Royals

Escobar and Patek played same number of Royals games. Who was the better shortstop?

Alcides Escobar’s career highlights with the Royals

Here are the highlights of shortstop Alcides Escobar's career with the KC Royals.
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Here are the highlights of shortstop Alcides Escobar's career with the KC Royals.

Is Alcides Escobar the greatest shortstop in Royals history?

Escobar has signed a minor-league deal with the Baltimore Orioles, ending his tenure in a Royals uniform ... and making this the ideal time to evaluate his career and ask the question.

It isn’t an easy call.

It comes down to Esky and Freddie Patek, and some of their numbers are razor close. For starters, they each played 1,245 games as Royals, tied for eighth in team history, having each arrived via trades.

Escobar’s total was spread over eight seasons — he spent his first three major-league years with the Brewers — and Patek’s over nine. Patek opened his career with the Pirates and finished with the Angels.

Escobar had more hits, Patek scored more runs. Patek stole more bases, Escobar had a slightly better on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

Patek’s defensive wins above replacement (WAR) was better, but both stand in the organization’s top 10.

Both players helped get the Royals to postseason play, and both were good in the playoffs, with Escobar having more opportunities. The Star’s Pete Grathoff detailed Esky’s best playoff moments here.

Patek went to more All-Star Games. Escobar won a Gold Glove, but somehow Patek did not.

Their top individual award: Patek was the Royals’ player of the year in 1971, his first with the team. Escobar was the MVP of the 2015 ALCS.

A fun website, Baseballegg.com, lists the top 100 players for every position throughout baseball’s history, and has Patek No. 94 without ranking Escobar. But the same site picks an all-time team for each organization and has Escboar as the Royals’ starting shortstop.

In a greatest-Royals-by-position fan vote conducted by The Star last year, Patek gained 55 percent and Escobar 35 percent, which agrees with something I’ve heard as long as I’ve lived in Kansas City.

Patek was an enormous fan favorite, perhaps the Royals’ first widely popular figure. At 5-foot-4, he was an everyman player, someone a parent could identify to his undersized ball-playing child and say, “Work hard enough you can succeed.”

Escobar sometimes drew fans’ ire by hacking at the first pitch of an at-bat, but that daring approach served him well in the playoffs. It just seemed to work more often than it did not: His leadoff inside-the-park home run in the 2015 World Series will endure as one of the Royals’ most indelible moments.

Greatest shortstop in Royals history? Perhaps no other position has as close a race. Patek gets my nod, but I wouldn’t argue against Esky.

Tale of the tape

Patek/Escobar

Games 1,245/1,245

Hits 1,036/1,208

Runs 571/502

Stolen bases 336/160

Batting average .241/259

OPS .630/636

Defensive WAR 11.5/5.9

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