2013 Season Review: 1B and DH

Ed Zurga

One of these players may not be a Royal in 2014.

We're moving on to first base and designated hitter today in our recap of the 2013 Kansas City Royals. One of these players has already been discussed quite frequently this off-season, and we will probably continue or discussion throughout the off-season. The other one is...

Eric Hosmer - 2013 didn't start so well for Hosmer; the first baseman was hitting around 20 percent below league-average for the first two months of the season. Then GEORGE BRETT (and Pedro Grifol) joined the coaching staff, and things quickly turned around for Hosmer. Below are his statistics for the entire 2013 season:

Not everyone here is a sabermagician, so if you don't know the meaning for one of the statistics used or just want some context for it, click on the statistical category. It should take you to an explanation, occasionally long-winded, of the specific stat.

PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K%
680 .302 .353 .448 7.5% 14.7%
BABIP ISO woBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
.335 .146 0.350 119 3.1 3.6

It's fun to look at Hosmer's post-ASB .323/.379/.473 line and imagine he can produce that over a full season, but we should also acknowledge his .368 BABIP after the All-Star break. His full-season triple slash line is a reasonable projection for him next season, hopefully seeing better numbers as he enters his age 24 season.

The left-handed hitter does a good job making contact, but could help himself by drawing a few more walks. His .ISO should also get better as he ages, but he may not be able to count on a .335 BABIP every season. It's not an unreasonable number, but since BABIP can fluctuate wildly from season to season, it's nice to have hitters with above-average power and plate discipline.

Hosmer's fielding statistics were actually not terrible this season:

GS UZR FRAA TZ RAA DRS RAA dWAR
158 2.5 7.7 4 3 -0.6

It seems counter-intuitive that Hosmer could post above-average numbers on defense (for the first time in his career), but still lose value as a defender. That's thanks to the positional adjustment when it comes to determing WAR, since first base is one of the easier position on the diamond. Still, it's nice to see some data back up the idea that Hosmer could potentially be an asset in the field.

Hosmer only needs to grade as a not-awful defender to not kill his value, especially as he progresses on offense, so I'm not as worried about his defense.

The first baseman is expected to qualify for arbitration this winter, and will likely see his contract jump to $2 or $3 million. It would be nice if the front office could sign Hosmer to a long-term extension and buyout a few years of free agency, but there is no guarantee he is interested.

Hosmer had a nice bounce-back season after a disastrous 2012, and will hopefully improve in 2014 and avoid a two-month slump.

Billy Butler - It's getting difficult to have a discussion involving Butler without it devolving into hyperbole and general nonsense. Butler did hit worse than most expected and hoped from him in 2013, but he still turned in an above-average season at the plate:

PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K%
668 .289 .374 .412 11.8% 15.3%
BABIP ISO woBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
.326 .124 0.345 116 1.4 1.5

The power numbers are the most disappointing and drag his overall value down; his slugging percentage fell nearly 100 points from his career-high .510 slugging in 2012. Butler could help his cause by hitting the ball in the air more. He finished the season with a 53 percent groundball percentage, the highest of his career and five percent above his career-average.

All things considered, his 2013 isn't completely out of whack with his career numbers; his career wRC+ is 120. It's definitely are a stepback from his 138 wRC+ he posted last season, but there were some positive signs as well. Butler had the highest BB% of his career while keeping his K% below-average, and lead the team in on-base percentage.

Butler will enter his age-28 season next year, leaving him still in the prime of his career. He's also due to make a fairly reasonable $8 million next season, with a team option for $12.5 in 2015. The designated hitter will need to hit better than he did this season to give the club any surplus value, but I would be surprised if Butler doesn't perform better in 2014. His 2013 seems more like a one-year slip in his power numbers than a full-blown sign of decline.

Hopefully 2014 is a better offensive campaign for Butler, since he brings nothing to the table defensively and on the basepaths. All he needs to do is pick up a few more extra-base hits next season, and he could be well on his way to being the toast of the town once again.

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