Eric Hosmer and the Lost Season


Quick – I say “Alex Gordon,” what is the first image that comes to mind?  Gordon’s face-plant early in the season as he made a great diving catch?  Maybe one of his game opening home runs?

How about “Billy Butler?”  Quick, what did you think of? How about Billy in his All-Star uniform smiling from ear to ear while the crowd booed Robinson Cano as he whiffed at one pitch after another during the home run derby?

If I say “Alcides Escobar,” what pops into your brain?  A spinning, whirling, Tazmanian devil patrolling the left side of the infield and gunning down every hitter dumb enough to think he can shoot a ball through the hole?

Mike Moustakas?”  I think of his game ending defensive play on a dying ground ball against the Yankees at Kauffman on May 3, running in to make a smooth bare-handed grab and rifling a throw across the diamond to nail Alex Rodriguez to finish off the boys in pinstripes.

Now, if I say “Eric Hosmer”, what do you think of? ……….. Ummm, uhhhh, well… Nothing really comes to mind.  Nothing positive anyway.  That’s what happens when you’re just playing out the string at the end of a lost season.

This year we’ve had a front row seat to one of the most disappointing sophomore slumps I can remember.  We’re talking about the player who was 3rd in the Rookie of the Year ballot in 2011 when he hit 19 home runs in just a little over ¾ of a season and had the baseball world thinking he could be the next “It” guy.  Women swooned over him, analysts drooled at his potential, and I even wasted $25 on a Royals t-shirt with Hosmer’s name printed on the back.  Did he have all of us fooled?

Last March at the beginning of Spring Training, I downloaded a ZiPS projections spreadsheet that I dusted off a few moments ago to review again.  Would you like to know what the experts predicted for our First baseman in 2012?  They said he would hit .304 with 20 home runs.  Do you remember that Eric Hosmer, the one we all thought capable of carrying the team on his back toward respectability?  With 6 weeks left in the season Hosmer now has half that number of home runs, and you know his batting average right?  His average is obscene, and this is a family web site, so I’m not going to reprint it here.

Hosmer’s performance in 2012 is about on par with Humberto Quintero and Yuniesky Betancourt (remember them?) and a little worse than Jeff Francoeur who I believe should be summarily dropped from the roster so the Royals can bring Wil Myers up to begin his big league career.  Not exactly the type of comparisons we projected for Eric.

It’s been interesting for me to observe how nonchalant everyone seems to be with Hosmer’s performance.  No matter how many pitches located 2 feet out of the strike zone he flails at, no matter how much defensive immaturity he displays with his sweeping grabs at first, now matter how many weak ground balls he big-hops to an opposing infielder – nobody seems to be worried.  All the coaches and fans hold hands together with Eric, we sing a couple verses of “Kum ba Yah,” and everything will be fine in the morning.  Well, I’m beginning to have my doubts about this strategy.

During all the recent discussions regarding whether Alex Gordon should bat leadoff or somewhere lower in the order, Yost proclaimed that Eric Hosmer is still his projected #3 hitter. This leaves me to wonder, what would Hosmer need to do to cause the team to lose faith in him?  Based on Yost’s apparently unqualified statement, my guess is that there is nothing he could do this year that would force the Royals to rethink his future with the organization.

There are many schools of thought for how to treat a struggling prospect.  Sometimes, as with Johnny Giavotella, the team will send him back to the minors to work on his defense.  And then no matter how frequently he destroys minor league pitching, they wait until their weak hitting big league second baseman breaks his thumb while making another ill advised bunt attempt (you can’t make this stuff up) before recalling him to the majors.

Other times, you leave a struggling prospect like Kyle Davies with the parent club and just hope and pray he works his way through his problems.  (And then hope and pray some more.)  We all know how that plan worked out with Davies, the worst pitcher in the history of the major leagues.

With Eric Hosmer, the Royals have chosen the latter approach, hoping and praying that he’ll find his mojo and return to the form that garnered so many accolades just one year ago.  Maybe Hosmer simply isn’t as good as we hoped he would be.  Maybe it’s just a sophomore slump, possibly the worst in memory.  But nevertheless, maybe it’s just a long, tedious, mind-numbing, protracted, maddening, implausible slump.  Whatever you call it, in my opinion it’s a completely lost season for Eric Hosmer, and for the Royals.