Eric Hosmer’s BABIP

Eric Hosmer has been a huge disappointment this season with a 0.174/0.243/0.316 slash line. Most of his problems stem from a 0.169 BABIP. I am going to look to see if there are any under lying problems for the drop and any possible reasons for optimism.

As I stated previously, Eric has a BABIP of 0.169. It is the lowest value of all hitters with at least 150 PA. In 2011, he was 50th out of 145 qualified hitters with a 0.314 BABIP.

A look at his batted ball data shows that he is hitting the ball similar in 2012 compared to 2011:

Batted ball, 2011 Value, 2012 Value
Line Drive: 19%, 17%
Ground Ball: 50%, 52%
Fly Ball: 32%, 31%

There is not much of a change between the two seasons. Looking a little deeper, here are his BABIP values on the 3 batted ball types:

2011 BABIP
Grounders: 0.253
Liners: 0.699
Flies: 0.164

2012 BABIP
Grounders: 0.072
Liners: 0.435
Flies: 0.162

His fly ball BABIP is almost the same, but his ground ball and line drive BABIPs are way down. Having watched a good portion of the Royals games this year, the defensive shift is taking away quite a few hits from him. The main place the shift is taking away hits is the center part of the field as seen here:

2011 BABIP
Center: .356
Opposite: 0.356

2012 BABIP
Center: .137
Opposite: 0.282

There is some debate on the exact amount that a shift affects a hitter, but it is having some effect on Hosmer’s BABIP. How much is just not for certain.

The low average has limited the times Hosmer is getting on base which in turn has limited his stolen base chances. In 2011, he had 11 SBs or 7.9% of the time he was on 1B. In 2012, he has only 1 SB so far, or 3.3% of the time he has been on 1B. Hosmer looked to have the potential to have double digit steals at the beginning of the season. Now it looks like he may be lucky to get half a dozen.

In other bad news, he is seeing a small drop in power. He has 5 HRs this season in 173 PAs. Those numbers work out to be 1 HR every 35 PAs. Last season, he hit one every 30 PAs. This lack of power can also be seen in a drop in his ISO from 0.172 to 0.139.

There is a bit of good news. His plate discipline has improved. His walk rate has gone up from 6% to 9%. His strike out rate has dropped from 15% to 12%. The improvements are just not enough to over come the huge drop in BABIP.

While Hosmer’s plate discipline has improved from 2011 to 2012, it is not large enough to offset the declines in BABIP and power. The drop in power is not horrible. The decline is BABIP is completely destroying any of his fantasy values. Even though shifts are working against him by limiting the ground balls and line drives that leave the infield, some amount of regression should be expected with his BABIP. How much and when it will happen is anyone’s guess.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

20 Responses to “Eric Hosmer’s BABIP”

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  1. MustBunique says:

    Great stuff here Jeff, thanks for breaking down his BABIP by the three batted ball types. Where did you find the information to do that? (Sorry if it’s on the FG player page and I am just an idiot, but I couldn’t find it)

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  2. LionoftheSenate says:

    Very interesting. Hosmer might be worth a massive deep dive if this continues. Is it possible that when Hosmer hits the ball hard, it always goes to the same place? Is that possible? Is there better ways to measure than classifying a ball as in RF, CF, LF? Do we have a heat map of Hosmer’s balls in play on the field? Bet that would reveal something.

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  3. shibboleth says:

    As stated the ISO isn’t too hot, and the OBP is significantly lower than last season. Is this representative of a buy low situation, or would you rather let someone else worry about it?

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    • Goodbread says:

      Clear buy low, IMO. Better plate discipline should translate into improved OBP (and steal attempts) when (not if) the BABIP normalizes. I think it’s that simple.

      Sure, the shift may have an incremental effect on BABIP, but improvement is almost certainly unavoidable considering the drop-off from BABIP of grounders from 2011 to 2012.

      Great, simple-to-understand analysis by Jeff. Kudos.

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  4. stefangfg says:

    a few comments:
    1) in 2011, he hit .280 on pulled balls, and hit 100 points higher to center and left. 70% of his pulled contact were GBs. So that shift is an ideal tactic to use against him and it is likely a huge cause of his woes.
    2) I have a problem when BABIP is used as a luck/unluck diagnosis. Have you checked out the the BABIP discrepancies between hard and weak contact? It appears BABIP is definitely at least partially in the batter’s control. The numbers are startling, tho not entirely objective (but there should be an effort to do f/x type analysis of contact, no? BABIP needs to be refined before being given so much weight as a predictive stat and/or being considered a function of luck) (from mastersball):
    2011 Line Drive 0.714 0.730 0.683
    2011 Ground Ball 0.238 0.576 0.185
    2011 Fly Ball 0.139 0.404 0.045

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  5. Grake says:

    I think the power number “decline” is a meaningless SSS artifact. If he had one more home run he would be on the same pace as last year.

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    • Benjo says:

      There’s a spray chart of games through April here:

      There have been at least one and optimistically as many as four deep outs which would have been home runs in July air. I think any concerns over even a slight power downturn are overstated, and the walk rate is extremely encouraging considering it shows he’s not reacting to his bad luck by extending his strike zone.

      I think what we’re seeing is a young power hitter who needs to learn not to try to pull everything. I’m guessing if he works hard on his approach in BP, a great many of those pulled ground outs in early 2012 will be changed to shift-busting opposite field loopers in late 2012 and beyond. Or else he should just start crowding the crap out of the plate.

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      • cameroninthispiece says:

        Last year, 17 of Hosmer’s 27 2Bs were to left field. This year, four of his six 2Bs are to left, and two of his five HRs are opposite field shots.

        Of the 48 2Bs Miguel Cabrera hit last year, 13 were to the opposite field.

        Perhaps Hosmer’s doubles to left are due to defensive shifts, and I’m a stupid idiot. But I am encouraged by his opposite field numbers.

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  6. LuckyStrikes says:

    Count me as a big believer in Hosmer both ROS and for the future, but a big part of that optimism rides on the fact that I bought “low” in a keeper league and now have him dirt cheap for years. Those in non-keepers probably have some reason to begin looking elsewhere, though I do believe he’ll make adjustments in the 2nd half to offset the shift. Still young and very, very talented.

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  7. mcbrown says:

    Thanks for diving in, but the analysis (though deep) isn’t particularly insightful. Since we know his BABIP is down and his batted ball mix is largely unchanged, it is a logical consequence that his BABIP on individual batted ball types must be down (or must be down on some and not up very much on others). The defensive shift idea is noteworthy, but did he not face the shift at all last year? Is he facing it in every PA now?

    Hosmer’s peripherals look excellent. We have mountains of evidence that BABIP is subject to massive potential fluctuations from year to year. Which is the more likely explanation: Hosmer is going to an aberration studied by baseball analysts for decades to come, or his BABIP luck has come up on the “bad” side of the coin for a whole whopping two months? I am going with the obvious conclusion that he has been unlucky, nothing more.

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  8. rdj3video says:

    Breaking down BABIP a littler further is fun. End result…Hosmer just isn’t getting it done during the 1st 2 months of Year 2. It happens. I leaned Hosmer over Freeman when making some fantasy decisions this past offseason. Hosmer makes me recall Jason Heyward’s Year 2 during 2011, but I firmly believed Heyward was hurt all season and then got jacked around by Fredi with that Jose Constanza guy. Maybe Hosmer is just going to have a disappointing season. It’s going to be tough to completely turn it around and offset all elements from two months of misery. Meanwhile teammate Moustakas had some puny looking stats in 2011. Him and Hos have kind of reversed course in 2012.

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  9. Scott Clarkson says:

    we all know that this article was really just a giant reverse jinx: Hosmer 3-4 today w/ a 2B, RBI, and SB

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    • rotofan says:

      Hosmer finally received some good luck. Double was a weak opposite field pop up that fell between the infield and outfield near the foul line. The single was a weak grounder that pulled the 1B off the bag– Hosmer beat Pettitte to the bag.

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:

      I was hoping for the reverse jinx, but Hosmer’s hits last night were some really weak.

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  10. Bill says:

    Personally, I’m going with the theory that Arod’s “lessons” over the summer encouraged a bigger weight shift and front leg move,, which in turn has thrown off hosmer’s timing. Add the bad luck and generally weaker contact= slump.

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  11. mannfm11 says:

    I saw Hosmer a couple of games when the Royals were at Texas. He is going to have to hit it to left and break the shift. They are using the shift on Hamilton as well and he is going to left, so we aren’t seeing it as much. Hos had a couple of hits in the last game and hit a ground ball so hard that without Hamiltons speed, it would have gone to the wall. Josh threw him out tryng to go to second. You don’t see grounders hit that hard up the middle of the field too often.

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  12. Tim says:

    Some guy in my league just dropped Drew Stubbs. Do I finally cut bait on Hosmer and roll the dice with Stubbs? Position doesn’t matter, standard 5×5 league. Any advice would be great, thanks.

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