The Royals have long been an organization that did not value the walk much. Their philosophy now is very clearly to put the ball in play, make something happen, and be aggressive around the bases. Despite that, one hitter has stood out so far in his ability to draw walks. Eric Hosmer leads the team with 13 free passes this year, drawing a quarter of the total walks taken by the team. Eric Hosmer had a walk rate of 13%, over double the 6.4% walk rate he posted last year, and a huge jump from his career 7.6% walk rate. Hosmer is seventh in the league in walks - only one Royals hitter has finished in the top ten in walks over the last fifteen seasons, Billy Butler in
2012 EDIT: 2013.
Overall Hosmer is just swinging the bat less. He has swung at just 46.2% of pitches this year, compared to 48.4% a year ago. Curiously, he hasn't swung at fewer pitches outside of the strike zone, but has actually decreased the number of pitches he has swung inside the strike zone. He has also made less overall contact overall.
So what is the cause of the walks? Pitchers aren't pitching to him. Eric Hosmer has seen just 39.5% of the pitches thrown to him hit the strike zone, the third-lowest percentage in the league. Kendrys Morales has hit behind Eric Hosmer all season, so perhaps pitchers aren't respecting The Cuban Human after his disastrous 2014 campaign.
Now that Morales is hitting .315/.364/.489 that may change, so it will be interesting to see how Hosmer handles more pitches in the strike zone. Last night might be a good foreshadowing of things to come.
Hosmer has slightly improved at not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, although that could just be statistical noise. It should be noted that ten of Hosmer's thirteen walks came over an eight game stretch, with Twins pitchers walking him six times in a three-game series at the K last week. So is this a more patient Eric Hosmer or just a weird blip in a weird month? As Andy McCullough would say, my crystal ball is broken.