It seems like Eduardo Escobar’s bat has cooled down slightly during the New York Mets swept the Pittsburgh Pirates. At the time of writing this, his slash line for the season reads .237/.289/.430. With 117 games at third base, Escobar has accumulated 0.9 WAR (per Baseball-Reference) which is technically enough for a player to be referred to as a backup player: Good to provide some value but replaceable enough that more value can be found in someone else.
Don’t get me wrong, Escobar has had a fantastic September. You would expect most guys playing to his results to fall off the edge come September but he has made so much of his opportunities this month. Prior to September, his best month was between April and March at the beginning of the season when he sported an .805 OPS and smacked 8 doubles. He’s matched that so far with an even better OPS at 1.133 and 6 homers, collecting 44 bases.
Mets would be better off using Eduardo Escobar sparingly to maximize his productivity at the plate.
The optics of Escobar are not so bad. He was an All-Star last season and numbers-wise he’s not that far off. The only glaring issue is his strikeout numbers. Per Statcast, he’s swinging more often on first pitches and swinging more in general. His swing and miss rate is higher from last year as well. This tells us he’s being more aggressive at the plate which makes sense because he is in fact hitting the ball hard more often than he was last season. MLB defines 'hard hit rate' as the percentage of batted balls that are hit at 95 mph or more and this season. When he makes hard contact though, most of those result in fly balls.
Escobar is currently top 5 in average launch angle through out MLB. He’s in good company with Nolan Arenado, Max Muncy, Anthony Santander, and Jose Ramirez topping the list. Escobar’s ALA is at 20.8 degrees which is fine but not ideal. Launch angle should sit somewhere between 10 to 20 degrees which is within the range of a line drive and where more effective hitters sit. Line drives have a higher chance of being a safe hit and that is what we want to put men on base and bring them home.
With one more contract year and a team option for 2024, I don’t see Escobar getting much better to be brought back after next season. The Mets already called up Brett Baty and Mark Vientos. It’s clear they would rather see one of them take the hot corner and slowly phase out Escobar turning him into a veteran presence to guide the younger players.
So what did we learn here? On the surface, Eduardo Escobar is playing at an expected level: serviceable but replaceable. Looking further, he is striking out more often and hitting fly balls more often. He's at a point that he may better serve the Mets as a veteran leader with positive production as a surprise pinch hitter. One surprising stat is that he is 30 for 91 in tie game situations with a 1.107 OPS. But don't tell the Mets that, it just might pull the cat out the bag.