KC Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer is a replacement level player according to Fangraphs.com. That rating is hard to reconcile with the eye test.
Eric Hosmer is slashing .268/.329/.434 with 23 home runs and 100 RBI’s in 2016. However, according to analytics-heavy website Fangraphs.com, Hosmer has been worth -0.4 fWAR (Wins Above Replacement as measured by Fangraphs.com). To the non-stat nerd, this number says the Royals cleanup hitter is worth less than a garden variety AAA first baseman.
The other major rating system available to the public is Baseball-Reference’s version of the Wins Above Replacement metric (bWAR). Baseball-Reference values Hosmer at 0.9 bWAR. While closer to reality, Baseball-Reference is still saying that Hosmer isn’t even an average major-league regular (usually around 2.0 WAR).
The main difference between the two systems is that Baseball-Reference uses actual production. Meanwhile, Fangraphs tries to eliminate luck (variance) by using Batting Average Balls In Play, and other rate metrics, to estimate what a player’s true talent suggests he SHOULD have produced. This measure isn’t useful for knowing how much a player’s production helped his team. But, the idea is that it’s a more reliable system to project FUTURE production.
Both of these systems are saying that Eric Hosmer isn’t anywhere near being worth the $200 million deal that agent Scott Boras was floating early this season.
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Explaining Why Advanced Metrics Systems Don’t Like Eric Hosmer
Sabermetric analysts insist that RBIs are a mostly meaningless stat. Their argument is that RBIs are more about hitting with runners on base than anything that the hitter does himself. Yet, this analysis isn’t true of every hitter. Some hitters succeed more frequently than others in “clutch” situations.
For those players, their RBI total is at least partially due to something they do at the plate rather than the mere good fortune of hitting behind guys that get on base. However, even in this area, Eric Hosmer has struggled in 2016. His CLUTCH metric, a stat that measures how a player performs in key situations is a mere -0.14 (measured in wins above league average). This performance comes from a player that ranks no. 1 in all of major league baseball in CLUTCH since 2011 (Hosmer’s rookie season).
Also, major defensive systems like Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) both see Hosmer as a below average defender. This result has been typical in his career, despite Hosmer winning three straight Gold Gloves. Some analysts assert that the defensive systems don’t capture Hosmer’s value. However, Fangraphs.com insist that managers, who make up 75% of the Gold Glove vote, overvalue Hosmer’s ability to dig balls out of the dirt at first base.
Thus, Eric Hosmer’s season faces us with an anomaly. Even though Hosmer has just set career highs in both home runs (23) and RBIs (100), he has also suffered through a terrible season. Hosmer’s 2016 performance could hurt his contract value when he hits free agency after the 2017 season.
The immediate consequence is that the soon-to-be 27-year-old Hosmer is unlikely to sign a long-term deal with the Royals this winter. There’s no way he’s going to agree to a contract after a down season. Super-agent Scott Boras will encourage Hoz to gamble on his talent and hope for a big year in 2017.