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.”