Escobar part of NL shortstop surge

Escobar part of NL shortstop gain

The short version of the National League's hopes for Interleague Play resurgence:

Yunel Escobar.

The Atlanta youngster is No. 7 in hitting among NL shortstops. But he still ranks ahead of the American League's current No. 1 at the position -- the Yankees' Derek Jeter.

However else you wish to measure the leagues' relative strengths on the eve of the 12th annual renewal of Interleague Play, there is no denying that the AL is behind the 6-ball.

Through Wednesday's games, Jeter topped AL regular shortstops with an average of .297. And he was looking up at NL counterparts Rafael Furcal (.366), Miguel Tejada (.345), Clint Barmes (.337), Ryan Theriot (.336), Hanley Ramirez (.327), Jeff Keppinger (.324) and Escobar (.313).

On a league comparison, the surprising disparity is as remarkable with NL shortstops hitting for noticeably higher averages and with more power and run production than their AL counterparts.

These things always go in cycles, obviously, but the current mismatches are spotlighted in these upcoming Interleague snapshots:

• Kansas City at Florida: Either of the Royals' options, Tony Pena or Alberto Callaspo, will have to defer to Ramirez, who also leads all shortstop with nine homers.

• Twins at Rockies: Nick Punto may have to play in the shadow of even Barmes, who has rediscovered his game to render a pretty good impersonation of disabled Troy Tulowitzki.

• White Sox at Giants: Orlando Cabrera, struggling mightily, confronts all-timer Omar Vizquel, who recently came off the disabled list swinging a hot bat.

Shortstop, of course, is one of the positions where offense may not be even the most important component, ranking behind such virtues as defense and leadership. These days, however, most "expert" rankings list four NL shortstops -- Ramirez, the Mets' Jose Reyes, Tulowitzki and the Phillies Jimmy Rollins -- before you get to the AL's highest rated, Jeter.

Rollins didn't get an earlier mention as one of the NL's offensive weapons because he only recently returned from an extended stay on the DL with a sprained ankle. But he is merely the reigning MVP of his league.

Quite a switch from a few seasons ago, when the AL dominated the position with arguably the best active quartet ever: Tejada in Oakland, Alex Rodriguez in Texas, Nomar Garciaparra in Boston and Jeter in the Bronx.

And then there was one.

The swing in the balance of shortstop power isn't simply a matter of trading places, by the way. Certainly, Tejada's move from Baltimore to Houston appears to have bolstered the NL ranks. Yet, at the same time, three pretty good shortstops were going the other way -- Edgar Renteria (Atlanta to Detroit), David Eckstein (St. Louis to Toronto) and Adam Everett (Houston to Minnesota).

Tom Singer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.