In 2012, Eric Hosmer was looking to build onto a successful 2011 season when he hit .293/.334/.465. He did not improve and ended up just hitting .232/.304/.359. In 2013, he hopes to do better.
During this past off season, he looked to bring back the magic of 2011 as he stated:
"I just think," he said, "I started leaking out in front with my back side a lot."
That can't possibly be as bad as it sounds but, for a hitter, it's plenty bad enough. In effect, it means Hosmer was moving his back leg instead of keeping it stable.
"That caused me not to be able to catch up on pitches," he said. "Then I wanted to get going earlier because I was late on pitches. It got worse. I'd see a breaking ball but, because I'm cheating earlier and already going, I didn't have enough time to hold back."
From the same article, Hosmer stated he was working with new hitting coach Jack Maloff and they decided to change a few things:
Maloff: "I was looking for what I remembered. The couple, they weren't what I remembered. We worked through that and got it to where he was shorter in his hands and his approach. And then we tried to quiet his front side, his front foot, down.
Hosmer: "What you want to see," Hosmer said while tapping his back leg, "is my back side is not going forward. You want to see the back side just sitting back there and letting the front foot reach (for the ball)."
With the World Baseball Classic having archived the games, I will look at the changes from 2012 to this spring.
For comparison, here are a few swings from 2013 and four from 2012 (three in one video set)
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After spending way too much time looking for differences, I can say one item for sure. None of his 2012 swings were close to being the same.He had no consistency (kind of sounds like his season).
Here are two examples from 2012. In the first he lifts his front leg and in the second one he doesn't. More weight back in first video. He is really stiff in the 2nd.
It is almost impossible to see what he really changed for 2013 because he was all over the place in 2012.
Adjusting a hitter's swing to find something which works should not be a surprise from someone hitting around .230 during the season. It probably didn't help with him changing around all the time to get into a grove.
Examining his at bats through the first three games of the WBC, I came away with the following (warning - super small sample size).
- The two ball he hit the best turned into outs and two of his hits could have been outs. A little good and bad luck.
- He was hitting a mix of ground balls, liners and fly balls. I believe he will hit the best if he tries to hit line drives (Butler) and if a home run happens, it happens.
- He has an acceptable front leg lift, but Maloff stated he wanted Hosmer to quite down his front side.
- Part of his problem for a lack of hits (and walks) is he chases pitches out of the zone. When he chases a pitch out of the zone and makes contact, the hits just aren't solid. As the ex-Royals great and Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long said:
You're only as good as the pitches you swing at. If you swing at pitches outside the zone, you will never tap your full potential.
Or as the one time Washington Senators manager, Ted Williams stated:
... a good hitter can hit a pitch that is over the plate three times better than a great hitter with a questionable ball in tough spot. Pitchers still make enough mistakes to give you some in you happy zone. But the greatest hitter living can't hit bad balls.
Hosmer's outside pitch swing percentage (O-swing) is the 22nd worst of 122 hitters over the past two seasons (min 1000 PA). He will never be great if he continues to swing a bad pitches (see Jeffy Francoeur)
Eric Hosmer's swing looked consistent in the 13 WBC play appearances I examined. If he happens to struggle early, it may be worth a look to go back and see if changes anything. I think his biggest issue is not his swing at all. It is his plate control. Going forward is his strike zone judgement and ability to swing at good pitches in the strike zone will determine if he grows as a hitter or will continue to struggle.