The opening of any MLB season brings with it a host of underperforming players, and 2011 is no different. Superstars like Carl Crawford, Carlos Gonzalez, and Hanley Ramirez have taken up lodging in the unfortunate sub-50 wRC+ club. Although Crawford’s .199 wOBA and 15 wRC+ are the worst among qualified players, not even he can approach the unfortunate season Alcides Escobar is suffering through. Escobar’s league-worst Win Probability Added of -2.01 is nearly a full win worse than second-place Crawford’s -1.02.
Escobar’s context-neutral stats aren’t much better, but his .224/.248/.265 line is still, somehow, significantly better than what Crawford has managed through his inaugural Red Sox campaign. Unlike Crawford, though, Escobar has had his poor season magnified by multiple failures in extremely high leverage situations. Escobar has seen seen six situations with a leverage index of 4.0 or higher — given that 1.5 is considered high leverage, these were extremely important situations. Except for receiving one intentional walk, Escobar made an out in every single one. All told, his WPA for these six plate appearances alone adds up to -0.911, nearly equaling Crawford’s WPA from his entire horrible season. Expanding our scope to all high-leverage situations, Escobar holds a .059/.158/.059 triple-slash. He even breaks wRC+, with a -38 mark in those situations.
The Royals have quickly fallen back to earth since opening up the year at the top of the AL Central. Escobar’s incompetence in high leverage situations has been a significant reason why. It is a tiny sample, and one will imagine that Escobar can turn things around at least a bit, and get some hits to drop in. Unfortunately for the young Escobar, though, nothing can change what’s already happened: one of the worst clutch stretches imaginable for an MLB player.