Eric Hosmer vs. The Shift

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 29: Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals holds his hand after a pitch by the Minnesota Twins in the eighth inning on April 29, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Royals 7-4. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Eric Hosmer has not hit as well so far in 2012 as he did 2011. The drop has been pretty dramatic as seen from his 2011 and 2012 triple slash lines:

Note: All stats used in the article were taken before the game yesterday (5/7/12)

Year: AVG/OBP/SLG
2011: 0.293/0.334/0.465
2012: 0.185/0.261/0.370

While it looks like he is having a worse season, he may actually be hitting better than 2011, but because teams are shifting him to hit to RF, his results are down.

Hosmer has shown improvement in the normals ways a hitter matures, a better walk rate and more power. His walk rate looks like it may be a bit better going from 6.0% to 9.2%. The increase is significantly more if IBB are removed from the equation. Hosmer's NIBB% was 4.8% in 2011 and 9.2% in 2012. Hosmer's walk rate has nearly doubled.

Besides the walk rate, Hosmer's power is on the increase. Hosmer's ISO has increased from 0.172 to 0.185. He has also seen an increase in HR/FB from 13.5% to 15.6%. The average distance on his fly balls and home runs has gone from 287 ft to 297 ft.

Hosmer's main issue in 2012 is his extremely low 0.170 BABIP. It is about half of what he hit in 2011 (0.314). Here are his expected BABIP for the two season given his batted ball profile:

Year: xBABIP
2011: 0.307
2012: 0.300

Hosmer has hit the ball general the same in both 2011 and 2012, so he looks to be a bit unlucky this season.

The cause for Hosmer's "unlucky" BABIP this season is that teams are playing him to pull the ball to right field. Everytime he strokes the ball, there just seems to be a defender placed perfected in its way. Defenders won't always be in the way, but they can try. If they are positioned where he normally hits the ball, the chances for an out will increase. Teams have put 3 players on the right side of the infield. With the extra defenders, they have been able to get him out when he hits line drives and ground balls. Here is a look at Hosmer's outs and hits from 2011 (from texasleaguers.com):

2011_spray_medium

Look at the hits in shallow right and right-center field where the OF had to field line drives and and ground balls that make it through the infield defense. Here is his data for 2012:

2010_spray_medium

It looks like possibly 5 balls have made it through the infield. It is a little tough to compare the spray charts since the one from 2011 has more data. Here are his stats from 2011 and 2012 when hitting it to various part of the ball park:

2011 (AVG/ISO/BABIP)
Pull: 0.282/0.176/0.245
Center: 0.393/0.207/0.356
Opposite: 0.380/0.240/0.356

2012 (AVG/ISO/BABIP)
Pull: 0.172/.241/.111
Center: 0.167/0.167/0.143
Opposite: 0.321/0.250/0.269

Hosmer has taken a huge hit to balls that he has pulled. Most of his line drives and ground balls are to the right and center part of the field. Dividing the infield into 5 equal segments, here is the percentage of line drives and ground balls hit into each section in both 2011 and 2012:

2011: Total GB and LD Percentage
Left: 6%
Left Center: 21%
Center: 21%
Right Center: 29%
Right: 23%

2012: Total GB and LD Percentage
Left: 5%
Left Center: 27%
Center: 19%
Right Center: 32%
Right: 16%

There is almost no reason for a defensive team to put a player near the 3B line with 5% of all of his hits there. They might as well place a fielder in the other 4 zones. Teams have been putting a fairly decent shift on Hosmer this season and his stats show it.

2011 (AVG/ISO/BABIP)
Grounders: 0.253/0.014/0.253
Flies: 0.285/0.526/0.164
Liners: 0.707/0.183/0.699

2012 (AVG/ISO/BABIP)
Grounders: 0.045/0.000/0.045
Flies: 0.281/0.594/0.148
Liners: 0.500/0.063/0.500

The exact amount of Hosmer's decline can't exactly be determined from the shift, there does seem to be a decent effect. The BABIP for his line drives and ground balls are each down 200 points. Teams are taking advantage of Hosmer's tendency to pull the ball.

I believe he may need to make a few changes. First, he could bunt a few times to the left side. He has to get people to respect him to put down the bunt for a hit. He currently has the speed to get on base, so he might as well try. A problem with this plan is that a team doesn't want their #3 or #4 batter laying down bunts. I would also expect that they don't want their #3 or #4 hitter with a 0.185/0.261/0.370 slash line either. Hosmer needs a change so I propose swithing him and Moustakas around in the lineup. Hosmer won't feel the pressure of hitting 3rd or 4th and Moose's hot bat can get more PAs with more people on base. Most importantly, Yost can maintain his religious L-R-L-R (or vise versa) lineup going.

Also, Hosmer has to look at hitting the ball the opposite way more. It doesn't have to be a huge change, but it would be nice to have a few more of his hits on the 3B part of the field. Seitzer and Hosmer have been working on this change, but it is a too soon to see if it has been working.

Hosmer burst onto the scene last and took the league be storm. Teams have had a chance to study his tendencies and are taking advantage that he pulls the ball quite a bit. Hosmer now needs to look at using more of the field or will have a suppressed AVG for his career.

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