The Mets’ soft September schedule continues on Friday in Miami against the Marlins. After a hiccup last weekend that led to a three-game losing streak against the Nationals and Pirates, it seems like New York has woken up for the stretch run.
Before an off day, Chris Bassitt, Jacob deGrom, and the rest of the pitching staff helped get the Mets back on track by allowing just one run in a doubleheader sweep against Pittsburgh Wednesday. They’re in sole possession of first place in the NL East for the time being, as the Braves face the Mariners this weekend.
Eduardo Escobar’s first year in Queens has included some exciting moments. You know, like hitting for the cycle in San Diego and hitting a walk-off single against the Phillies. But when looking at his season overall, it definitely hasn’t been what he was hoping for.
So much so, in fact, that the Mets decided to promote Brett Baty when Escobar hit the injured list in August. Baty’s season is over because of his own injury, so the keys to third base quickly became Escobar’s again.
Thankfully, he’s found a way to get hot at the plate. It’s come at a crucial time when the Mets’ offense could use a jolt, as well.
Through August 28th, a period that spanned 413 plate appearances, Escobar was slashing .214/.266/.380 with 12 home runs, 44 RBI, and 41 runs scored, which sussed out to an 83 wRC+. Over his most recent 33 trips to the plate, though, the switch-hitter has turned into a completely different dude. His line has improved to .448/.485/.793 with three homers, six RBI, and four runs scored. Escobar’s wRC+ has also risen up from that 83 mark to 250.
We’re obviously talking about two incredibly lopsided sample sizes here. But still, this kind of breakout was long overdue for the 33-year-old, who is about to complete the first season of his two-year contract with New York. I mean, just look at his monthly wRC+ splits leading up to Friday’s series opener in Miami:
- April: 135
- May: 69
- June: 64
- July: 99
- August: 25
- September (so far): 267
Escobar currently has a matching 11.5% mark for his walk rate and strikeout rate in September. That walk rate is his best since April (16.7%), while the strikeout rate is on track to be the best of his 2022 campaign.
Could this hot streak just be BABIP-related luck, though? Well, yes and no. He posted a .256 BABIP with a 27.7% hard-hit rate through August 28th. Despite his 23.1% hard-hit rate since August 30th, his BABIP has risen to .435. That’s an unsustainable number, but it’s not just all luck — his execution has clearly improved.
Escobar’s fly-ball rate hasn’t changed much between the two periods we’ve been discussing, but other parts of his batted-ball profile have. His line-drive rate has gone from 22.0% to 34.6%, while his ground-ball rate has gone from 30.1% to 19.2%.
The lack of hard contact is certainly problematic, but we all know that hitting line drives has a higher probability of success than hitting ground balls. This is the case for Escobar, who owns a 340 wRC+ on line drives and a 10 wRC+ on ground balls this season.
Since his bat caught fire, Escobar is easily the best hitter in the Mets’ lineup over the past week-plus of games. There’s been some solid production, but who knows how Starling Marte’s non-displaced fracture of his finger will impact him moving forward. Also, Mark Canha and Jeff McNeil have cooled off after a great August. Last, but most certainly not least, Pete Alonso has been going through some struggles of his own.
New York’s lineup, which is already light on power, looks much different when the Polar Bear isn’t doing damage in the middle. Escobar finally coming alive at the plate happened just in time to allow his teammates a minute to get back on their feet before the postseason gets underway.
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Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.