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Why Does UZR Hate Eric Hosmer's Defense?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals brass and scouts have bragged about Eric Hosmer's defense before he was called up to the Majors. Once there, he made some beautiful plays and mastered his swinging arm scoop at 1B.  After playing for a bit, defensive metrics began to be be released and the numbers had him as one of the worst defensive 1B in the league.  Today I am going to look deeper into one of those metrics, UZR, and why it does not think Hosmer's fielding is so shoddy.

UZR Background

UZR (nice read up here) was created a few years back by Mitchel Lichtman (MGL). The forumula behind UZR takes BIS (Baseball Info Solutions) batted ball data to see how often a team and player makes a play. The type of hit (bunt, ground ball, liner, flyball) and the location on the field are collected. Here is the map they use to plot the data:


Using linear weight, the data is then converted into the number of runs saved compared to the league average.

Hosmer and UZR

The data that caused the uproar is the following from Fangraphs (listed are some of some of the qualified 1B from 2011):

Name Team Double Play Range Error Total UZR
Adrian Gonzalez BOS 0.2 7.1 3.8 11.1
Mark Teixeira NYY -0.4 6.0 3.0 8.6
Joey Votto CIN -1.2 6.5 2.1 7.4
Todd Helton COL 0.6 -0.3 3.7 4.0
Aubrey Huff SFG -0.3 3.1 0.7 3.6
Albert Pujols STL 0.0 3.3 -0.9 2.4
Carlos Pena CHC 0.1 1.4 -0.8 0.7
Paul Konerko CHW 1.2 -3.4 1.7 -0.5
Justin Smoak SEA -0.2 -0.1 -0.5 -0.8
Miguel Cabrera DET 0.5 -2.3 -2.0 -3.8
Ryan Howard PHI 0.2 -4.9 -0.1 -4.8
Prince Fielder MIL 0.0 -0.4 -4.7 -5.1
Lyle Overbay - - - 0.5 -5.5 -0.8 -5.8
Eric Hosmer KCR -1.0 -7.3 1.4 -7.0
Freddie Freeman ATL -0.3 -13.1 0.8 -12.6

Of the qualified 1B, he ranked 2nd to last in the league behind the defensive greats, Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder. The component stat that sicks out is his lack of range.

I went and asked MGL for the data on all the ground balls batted towards Hosmer. I wanted the ground ball dated because I wanted to look at his range and positioning on ground balls hit at 1B.  MGL graciously gave me the data.  The data was in the form of zone, result of the play (Out, Hit, Out by 1B) and the chances of the average 1B making the play.  I took the data, lumped them into the zones and here is the data for Hosmer:

Zone Total GB's Outs by Hosmer Average Outs by IB Hosmer Out Diff
R 54 0 1.4 -1.4
S 61 4 4.9 -0.9
T 55 1 12.3 -11.3
U 62 16 26.5 -10.5
V 64 45 45.5 -0.5
W 59 54 51.6 2.4
X 14 12 9.8 2.2
Y 9 0 1.0 -1.0

Hosmer is not making enough plays on average in zones U and T compared to the average 1B.  In those 2 zones, the average 1B would make 20 more outs (over 2/3rds of a game's worth) over the season.  He does better near the bag with a about 5 more plays. Hosmer should probably look at taking a step or two towards 2B and see if he can still make the plays on the 1B and get to a few of the balls hit towards 2B.

I have always believed that he played too close to first base and the statistical evidence supports this claim.  I am not able to take it to the next step and put video to the plays, but fellow writer Connor Moylan plans on it.  He is currently looking over the plays that Hosmer was most likely to make and didn't. Also, Mr. Moylan is looking at his positioning on the field.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of why Hosmer's UZR numbers are so low. It is probably not because he is worse fielder than Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder. Maybe it is because Hosmer does not position himself correctly on the field to maximize outs. We will have a better idea when Connor is done going over the video.

Big Thanks to MGL for the use of the data behind UZR.