Of all the wacky/injury-based batting order machinations, Yunel Escobar leadoff delights me to no end. I liked the way Escobar draws the odd walk and he seems to be closer to the 3/4 Win stud the Jays thought they were stealing from the Braves.
One nagging legacy of my time in the baseball dark ages is my personal unease when I see somebody swing at the first pitch. Mostly because I'm become so pro-walk (probably to a fault) and it stands to reason that nobody ever walked on the first pitch.
Thankfully, I'm an idiot. Hitters rake on the first pitch and Yunel is no different. His OPS rises high above 1.000 on first pitches this year and he has 9 first pitch home runs in his career.
The concern, as always, is pitchers taking advantage of this aggression and throwing him junk out of the zone in an attempt to get way ahead. Let's take a look to see if this is the case in 2011.
Other than a few two-seamers/sinkers tailing in on his hands, that is pretty impressive discipline from Escobar. He certainly doesn't expand the zone in an appreciable way.
In terms of the pitch distribution, it breaks down like this:
- Fastballs (nearly a fifty/fifty split between two and four seam with a few cutters thrown in)
Of his 9 first pitch-hits, he has three on changeups, three on fastballs, and one each on the slider and the curve.
What does this mean? I'm okay with Escobar swinging away on the first pitch. He is a smart enough hitter to wait for a good pitch to whack and whack it he does. If only I could say the same about half the other Punch & Judy's currently populating the lineup.
Pitch f/x data courtesy of Joe Lefkowitz, splits courtesy of Baseball Reference. Getty Image courtesy of Daylife