Braves are still waiting for Yunel Escobar to join their party

Can Yunel Escobar get off the ground offensively after the All-Star break?

Can Yunel Escobar get off the ground offensively after the All-Star break? (AP photo)

Last season, Yunel Escobar was the only Braves player to garner National League MVP votes. Not surprising. He was the team’s best all-around player. That figured to continue this season, especially after the seemingly maturing shortstop showed up at spring training and said, “I feel like I’m home.”

So what happened?

Do you think Yunel Escobar will come back strong after the All-Star break?

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This morning, I shared with you why the Braves could be World Series contenders. But Escobar’s season easily is the most disappointing part of the first half. He hit .299 with 14 homers and 76 RBIs last season. He hit .373 with runners in scoring position and .335 with runners on base. When the Braves failed to sign Johnny Damon before the season and I suggested Escobar as a leadoff hitter, many of you screamed, pointing out he was one of the team’s best run-producers.

So far this season,  we’re both wrong.

He is hitting .241. He has yet to hit a home run. Manager Bobby Cox has tried him everywhere in the batting order except fourth and  ninth.

Though some some have suggested Escobar’s defense also has dropped off, his fielding percentage of .975 ranks fifth among National League shortstops and is on par with his first two seasons as a starter (.974 and .979). He also gets some credit for turning 60 double plays, more than any other N.L. shortstop.

But can the Braves thrive in the second half if Escobar continues to struggle? How confident are you of a turnaround?

When I asked general manager Frank Wren about Escobar over the weekend, he said: “He’s a high-spirited guy. Just watching him, he’s one of the best shortstops in the game. We know what we have in him. Players go through struggles. In the second half last year, he almost carried us.”

Do you share Wren’s confidence?

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

Earlier post

As Braves enter All-Star break, Wren is looking a lot smarter

271 comments Add your comment

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

July 12th, 2010
9:32 am

TommyP

July 12th, 2010
9:35 am

You hate it when a key piece struggles like this but Yunel is a good ballplayer. He has shown a good batting average, solid power, and excellent defense as well as clutch hitting in the past. There’s no reason to believe he can’t get back to doing that.

If you deal him now, you’re dealing a cheap, controllable player with great upside when his trade value is at it’s lowest.

There’s a reason so many teams are inquiring about him.

At least we aren't UGA

July 12th, 2010
9:37 am

For the love of Schultz man- somebody needs to write an article about changing the culture at UGA. I am so sick of this university being the eternal black eye of our state with arrests every week.

I would rather have a mediocre program of well behaved kids.

Sleeze

July 12th, 2010
9:37 am

I know Wren has to support his guy – he can’t trash him in public, particularly if he has any inkling about trading the guy. Have to wonder what Frank is really thinking about Yunel’s long-term future with the Braves.

Sleeze

July 12th, 2010
9:39 am

BTW, “At least We aren’t UGA”, I think you’re in the wrong article, dude..

thin

July 12th, 2010
9:43 am

thinbreakness

July 12th, 2010
9:43 am

jhughes

July 12th, 2010
9:44 am

he has got to start going the other way he is getting pull happy i think his struggles have gotten in his head a bit the break will do him good

thinbreakness

July 12th, 2010
9:48 am

Enter your comments here

Curbside Prophet

July 12th, 2010
9:48 am

Maybe the wrong article, but ‘At least we aren’t UGA’ is right. All we hear is how classy Mark Richt is. I think he is classy, but he sure doesn’t know much about discipline. The culture at UGA has been screwed up for a long time. I am getting sick of seeing our athletes getting arrested as well. Richt has got to step up and say that’s it. Heck, I wouldn’t mind if the NCAA stepped in and said you’re ineligible with behavior like this.

We need Roger Goodell at UGA.

RichH

July 12th, 2010
9:50 am

At times this season, Yunel has looked like his head just wasn’t in the game. The telepathy with Prado totally nada. When he’s on, he’s a joy to watch but when he’s sulking, he not only does not help the team, he hurts them badly. I think Bobby needs to pull an Andrew Jones on him and pull him off the field and sit him down when he’s in one of his moods.

Herschel Talker

July 12th, 2010
9:57 am

Yunel is terrible. Dead weight in the lineup. McLouthesque. His fielding is still solid though.

Bruce Mac

July 12th, 2010
9:57 am

“At least and Curbside”, if you really are UGA grads (I doubt it) then write the University (Dr. Adams) and express your concerns. Right now you are just two more annonymous cowards with nothing better to do than act like you are Bulldawgs.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

July 12th, 2010
9:58 am

maybe the time off during the all-star break will help him. hopefully he’ll have a great second half along with McCann (not saying BMac is bad, just playing below his level).

Let's Go

July 12th, 2010
9:59 am

It’s his attitude not his struggles that seem to bother me the most. He’s always had that lazy attitude but because of his on the field play you could look the other way but what worries me the most is his attitude could cause problems in the club house and his laziness firday almost cost us a first baseman. Deep down I think he is a “Me” player first and because he is not having a good season he doesn’t seem to be having fun and enjoying being part of a first place team.

Also, is he arbitration eligible for the first time after this season? If so that may explain his struggles are from him pressing to make some money next year.

F-105 Thunderchief

July 12th, 2010
10:02 am

I think he bounces back. The kid is good.

TommyP

July 12th, 2010
10:04 am

Yet Chipper’s “attitude” and laziness has gone overlooked for how long? Double standard, dude.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

July 12th, 2010
10:04 am

plus i think once he hits his first HR, the fire will be lit. that seems to be his mental block right now.

GaDawg

July 12th, 2010
10:05 am

After dealing Elvis Andrus( ouch) don’t think we can flush Yunel now. Fielding % hasn’t dropped and I don’t think we are missing his HR’s yet. Just play with alittle more passion and look like you are having fun. You could be on the O’s!

BravesLover

July 12th, 2010
10:09 am

Send his fanny down to the farm. Omar can do more at ss offensively and defensively than pout man is. Glaus should have called him out after that play on Friday. Bobby should have called him out after two defensive boners. The Mets broadcasters raked him and it was refreshing to hear. EJ junior and Smoltz are the only tv announcers worth tuning in to the Braves telecast.

Prado>KJ

July 12th, 2010
10:09 am

I swear half of the people on this blog are retarded. There is no evidence to back up anything half you people say. You guys aren’t in his head, if Bobby had a problem with his attitude or anything else he would bench him. It’s not like he hasn’t done it in the past. I think he has been more mature this season, and he is usually upset with himself when he makes errors or pops out. I guess all you people know Yunel personally, since you seem to know how all the players feel about him as well. You guys must work harder than the local press to get all those inside stories about how bad a player and person Yunel is!

Sonny Clusters

July 12th, 2010
10:12 am

We was a little like that when we was playing ball. We would go out on the field happy and ready to play and we would whistle some and would slap our glove and say, “c’mon babe” and stuff like that, and then one day Coach came over to us and said, “Sonny Clusters, we don’t want any whistling on the field.” Just like that. We had to learn to play ball without whistling and we was always used to playing whistling ball. That right there may be the problem with Yunel. Everybody knows Bobby made him stop whistling. We say let him whistle or whatever he needs to do on the field to be happy and a productive ballplayer.

Curbside Prophet

July 12th, 2010
10:15 am

Exhibit A- “Bruce Mac”. Winning is all he cares about. Doesn’t care about the arrests. Exactly the UGA fan we want to get rid of.

Jeff Schultz

July 12th, 2010
10:16 am

TommyP — I agree. His upside is off the charts. I’d hate the see the Braves deal him.

Jeff Schultz

July 12th, 2010
10:17 am

At least we aren’t UGA — I agree, culture needs to change. Not an easy thing to do.

Sonny Clusters

July 12th, 2010
10:17 am

When we was playing ball, you-know-who had some lucky underpants that he wore all the time. We think it was Jeff that broke the story for the AJC on those lucky underpants but we can’t remember for sure. Maybe the washing got mixed up in the clubhouse and Yunel’s lucky underpants got lost. There are many possibilities of what may have gone wrong for Yunel so far this year but he is playing on a first place team and that makes us think he will get it going.

Let's Go

July 12th, 2010
10:18 am

TommyP
There’s no double standard, Dude. When Yunel puts up half the numbers Chipper has then maybe he gets a pass. Yes Chipper has had a lot of injuries the last couple of years but when he plays he plays hard and he is a leader on this team.

Kerryb

July 12th, 2010
10:21 am

At least we aren’t UGA,
Dude, did you wake up drinking today? What a stupid coment for this blog.

Tami

July 12th, 2010
10:21 am

Here’s a blanket statement for you (after reading the previous 21 comments): I feel the Braves are going to come on even stronger in the 2nd half. All those on the DL will be off. The team will be energized, knowing that they are not in the role of chaser in the division. So they can just go out and play and concentrate on winning series after series. They cannot get complacent as they have a VERY competitive division, and they know that. I think the guys will come back with all missing pieces in place and turn it on. That MIGHT just have the effect on Yunel that we all hope will happen and needs to happen. If that still does not work, though, it could show that it is time to find a replacement for him. But, I think it will work. GO, BRAVES! And, GO, NL! For heavens’ sake, let us see the NL win at least ONE for a change! :-)

Prado>KJ

July 12th, 2010
10:22 am

@ Let’s Go

Uh, look over the past 2 seasons Yunel has put up better numbers than Chipper. Chipper needs to be dropped in the order. Even if the Braves acquire a bat for the second half, guess who is going to continue to bat 3rd? Heck when Glaus was carrying the team he had to keep batting 5th. Chipper wouldn’t look so bad to the fans if he was batting lower in the order.

Delbert D.

July 12th, 2010
10:22 am

Only 1 year of “good field, no hit?” That’s an aberration. The Braves should definitely keep him.

Not Don Waddell

July 12th, 2010
10:24 am

I just cannot understand Yunel’s pathetic attitude. This kid could still be living in Cuba, making $10 a week, driving a ‘58 Edsel and dreaming about America.

Instead, he is over here living the dream and cannot get his head out of his ass every time he makes a bad play. He is a bigger headcase than Josh Smith.

John, Ducktown

July 12th, 2010
10:25 am

If Wren still has confidence in him, then we are golden. Wren has made all the bloggers look like fools with his signing of Glaus, trade of Javier, ridding us of Kelly Johnson and keeping Prado, dumping Laroche, getting rid of Kotchman, dumping Gonzalez & Soriano for Wagner. . . . . .etc.

Yunel is fine

July 12th, 2010
10:28 am

If the braves continue to win I don’t care if Yunel ever hits another homerun! Dudes, they are in 1st place! He must be doing a few things well.

I think he will have a better 2nd half and probably will hit a couple of homers but let’s not over question how gold the eggs are they are laying!

The Other Tommy P

July 12th, 2010
10:29 am

Have you guys forgotten what has happened with this team over the past 3 and 1/2 years? It’s the All-Star break and despite all of the injuries, manufactured team shortcomings, and fan criticisms they Braves are up by 4 games at the break. Escobar is a solid shortstop even at .240. Be thankful…1st at the break with all of the problems that seem to exist is okay by me!

Prado>KJ

July 12th, 2010
10:29 am

@ Not Don Waddell

Wow, talk about jealousy and racism all in one! You are the one that needs to get his head out of his ass. How can you make statements like that? Again, you guys have no proof that his attitude is the way you describe. Until we get some information from the club or the players, do you really expect a player to be happy when he makes an error or flies out? Sounds like he wouldn’t care much with that attitude! In fact, that’s the same argument people used to make towards Andruw. They would get on to him for always smiling and laughing when he would strikeout or have a bad game. Please get over yourself…

DawgDad

July 12th, 2010
10:31 am

Escobar’s defense is far above average; (1) it would be very difficult to replace him defensively (no one else in the Braves organization is remotely close to a championship level SS, and few in MLB match his talent), (2) as a SS he’s worth every penny even hitting .241 with no power (remember Rafael Belliard?).

Escobar exasperates everyone with his occasional mental lapses, and until recently I don’t think he’s handled them very well. Some players make mistakes and calmly walk back to their position or the dugout and move on; Escobar shrugs his shoulders, rolls his eyes, slouches around, etc. That’s just immaturity along with his propensity to emote. He’s getting better; he’s made some mistakes lately and kept his self-control.

You have to wonder if Escobar is playing hurt in some way, just totally messed up at the plate, or whether he might have had some supplemental help in the past. Otherwise, I point to the example of Garry Templeton, a high-strung SS with some self-control and substance issues that leveled off as he matured like Escobar has this year and never again was the exceptional hitter he showed early in his career.

As for trading Escobar, for who? Be VERY careful what you wish for.

Bud

July 12th, 2010
10:33 am

Infante can play some pretty good defence,too,and his offence is needed every day,so BENCH Yunel!!If I see him cock his head to one side again after a stupid play,I’m going to scream!!

Bruce Mac

July 12th, 2010
10:35 am

Exhibit B “Curbside” example of idiot coward. Any reasonable person would write University instead of flopping their gums on Blogs. You are no Bulldawg or you would do something constructive.

Bob from Accounttemps

July 12th, 2010
10:36 am

The double play that Yunel turned yesterday was spectacular. That said, I think he’s still a work in progress. I’d like to see him stay, but he doesn’t always seem to have his head entirely in the game.

DDT

July 12th, 2010
10:36 am

I think he has worms in his head.

The Realist

July 12th, 2010
10:40 am

And Wren haw just one more thing to do after this season…rid this team of this goober manager and washed up 3rd baseman…and then we can get a manager capable of more than filling out a lineup card and barking out silly nicknames to grown men.

Wren is almost done putting his signature on this team so we can compete in and win a championship in the postseason–something Bobby has proven he couldn’t do in 14 of 15 chances!

dap01

July 12th, 2010
10:42 am

Come on GT fans, stay focused on the subject at hand. We can discuss your average program later when we discuss crime in parking lots.

goyunel

July 12th, 2010
10:44 am

Cox has always been known, in my opinion, for breaking down the spirit of a player. Yunel has always been a “hot dog” and he produced. I look at him in the dugout and he looks lost. Not sure who can help him but if we will keep him another year, the new manager may be what he needs. That’s just my opinion.

Kerryb

July 12th, 2010
10:45 am

I think we need to be asking if Bobby is going to continue to run Saito out there in the 8th inning. I’m tired of watching him hobble around the mound and walk a tight rope. You don’t know when he takes the mound if he’s going to get outs or give up three runs.

hornblowermg

July 12th, 2010
10:46 am

Escobar is afraid of the ball both on defense and offense. He was that way last year, and it is more pronounced this year. Franceour has the same problem.
The reason his fielding percentage is so high is because it doesn’t reflect the times he ole’d them through the hole in his psyche or took an extra step or two to keep from having to charge the ball like we were taught to do in little league baseball. The reason his offense is poor is because he is “stepping away” from the ball when he swings so that when he actually does make contact there is a great loss of power and placement coming off his bat.

bowman

July 12th, 2010
10:47 am

“(Escobar’s) a high-spirited guy. …he’s one of the best shortstops in the game. We know what we have in him. Players go through struggles. In the second half last year, he almost carried us.”
– Frank Wren

Well, everything Wren says appears to be fact, according to his perception, but none of it addresses he question or the solution. The Braves need to keep the potential that Escobar represents but it seems to drain a lot of resources to keep him focused on developing his potential. The problem appears to lack the maturity, and perhaps intelligence, to address and solve his own problems. He’s easily distracted by the latest slump or perceived slight. If he could reach his potential, and maintain that production, the Braves would be set at shortstop for years. If he can’t, he’s probably a better stop-gap solution, because of his defense, until then next SS phenom comes through the minor league chain. I don’t know who that is, or even if there is one, but I wouldn’t trade Escobar for someone else with potential or for another team’s problem child.

bowman
– -
“Art will always be Art.” – Goethe

Ted M

July 12th, 2010
10:47 am

Escobar is so long past overdue for a homer. At this point you have to conclude he can’t hit homers and should not try. To soon to trade him though, even if we had a replacement and we don’t.

Yunel's Biggest Fan

July 12th, 2010
10:47 am

I agree with DDT – SOMETHING seems to be eating at him. He needs to snap out of it, but how the Braves deal with him is something they know so much more about. He’s still one of the more exciting shortstops to watch, and if he get’s traded, it could really come back to haunt the Braves when he does get out of this slump.

goyunel

July 12th, 2010
10:50 am

You go, Kerryb.;..I have wondered the same thing about Saito but only a few weeks ago, Cox said he had confidence in him. typical Cox reaction.
the guy came in last night and gave up a run. Even if we were 2 down going into the 9th we woulod have had a better chance than 3 down.
I am so proud of this team as they have to play around a senile manager but I look at their enthusiasm in the dugout and when someone gets a needed hit. I know it gnaws Cox to death as he likes to see statues sitting on the bench showing no emotion. Go melky, eric, martin, omar.
we need to keep those guys going and keep McLouth at Gwinnett