On Friday night the unofficial Captain of the Padres made a slick snag of a hot shot grounder toward third and then threw hard to first. The throw was inside of the bag and one hopped Eric Hosmer. He did his infamous “olé” swipe and booted the ball. Ruled a hit, the play could have been another highlight reel example of Manny Machado’s prowess. Instead it will fall into obscurity and be soon forgotten. But something not discussed on the broadcast but can be seen from the screen shot in the headline above was Eric Hosmer’s positioning on the play. Hos has a terrible habit of backing up on balls he perceives will be in the dirt. He often goes into foul territory to receive the throw. It’s terrible positioning not only because some day a base runner will absolutely destroy him as he runs to first and trucks Hos who is standing in the way, but it makes the throw much longer than it needs to be. First basemen are taught to “gain ground on balls in the dirt.” Hos was obviously absent on days that mantra was discussed.
Now one play doesn’t mean Hos is horrible, but what he does time and time again is not stretching for a throw. Maybe Hos has been taking Tucker Carlson’s advice and has taken to tanning his testicles. Maybe Hos overdoes it and this makes stretching uncomfortable on his burnt nucksack. It makes the most sense because every first basemen in the world is proud of their ability to stretch to a throw. Hos seems fully incapable of stepping into a low throw. It’s got to be because of his burnt balls.
“But Billy, Eric Hosmer is off to a terrific start!” “You are just finding something to hate on him!” “Your a hater!” To which I say, first off, it’s you’re, you moron, and second, I am rooting for him to do well this season. The Padres need offense, and he is one of the few providing it. But also, if he continues to hit well, there is a real possibility that he opts out of his three years left of his contract. If Hos can produce to say his ‘17 season level, he might just want to bet on himself in the open market. Don’t crush his dreams.
Will Hosmer be able to replicate his ‘17 numbers? Well, so far in 39 plate appearances he is slashing .378/.410/.514 and a 165 wRC+. He has 5 doubles but no home runs. He is slapping plenty of singles and ground doubles down the line, but he isn’t lifting the ball very well. His batting average of balls in play (BABIP) is .519. For context, in his best season ever (‘17) his BABIP was .351. His average for his career is .316. I’m not forecasting him to fall off a cliff anytime soon, as Hos is known for his hot starts, but regression is coming. And probably coming for him pretty hard.
Last night on the Sunday Night Baseball broadcast Eduardo Perez was being critical of Hosmer’s swing and why he is so prone for driving balls into the ground. I know this may come as a surprise to most Padres fans that primarily just watch Bally Sports San Diego, but most of the baseball world knows Hosmer’s approach at the plate is terrible. He keeps his hands too high for too long and his long swing tends to always be in a downward plane toward the ball. Hos does hit the ball hard. He continues to be in the top third of the league in exit velocity (EV). The problem is he also continues to be in the bottom 5% for launch angle (LA). His LA this season is 4.2°. His career LA is 3.2° so hurray for improvement! But most likely Hos will continue to hit low line drives or grounders this season. He honestly is looking at a single digit home run season. He had 12 last season. He’s turning into Sean Burroughs.
Why the dire prediction for Hosmer even though he seems to be on such a hot streak? A couple of key factors on data that normalizes fairly quickly in the season, walks and strikeouts, aren’t trending well for him. He is at career worsts for both. A 5.1% walk rate and a 25.6% K-rate means once his BABIP normalizes, he could have his worst season ever. Hos also has not hit one barrel this season. A barrel is a stat that counts how many times a player hits a ball with an EV of >98mph and a LA between 26° and 30°. No barrels equals no homers. Which means Hos ain’t opting out and our nightmare can continue for three more seasons.