What’s up with the Padres’ $144 Million Dollar Man?

Credit: AP Photo

At a time when launch angle has captured the attention of players and fans alike, Eric Hosmer has defied the trends and continued to pound the ball into the ground. Only Ian Desmond and Dee Gordon have higher ground-ball rates, but both of them have speed on their side. Hosmer may not be a typical plodding first baseman, but he doesn’t have the speed to beat out those worm-burners.

Hosmer’s ground ball rate has increased every season since his first in 2011, rising steadily from 58.8 percent to an all-time high of 69.6 percent in 2018. As the season has progressed, the results have trended in the wrong direction. Since April, when Hosmer batted .284/.394/.443, his numbers at the plate have plummeted to .109/.136/.188 so far this month.

Although a cliché, baseball indeed is a game of adjustments, constant adjustments. But turning his season’s trajectory around will be further complicated by that fact that Hosmer doesn’t seem inclined to adjust. In fact, as he told Matthew LaMar of royalsreview.com, “’Me, as a player, I’m not going to change who I am because of what the analytics say.’”

This attitude runs contrary to the qualities of clubhouse leadership that the Padres praised when signing Hosmer. In fact, only one other team, his original club the Kansas City Royals, entered into the bidding in the offseason.

Although the Padres didn’t give in to agent Scott Boras’ demands, the team did sign Hosmer to the largest contract in the history of the franchise at $144 million over eight years. This year he makes $21 million on a team made up mostly of players paid around the league minimum. His acquisition also moved Wil Myers off first base and made a crowded outfield more complicated.

It should be noted that players face numerous adjustments every year, and Hosmer, even more so, as he has left the only team he’s ever played for and has had to adjust to a new team, a new league, and a new town. Also, Hosmer does tend to be a streaky hitter, alternating humdrum years with productive ones. Last year, he played in every game batting .318/.385/.498 with 25 home runs and 94 RBI. However, the regression at the plate over the course of the season as well as his stubborn approach has to be alarming to team officials.

In the field, Hosmer’s defense at first base has not made up for his rather lackluster performance at the plate. In UZR/150 he’s rated -9.6, 19th of all first baseman. Rated ninth, Yonder Alonso (sorry, I couldn’t resist) has a 2.8 UZR/150.

At 28, Eric Hosmer is in the prime of his career. Statistics show that for most ballplayers a steady decline begins around the age of 30. The Padres signed Hosmer to an eight-year contract. If he continues this trajectory while refusing to make adjustments, the Padres will be stuck with his increasingly futile ground-ball tendencies. Unfortunately, as LaMar wrote on royalsreview.com, “The Padres (may have) saved the Royals from an awful decision.”

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Diane Calkins
Baseball has always been part of my life, as my dad played minor league ball and went on to coach at the college level. Although I've written for a number of publications (mostly about companion animal welfare), I love having the chance to write about a lifelong passion: baseball.

This article has 9 Comments

  1. As a lifelong KC fan I can tell you we were not unhappy to unload Hosmer. We won gold gloves but was statistically one of the worse defensive first basemen there was. He hit over .300 but never seem to get the big hit for us. He was a good ‘clubhouse guy’ and was willing to buy drinks for KC patrons down in the P&L district though! His unwillingness to change his swing smacks of selfishness and is not a good look for him. I see BIG regression in him the next several years. He seems to have this image as a top 3 first baseman when every statistic I can find lists him in the bottom half. Duda is actually outperforming him at about .05% of the cost… plus we will probably flip him for an asset at the trade deadline!

  2. It’s hard for any of us to be happy . As for Preller? He should have been fired as soon as MLB suspended him. He is such a joke. But that didn’t happen. How can Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler be so smart in business but be such poor baseball owners as they are? Mike Dee was the one who supposedly hired Preller and Fowler and Seidler got rid of Dee. So why not also get rid Preller when they had the chance?

    But here is what I don’t understand; why would you sign Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer to long term contracts unless you also wanted to surround them with talent and WIN? By WIN, I mean at least try and be a .500 team this year.
    Otherwise, why bother? Secondly, what sense does it make to have Myers and Hosmer but get rid of any decent veteran who is controllable (Brad Hand) and can help you win now? It defeats the purpose because if a smart GM would have added a few more decent and controllable players like Hand, we might have a team as good as Jerry DiPoto has assembled “this fast” in Seattle. How is it that Seattle got smart in hiring him but the Padres were stupid when they hired the boy genius?

    Common sense for any smart baseball person; the Padres do NOT need another AAA catcher when Austin Hedges is already one of the top defensive catchers in the game and he is showing signs of hitting .230 or more. What more do the Padres want? They also have a young man in Austin Allen sitting in San Antonio who seems almost ready. So Preller trades for Francisco Mejia and gives away Hand and Cimber? WHY? LIKE WE REALLY NEED MEJIA? But as we have seen already, Preller only wants HIS people to play. No matter if the Padres have 4 guys on the team who were all drafted #1 by the organization – worthy of their selections and are all slightly younger than Myers and Hosmer, in Preller’s eyes, NONE are any good and they should all be replaced by “superstars” like Margot, Cordero, Reyes and Villanueva. It’s such garbage the way Preller treats people and evaluates talentt. I can only hope that the Padres continue to lose, waste $$$ (Headley and Mitchell) and that eventually Fowler and Seidler will FIRE Preller and NEVER hire a “rookie” to ever run their team again. What else can loyal Padres fans hope for?

    1. This was the year we were going to reach .500, if the target is 95 wins in 2020. Instead the team is playing .408 ball, worst record in the league. Other teams make smart moves (well okay, not the Orioles or the Mets) but SD never seems to. Then we trade our best player for another catcher. We have 3 catchers on the 25 man roster, two ex-catchers, and we need another?
      Is it time to fire Preller?

  3. Interesting how a lot of people want to write Hosmer’s obituary after a bad six weeks. Let’s wait until the end of the year before making any grand pronouncements. He was easily the best player on the team in April and May. Good players often have slumps, look at Goldschmidt Bryce Harper, etc.

    1. Fair enough, but these stats are for the WHOLE season. The signing was beyond nonsensical at the time, yet people wanted to somehow defend it. Even if he were average it made zero sense. It is just a matter of time before (just about) everyone (except the ardent Preller followers) admits this was horribly, horribly wrong. AND it is just a matter of time that Padre fans will be thinking about ways to pay another team millions of dollars to have Hosmer play for them (this one will take longer than the first). It is highly likely that Myers will precede Hosmer in being shipped off and paid to play for a Padres competitor … and Preller will still be called a genius and “Rock Star.”

  4. Thanks for reading EVT. I am trying very, very hard to stay positive. I have to think that if the Padres don’t really turn it around by 2020 changes will be made

  5. Your article makes several good points. Unfortunately this signing falls into the category of magical thinking. Thinking that something will be different because you wish it so. Hosmer is doing what he does. He just isn’t a very good player, but the Padres are paying him as if he was an elite talent.
    No other team even made a firm offer for Hosmer, not one. If not for the Padres’ foolishness he was looking at crawling back to KC for a one year deal below the QO, like Moustakas.
    It is too much for beer distributors to be expected to have baseball expertise, but all business owners can be expected to understand what success of the product looks like. Preller has made a number of big money moves (signing Shields, trading for Kemp, agreeing to take Upton as part of the first Kimbrel trade, extending Myers, signing Hosmer) and not one of them has worked out. The 2015 roster transformation had to be undone, the Myers extension was premature at best, and the Hosmer signing was embarrassingly dumb.
    With this kind of record, of acting like a kid in the candy shop on allowance day, should Preller be allowed to keep his job? Ownership of course extended him, so the organization has decided to double down on the narrative. But a roster is built in three ways: draft and development (including waiver claims), trades, and FA signings. The long term picture is untenable for a management that isn’t proficient at all three.

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