April 08, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals first basemen Eric Hosmer (35) at bat against the Minnesota Twins during the third inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

This Week In Royaltown

It’s been a wild, wild week (both in the Royals universe and in this country). Anytime something shakes people the way the events in Boston did, things are not the same for a while. People start to wonder and worry. The media predictably calls on sports to be that thing that will return us to normalcy, but what happens when sports was a part of the thing that jerked us from contentment in the first place, i.e. a terrorist act at a sporting event? I actually have a lot of thoughts about sports and violence in society, but this isn’t the place. This is a blog about baseball, and in an attempt to aid the move back to a routine we all find so comfortable (hopefully never forgetting the price of that comfort or that many do not have the good fortune to experience it) I’ll proceed with baseball commentary and funny quips about Jeff Francoeur.

The Royals only played five games this week, which is a fairly rare thing in major league baseball, but it was a five game stretch that tested them against two of the hottest teams in baseball. What grade do they receive for this five-game gauntlet of scorching hot oppenents? A-. Why? Because they went 3-2 against the Braves and Red Sox on the road under really tough conditions. They’d get an A if Kelvin Herrera hadn’t given up that three-run bomb to lose the game Saturday. This brings their overall record to 10-7, tops in the AL Central by a full game.

Now, onto some themes of this week:

Hosmer? I barely know ’er.

I came to a realization the other day while watching Eric Hosmer flail at a fastball: he can’t hit fastballs right now. So, I started watching pretty carefully, and I put on my amateur hitting instructor cap. I determined that Hosmer looks late on every fastball because his load either 1) takes way too long OR 2) starts too late. I don’t have fancy GIFs to show you, but go back and watch some of his at-bats this year. He starts his load when the pitchers already released the ball and consequently is behind fastballs that aren’t anything special. As most of us know, and as Brian Henry so wisely pointed out in this post, he’s actually doing a great job swinging at good hitter’s pitches. He’s just not squaring them up; a lot of this is do to his tardiness on fastballs, which he keeps fouling off.

This analysis actually mirrors the conclusion of Clint Scoles over at Pinetarpress.com in his post about Bubba Starling, which is interesting. Starling is, of course, much further behind in his development so it’s not surprising that he’s struggling even more mightily than Hosmer, but there issues seem to be similar.

For Hosmer, it could be a timing thing, maybe he needs to start his load sooner. It could be a mechanics thing, maybe he needs to shorten the path of his load. Whatever it is, it’d be nice to see it fixed very, very soon.

CountryBreakfast is eating lean

Billy Butler is stumbling a little right now, but I don’t think anyone is too worried. If you dive into the numbers, there’s nothing that suggests we should be super worried. He’s not striking out any more than usual; he’s just not getting hits. His BABIP right now is .212*. Part of that is certainly of his own doing. His ground ball rate is 57.1 percent, which is about 10 percent above his norm, and with his speed, groundballs are not the best option. Just from watching the games, it seems like he’s getting behind the count more often. This might be the result of pressing or of pitchers not giving him anything good to hit, knowing the Royals have been ice cold from the four spot this year.

I think he’ll be fine.

*Roughly, these numbers were before Sunday because Fangraphs wasn’t updated yet. Butler did hit a clutch homerun in the second game of the double header, but didn’t impress much otherwise.

The true colors of Francetz

There it is. We’re used to that old tune. It’s familiar and comforting, like the Bossa Nova or “The Thong Song”. For a moment, Chris Getz and Francoeur were playing a trick on us, letting us believe they were going to behave like real, major league ball players. But now, we see their true colors. After warm starts, the two have struggled this week, and are now sporting shiny OBPs of .281 (Francoeur) and .240 (Getz). Getz has apparently decided that taking a walk is beneath him (he’s a power hitter now), and consequently hasn’t taken one yet this season. These two players are another example of a decision the Yost-Moore tandem will have to make, and that decision will say a lot about their development as decision makers.

That’s all for this short week. There were other great things (LoCain, Santana, etc.), but a world fully explored is a world without possibility.

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  • Michael Engel

    One thing I’ve noticed and that I’d like to find the time to go back and look at is Hosmer’s front foot. It seemed like in the WBC, he was lifting it about a foot off the ground with his leg kick before the pitcher delivered.

    Then, the season started and he went through a stretch where he looked good. Hitting the ball the other way hard, solid strokes to right – maybe they all didn’t fall for hits, but he looked good and comfortable – and he was taking pitches he’d chase last year. During that stretch, his front foot hardly gets off the ground, if at all. Maybe that extra split second his foot is up is throwing his timing off (though he wasn’t driving the ball for extra bases in the good stretch either).

    Last week, a guy at ESPN noted that Hosmer was 0-14 in at bats ending in a fastball (to that point). But he’s not chasing junk and he’s not doing the *top it over to second* he did in the middle of last year, so I’m hopeful. I’m also the last guy to jump off the Eric Hosmer bandwagon so…grain of salt.

  • ArrowFan

    I’m going to yell something “SHORT SAMPLE SIZE”. Over all the we are only three weeks in and our bats as a team are cold cold cold. However when you look at the game time temps. of some of our games it has been cold cold cold. Lets give the season a few more weeks say May 16th. By then I want a complete rundown of our hitting, with name calling and season predictions. Also lets try to stop looking at certain players with the rose colored glasses, I mean being hard on some guys and soft on others. Why should I judge Getz so hard yet give Moose or Hosmer a pass?

    • Michael Engel

      It’s a small sample size – in 2013, but Hosmer wasn’t good last year and it wasn’t all the BABIP issues from the first six weeks. Moose was really bad in the second half. That makes it a bigger sample and makes the concern more real. They get “a pass” because they’re younger, have room to improve, and are considered two of the most talented players on the team. Guys like Getz are exactly as good as they’ll ever be able to be, so there’s no adjustment he can reasonably make to improve – his ceiling is to be league average, maybe a tick better. Expectations have to play into it. If my expectation is for Getz to go .250/.300/.300 and he does just that, well I’m not going to complain (much) other than the fact that it’s Getz and I have to accept that he’s not much of a productive hitter. If my expectation for Hosmer is .290/.345/.425 and he’s at .250/.300/.300, that’s a much bigger gap and a much bigger problem and it has to be addressed BUT the talent for the .290/.345/.425 line is still present and so I’m going to expect some adjustments can turn it around. Each context is different. Who’s more likely to turn it on, a turning-30 second baseman who averages ten extra base hits a year or a 3rd overall pick who’s only 23 who still managed 40 XBH in a terrible second year?

      And the cold hasn’t seemed to affect John Buck or JP Arencibia or Chris Davis or Torii Hunter or Jean Segura or Carlos Santana or heck, Lorenzo Cain. Does it have an impact on hitting early? Yeah I think so, but I don’t think it’s a given that it’ll depress offensive production like the broadcast crew is trying to sell.

      It was 47 degrees at game time in the second game last night in Boston. Didn’t keep Billy from homering, or Kottaras, or Gordon. It was 56 the day before. 70s in Atlanta. 60s and 70s on the first homestand. Cold in Chicago and Philly, fine, but let’s not get carried away on the weather idea.

      • ArrowFan

        Didn’t we get a new hitting coach this year? How much is that affecting our bats?

    • Marcus Meade

      All good points. You’re right that we need to take sample size into account, and Mike’s right that the sample size is actually larger than 17 games. I don’t much buy the “cold weather” argument. There are many, many players hitting well despite the cooler temps. It’s not that colder weather can’t be a small factor, it just gets way too much attention as a factor (especially from team media faces like Lefebvre and Physioc). Here’s why you should judge Getz and give Moose and Hosmer more of a pass (though not a complete pass). Because judging Getz or Francoeur isn’t really a judgment on Getz or Francoeur. I have to remind myself of this a lot. I don’t dislike Getz or Francoeur; I don’t dislike any athlete. It makes no sense to dislike a person who tries their hardest and does their best. To me, it’s not right to criticize an athlete in that way (though I still slip into doing it sometimes). It’s the Moore-Yost band that deserve the criticism for playing guys whose best is clearly not good enough. Hosmer and Moustakas, they’re not yet known quantities. Getz and Francoeur are.

      • ArrowFan

        Cain is finally living up to the trade that brought him here.

        • Marcus Meade

          Oh yeah. Now, let’s cross our fingers that he stays healthy. Sometimes, he looks so gangly and awkward I fear he might get hurt walking to the plate.

    • ArrowFan

      I don’t think the cold weather is an excuse anymore at the point in the season. However for the first week I think it was. The team went from Arizona to Chicago and Philly (why is the season opening in Chicago?), stunting the bats. If one does give the team a pass on week one then we have only played two weeks. Thus making the sample size smaller. I just don’t see in their play why anyone should be dogging Getz or Francoeur, and not be all over Moose and Hosmer. Getz hits a home run and all people can do is dog on the guy.

      • Michael Engel

        Percentage of outs made in 2013:
        Getz: 76%
        Francoeur: 71.9%
        Moose: 77.4%
        Hosmer: 65.4%

        Getz and Francoeur still get a pass?

        • ArrowFan

          Prior to this weekend maybe? My eye test had them better than that.

          • Michael Engel

            Frenchy looked just awful all weekend.

            Granted, on 4/16 Getz was hitting .300 (still a crappy OBP and he hasn’t walked yet, but better than .240 obviously) and less than a week later he’s dropped 60 points. They were all easy pop outs and such, though when he was getting out, not like he was getting robbed by Pedroia (like it seemed Cain was at least twice).

            So some of it is sample size and one bad weekend makes it look crappy, but at the same time, Frenchy is a career .309 OBP guy. Getz is .311, so it’s not like this month is the anomaly. The eyes can tell so much, the numbers can tell so much. Together, ideally, they give you the whole picture. Getz/Frenchy probably aren’t going to be much better than where Getz was before he got hurt last year and Frenchy somewhere close to his 2011 (which smelled like a fluke at the time and still does even more now, but if he can get close he’s at least not a complete wasteland I guess).

  • ArrowFan

    First place baby.

    • Michael Engel

      First place. It’s fun up here.

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