The first two months of the season will drag down Eric Hosmer‘s overall numbers, and still, he’ll likely hit some new career highs and some significant statistical markers.
On the day George Brett stepped in as hitting coach, Hosmer was hitting .262/.323/.331 and had one home run. The average was okay but not that good. The on-base was okay, but not that good. The slugging was unusually low, however, and Hosmer only had nine extra base hits.
Since Brett and Pedro Grifol came on board, Hosmer has turned everything around and has been one of the best hitters in the league since. Entering Sunday, his 100 hits since June 1 led the majors. His slash line since the hitting coach change is .319/.359/.516 and he’s hit 14 homers and 19 doubles.
Early on, Grifol and Brett identified that Hosmer needed to get his swing going quicker. We all saw that most of his hits had previously been to left field and he didn’t pull the ball often and when he did, there wasn’t much on it. For a 6’3″ 220 pound guy, it was concerning. But the key wasn’t to try to hurry through the swing, but rather to adjust his hands so that the swing needed less time to develop. Now, everything can just fly through the hitting zone.
With that adjustment, the power returned, and Hosmer isn’t getting cheated. HitTrackerOnline awards the “Golden Hammer” to the player with the best average true distance on their home runs. Hosmer leads Justin Upton 419.9 feet to 419. Thirteen of his home runs have surpassed 400 feet and he’s hit them to all fields.
It’s been more than just adjustments, though. Hosmer’s confidence returned once he started working with Brett and Grifol. Confidence and comfort go a long way.
Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus discussed that in regard to Hosmer on Saturday at a Kauffman Stadium event.
“I think he’s going to get better and better and I think that there’s comfort and confidence and how you go about acquiring that.”
“Sometimes there are mechanical tweaks,” he said. “A lot is on the focus the player is willing to put in to make those adjustments on the field. You get a young kid who’s really really good with a really high ceiling who’s crushing the minors and give them a ton of money, sometimes failure is really hard to take. Sometimes those adjustments become even harder to make.”
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports agreed.
“We get stuck in this idea that because these guys are singularly talented that all of the things that get us on a daily basis whether it’s confidence in our job, a fight with our wife at home, dealing with our kids,” Passan said.
“Just because these guys do this remarkable thing that none of us in here can do, doesn’t make them immune to all that.”
Hosmer’s grooving, and it’s putting him in a position to potentially hit .300. You’ll know by now that I’m not a big advocate of using just batting average to judge a player’s production, but the .300 number is still a symbolic marker for a hitter. If he hits a homer a week, he’ll reach 20 homers. If you extrapolate his post-Brett production to fit a full season (just as a fun exercise), he’d have an OPS of .875 and 30 homers and 40 doubles.
Hosmer’s 2013 will be a great rebound from a poor 2012 and the hope is that he can now keep the production rolling into 2014. The signs are there. If he keeps his swing intact and focuses on the adjustments to pitching he’ll have to make, his tools can make him a star. Last season, there were nine players who played more than 150 games, struck out fewer than 100 times, and still hit 20 homers or more. Hosmer’s got a chance to get in that kind of club (in 2011, eight did so; in 2010, nine). If Hosmer plays a lot, he can hit some homers but won’t sacrifice contact in the process.
It’s reassuring and makes 2014 look like a potential breakout toward superstardom.