Putting a finger on Eric Hosmer‘s true talent level seems tougher than the over cooked pork crops my mom makes. Hosmer was good his rookie season. Then he was horrible in year two. He started last season off horribly, but then turned his season around. While he seemed to be all over the place, his production change can be focused to a period of an extremely low BABIP
Let’s just start out looking at his stats from his first three seasons along with his 2014 Steamer projections.
Just one number is out of place – his 2012 AVG. He was near .300 for both 2011 and 2013. Usually only two items lead to a lower AVG, more strike outs or a lower BABIP.
While his strike outs increased by about 1% point in 2012, a near 70 point BABIP drop was the cause from the production drop.
Alright, now it is time to see how he hit the ball over over those three season and xBABIP.
His 2012 BABIP makes no sense at all. With the same line drive percentage as 2011, he had less fly balls and more ground balls. This mix should have led to a higher 2012 BABIP. Ground balls are twice as likely to go for a hit than fly balls. This effect can be seen in his .309 xBABIP.
One possible explanation for the change in BABIP is teams shifting him less in 2013. Teams usually shift an extra player to the pull side of the field if a hitter pulls 75% or more of their ground balls (for more on shifts pick up the Hardball Times Annual once it is released). If a player is going to ground the ball 75% of the time to the one side of the infield, a team might as well have 75% of their infielders over there.
Here are Hosmer’s values along with with Pull, Center and Opposite field BABIP.
|Season||GB to Pull%||Pull||Center||Oppo|
Hosmer didn’t hit the magic 75% GB Pull% value, but he was generally close. I watched quite a few Royals games in 2012, teams were shifting quite a bit. While I don’t have the exact numbers from 2012, FanGraphs, thanks to data from Inside Edge, does have shift information from 2013. Hosmer hit into 14 shifts in April, 8 times in May and then never again. Teams just quit shifting him. His BABIP went from .310 in the first half to .368 in the second half. It can be seen by his 2013 ground ball pull %, he tried to use the other half of the field. It is hard to pin down the exact change, but it could be from one of his four 2013 hitting coaches.
In summary, I think Hosmer’s 2012 low average was driven by luck and the defensive shift. In 2013, he sprayed the ball around the field more and his BABIP shot up. For 2014, I expect his above Steamer projection to be on the low side with chances for growth. His counting stats should be closer to his 2013 values with similar PA and could see a nice jump in the Royals offense decides to show up. I would expect his power to continue to improve as he ages, but still be able to hold onto his stolen base numbers. With 1B being the shallowest it has been in years, he looks to be a top 12 1B in 2014 with a chance of moving up higher.
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