Friday, May 6, 2011

Debut Review: Eric Hosmer

It's starting to feel like I'm a KC Royals fan.

In my last GOD post I wrote about Zack Greinke and the prospects the Royals received when they traded him to the Brewers.  I also wrote about going to see the AAA Isotopes vs the Omaha Storm Chasers, KC's top farm club.  I did a paragraph on Royals prospects Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Mike Montgomery and Lorenzo Cain.

In that post I wrote of Hosmer:
The first is Eric Hosmer.  Hosmer was rated as the #8 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America.  He's currently obliterating minor league pitching to the tune of .518/.581.    The first baseman looks about ready for the bigs.  His career minor league OBP is just shy of .400 while his slugging is just shy of .500.  He walks a decent amount while drastically cutting his strikeouts last season.  He's ready to go and could be called up any day.
Well, not to toot my prophetic horn, but Eric Hosmer was called up by KC one day later and is making his major league debut as I type.

Jason Pridie also just hit a home run to give the Mets a two-run lead over LA.  Dammit

I said of Hosmer that he was "currently obliterating minor league pitching" I should have looked into it a bit farther.  At the time of his call up Hosmer was hitting .439/.525/.582.  Impressive numbers no doubt.  However, there is some reason to give pause.

Hosmer's BABIP is .500.  According to Statcorner, Hosmer's LD% was 18%.  Pretty impossible to have a .500 BABIP with an 18% line drive rate.  He's hitting a lot of groundballs, 50%, so that helps his BABIP, but at the cost of some power.  Using Hosmer's batted ball rates from Statcorner, MLB BABIPs per batted ball type, and the same ratio of extra base hits, we get Hosmer as having an expected BABIP of .268 and an overall .246/.365/.373 line-not nearly as impressive.

A nearly 2-to-1 ground ball to fly ball rate isn't what you want to see out of your slugger.

Despite this, Hosmer's minor league track record indicates he's going to be a very good player.  He still manages to strike out quite infrequently for a power hitter, and he draws a good number of walks.  He's just not been as good in 2011 as a he has looked.

Anyway, to today's game.

Hosmer faces a pretty good pitcher, Gio Gonzalez.  Gonzalez is a lefty and has induced ground balls about 47% of the time at the major league level.  He's also just plain good, coming off of a 3 WAR 3.78 FIP season.  A good left-handed ground ball pitcher isn't just what the doctor ordered for a left-handed slugger's major league debut.

Let's see what he's doing:
In his first at bat Hosmer came up with one out and nobody on in the 2nd inning.    He took a 96 mph fastball just a bit off the outside corner.  Gonzalez came back with a fastball pretty much down the middle that Hosmer fouled off.  The third pitch was an 82 mile an hour curve that Hosmer watched for a strike.  Hosmer is down 1 - 2.  Gonzalez comes back with another curve that isn't close.  Gonzlaez goes to the curve again and misses inside.  Hosmer's got a full count.  Gonzalez goes to another fastball low and away that just misses.  Hosmer takes the walk.  A good at bat.  Hosmer fouled off a hittable fastball, and watched a curve that got plenty of plate, but he didn't swing out of the zone on a couple of close pitches.

In his second at bat Hosmer came up with 2 out and no one on.  Gonzalez missed low and away with a curveball and a fastball that weren't real close.     Hosmer took a fastball for a strike on the outside of the plate.  Gonzalez followed that up with a fastball low and in the Hosmer fouled off.  Gonzalez then missed with another curve and fastball low and away. Hosmer draws another walk.

In his third at bat Hosmer came up with 2 out and Jeff Francoeur on 2nd base.  Gonzalez comes right after him with a fastball down the middle for a strike.  Gonzalez followed that up with a curveball low and in that Hosmer watched for a strike.  Gonzalez throws another fastball up and away that Hosmer watches for strike 3.  Young hitters have a tendency to be aggressive in RBI situations.  Hosmer never took the bat off of his shoulder.

In his fourth at bat Hosmer came up with 1 out and nobody on with the Royals down by 1 against A's closer Brian Fuentes.  Fuentes is also a very tough left-handed pitcher.  The A's again started Hosmer away with a fastball.  This one too far away for ball one.  Fuentes came back with a fastball down the middle that Hosmer swung through.  The next pitch was another fastball inside, maybe too far inside, that Hosmer fouled off.  Fuentes followed that with a changeup low and away for ball 2.  The next pitch was a fastball away to fill the count.  Fuentes threw another perfectly placed fastball on the outside corner at the knees that Hosmer took for strike 3.

Unless the Royals can score here in the bottom of the ninth with 2 outs and a runner at 1st base, that'll conclude Eric Hosmer's debut.

Let's look at some charts of his at bats in order.

Hosmer faced two really good lefties tonight and it's hard to make much out of 4 trips to the plate but I would say that it is obvious that he isn't a wild hacker swinging at anything and everything that opposing pitchers throw.

Hosmer swung at only 4 of the 18 (22%) pitches that he saw, the major league average is 45%.  Though the A's threw him plenty of pitches out of the zone, Hosmer didn't swing at any pitches that were clearly balls.  He did take a few strikes including 2 strike threes.

There was a definite tendency for the A's to stay low and away to Hosmer as 10 of 18 pitches to him were out there.

It looks like he might have been pretty well fooled in the 3rd at bat.  Gonzalez had pitched him mostly outside to that point before starting him with two pitches in.  He may have been expecting a 3rd when he got a fastball up and away.

Still a .500 OBP is nothing to sneeze at, and that's with no BABIP whatsoever.  

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