Those of us fortunate enough to watch Eric Hosmer know how important his defense is to the Kansas City Royals. So why do the numbers not recognize his defensive prowess?
Since sabermetrics and a more analytical way of looking at baseball came into being, there has been a debate between the old school scouts and the more mathematically inclined. Those who have been around the game their entire lives are more inclined to judge a player on the eyeball test, while the sabermetric approach is based on advanced statistics and numbers.
While there is generally a good deal of overlap in terms of determining the value of a player, there are times when the numbers are unable to quantify how well a player performs. That is definitely the case when it comes to Eric Hosmer’s defense last season.
Based on the defensive metrics, Hosmer was just a shade below league average last season. While his .997 fielding percentage was better than the .994 average, Hosmer was considered to have cost the Royals four runs at first. He was also a bit below average when it came to range factor, with 9.05 chances per game, as opposed to the 9.10 average.
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With those metrics, Hosmer was considered to have been worth -0.9 WAR defensively. As someone that graded out to be slightly below league average, it would make sense that his value, at least on defense, would also be slightly below the break even point. However, for anyone that has seen Hosmer in action, it is easy to know that his glove is far more valuable than the numbers would indicate.
On a team with a starting rotation that tends to give up fly balls, and a bullpen filled with power arms, it makes sense that Hosmer would not have as many chances as other first basemen. Yet, when given those opportunities with the glove, Hosmer has proven to be extremely valuable. His uncanny knack for digging balls out of the dirt, snaring throws that may get past other first basemen, is a key part of why the Royals infield defense has been as stellar as it has been over the past few years.
When watching Eric Hosmer, one can truly see how much his defense at first matters to the Royals. His three consecutive Gold Glove awards have been earned, not only based on the defensive reputation of the Royals, but for his part in making sure the team’s defense is among the best in baseball. Without Hosmer at first, the rest of the Royals infield would not look nearly as good as they do.
Ignore what the metrics say about Eric Hosmer’s defense, and look at what the Kansas City Royals have become. This is one of those cases where the eyeball test wins out over sabermetrics.