rays started the season with what looked like a promising platoon at shortstop. Slick-fielding Reid Brignac and his left-handed bat along with Sean Rodriguez’s steady-fielding and lefty mashing bat seemed like a perfect marriage of strengths and weaknesses on paper.

Meanwhile, the union quickly ended in divorce – as neither player lived up to their end of the bargain. This left Tampa Bay scrambling for answers on the fly in the middle of a playoff race. Ultimately, the stable hand of Ben Zobrist provided some relief, but that was after 600-plus subpar innings from Elliot Johnson in between.

Despite receiving praise for being athletic and running fast in straight lines, Johnson did not appear to “do simple” well even to the untrained eye. This notion is now backed by newly published data on According to Dave Appelman, the new information comes from Inside Edge scouts that watch every play and grade the difficulty of fielding. The scale is as follows:

Impossible (0%)
Remote (1-10%)
Unlikely (10-40%)
About Even (40-60%)
Likely (60-90%)
Almost Certain / Certain (90-100%)

*Keep in mind when dealing with percentages a few plays can swing the data one way or another especially in limited selections.

Among shortstops with 650 or more innings of defense in 2012, Johnson successfully fielded 96.2 percent of plays graded at almost certain-to-certain. That was the second lowest percentage in the American League behind Brian Dozier of the Twins (95.4 percent). The leader that year was the Chicago White Sox Alexei Ramirez (99.1 percent). In regards to plays that were likely to be fielded, Johnson graded even worse. Former Oakland’s A’s shortstop Cliff Pennington had a 95.2 percent success rate on “likely” plays which was tops in the AL. Meanwhile, Johnson represented the league’s floor at 69.2 percent. Even the aforementioned Dozier finished near 80 percent.

Shortly after the 2012 season ended the Rays solved their shortstop issue, acquiring Yunel Escobar from the Marlins. In our initial assessment of Escobar, we noted that while he is known for having a colorful off-the-field persona, his fielding has been mostly bland in the best possible way. Once again the new information backs the old observation.

Over the past two seasons, Escobar – along with J.J. Hardy of the Orioles – has the highest success rate on almost certain-to-certain plays at 98.7 percent according to the Inside Edge scouts. He holds the outright lead over Hardy in plays marked as likely. Escobar’s 86.9 percent success rate on likely plays is tops among qualified major league shortstops. As the difficulty increases, he falls behind quicker, range-blessed players.

We know Yunel Escobar does flamboyant well, but as it turns out, he does simple even better.