KC Royals: How To Fix Eric Hosmer Second Half Crash
KC Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer crashed in the second half of 2016 after earning his first All-Star nod due to an outstanding first half. What went wrong?
Actually, the reason behind Kansas City Royals star Eric Hosmer’s second-half crash is easy to diagnose. He lost his plate discipline. He began to swing at pitches low and out of the strike zone more than half the time after July 1. Before July 1, Hosmer managed to lay off those low pitches that ate him up in the second half.
The heat maps linked above tell a clear tale.
No wonder Hosmer went from slashing an outstanding .305/.367/.490 before July 1 and an anemic .228/.291/.378 after July 1. Though he hit 13 dingers in the second half, which were more than the 12 he smacked in the first half, he wasn’t the same player. The divide, however, began in June when he hit a mere .257/.350/.366 with only two home runs. KC Royals fans just didn’t notice because his overall numbers were still outstanding.
What happened in June? For one thing, Hosmer broke up with longtime girlfriend Kacie McDonnell.
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The Kacie McDonnell Effect
After that, he never got back on track. In July, Hosmer slashed .200/.248/.316 which was his low month of the season with a .563 OPS. August saw him improve to .239/.315/.381 and September to .242/.303/.434. But, Hosmer still hit below par both months as the KC Royals season went south along with Hosmer’s decline.
I guess the bottom line for Hosmer is to avoid girlfriend troubles in a contract year.
Even if you don’t buy his breakup as a reasonable explanation for his crash, something caused him to hit more batted balls on the ground. Hosmer’s ground ball rate zoomed to 58.9%, up from 52.0% in 2015 and his career rate of 53.0%.
First of all, a guy like Eric Hosmer doesn’t have any business pounding the ball into the dirt over 50% of the time. That’s not a good idea when you’re 6’4″ and 225 pounds—especially when you possess below-average foot speed. It’s worse when that metric get’s close to 60%.
The wisdom of hitting numerous ground balls is even worse when your exit velocity is no. 14 in all of major league baseball at 93.7 mph according to statcast. To put this in perspective, superstar Josh Donaldson averages the same exit velocity, but blasted 37 dingers for the Blue Jays last season.
The Launch Angle Problem
Of course, Donaldson only hit ground balls 38.2% of the time. More tellingly, Hosmer’s average launch angle (LA) of the ball off his bat was a mere 5.7 degrees compared to 10.5 for Donaldson. Plus, Hosmer can’t use the excuse that he’s going for line drives. According to statcast data, players optimize line drives at an average launch angle around 12%. Also, Hosmer’s line drive rate crashed from 23.6% in 2015 to only 16.5% in 2016.
Instead, the KC Royals need a guy like Hosmer to slam extra base hits. He’s got the power, he just needs to add loft to his swing. No one should be surprised that Hosmer’s results suffered when his batted ball profile turned into an ideal rate for Jarrod Dyson. Of course, laying off low pitches will help as well.
The good news is, players can change their launch angle. In fact, Boston’s Hanley Ramirez adjusted his stance and went from a Hosmer-like 5.2% LA before June 22 of 2016, to a 12.5% LA after. Ramirez’s slash line went from .263/.331/.385 with a mere six home runs, to .307/.388/.613 and 24 big flies after June 22.
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There you have it KC Royals fans. The keys to Eric Hosmer’s 2017 are to 1) avoid girlfriend trouble and 2) improve his launch angle. If he can achieve both next season, Hosmer just might reach the potential that Royals general manager Dayton Moore saw when he drafted him no. 3 overall in 2008.