Left-handed batters, that is. An article today over at Baseball America mentions young players whose careers may be affected by their home stadiums. Of course, the very first player mentioned is Eric Hosmer, who hit just 3 of his 19 homers in 2011 at home. The article goes on to mention that lefties in general are inhibited by Kauffman’s expansive outfield, limiting them to a home run per every 59.4 plate appearances.
As a righty, I had never really considered the lefty side of things nearly as much. As the Royals have three key players – Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alex Gordon – and two bench guys – Chris Getz and Mitch Maier – that bat left-handed, I wondered what effect this has on the team’s success.
So, home runs are limited from lefties at Kauffman. Well, that’s supposed to be the case. When I looked at the numbers, both Gordon and Moustakas hit more home runs at home than away in 2011, even though Moustakas played 17 more games on the road than at home. I admit that Moustakas’ sample size is fairly small, but Gordon did play the entire season. In his entire career, Gordon has hit 36 home runs at home and 32 at other parks. That doesn’t seem too uneven to me.
For Maier, his 8 career home runs have been more in line with BA’s suggestion. He hit just two at home and six on the road, with equal game time for both. And I’d mention Getz in the home run area, but he hasn’t hit a jack since the two he hit in 2009 (neither were in Kansas City, for the record).
We’re really kind of all over the place in this regard. Royals players don’t really seem to be inhibited when it comes to home runs. However, in general, Royals pitchers give up many fewer home runs at home (68 in 2011) than away (95 in 2011). For what it’s worth, they also lost 9 more games on the road than they did at home, but that’s another post. Looking further back, they’ve given up 371 home runs at home and 461 on the road over the last five seasons. Maybe there is something to this. Without going into specifics, the trend doesn’t follow for the rest of the league, so it’s not a question of home field advantage (again, for another post).
Another thing that the article mentions is the boost in straight hitting lefties experience at the K. Hosmer batted almost 50 points better at home in 2011, Gordon’s hit 32 points better at home over his career, and both Maier and Getz have seen boosts to their average at home. Again, Moustakas breaks the rule, hitting almost 50 points worse at home than away. Hosmer, Maier, Getz, and Gordon all hit more doubles and triples at home than away, but Moustakas again throws this rule out the window (6 XBH at home and 13 away). At this point, I’m convinced Moustakas is just out to prove this wrong.
All the guys except Moustakas get a boost to their OBP at home and all but Moustakas and Hosmer see a jump in their slugging percentage at the K, as shown by the number of extra-base hits. And, of course, everyone but Moustakas shows a jump in BABIP at home versus the road.
On the flip side of things, all visiting batters experience a lower batting average, equal OBP, and lower slugging percentage at the K versus facing the Royals on the road. I can’t seem to get that split into lefty/righty for whatever reason, so take it as it is.
So, is this really a negative thing for Kansas City and Hosmer? I don’t think so. It’s just one of those freak things that tends to happen from time to time. I can’t really explain why it happened, but it did. I just don’t expect it to happen in 2012 or later, as Hosmer will likely settle into a slot like Gordon, hitting an equal number of home runs in both environments.
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