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Eric Hosmer was having a great season until he wasn’t

I miss first half Eric Hosmer.

Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Eric Hosmer arrived in San Diego for the All-Star Game in the midst of what looked like a career year for him. He was hitting .299/.355/.476 with 13 HR 49 RBI and was selected to start at first base to represent the American League. With the spotlight on him, Hosmer rose to the occasion, hitting a solo home run and driving in a second run on an RBI single. For his efforts, he was named All-Star Game MVP.

Yet by the time Hosmer arrived in San Diego, he was already in the midst of a slump, one that seemed all too familiar to Royals fans. Hosmer hit just .248/.299/.330 in the month leading up to the All-Star Game, and his slump would not be shaken once he rejoined the club for the second half. He would hit just .190 in the month following the All-Star Game, dashing any hopes that this might be a new plateau for Eric Hosmer.

The summer slump, however, has become an annual tradition for Hosmer. In each of the past four seasons, Hosmer has gone into a funk for two months. These are selective endpoints for sure, but let's look at some of his more recent slumps.

June 11 - August 1, 2016 186 3 .215 .274 .308
May 15 - July 17, 2015 201 1 .253 .303 .317
May 13 - June 30, 2014 201 3 .186 .229 .266
April 10 - June 5, 2013 188 1 .251 .294 .320

Each year, for about a third of the season, Eric Hosmer hits like Alcides Escobar. It is no surprise the team did not play particularly well when Hosmer went through his slump this year, going 21-25 from June 11 to August 1, although starting pitching and Joakim Soria certainly played a part as well.

Whle Hosmer has hit better since August 1, his .244/.313/.403 mark the last two months is far below All-Star caliber. What is Hosmer doing differently since his hot start?

The numbers show some trends, however they aren't incredibly illustrative. Eric Hosmer, who has the second-highest groundball rate in baseball, saw that rate go up since June 11. He also saw his opposite field batted balls go down quite a bit, but not because he was pulling the ball.

Eric Hosmer PA GB% LD% FB% Pull Center Oppo Soft Med Hard
Until June 11 249 57.2 16.7 26.1 36.3 27.5 36.3 18.1 45.1 36.8
June 11 and After 406 59.6 16.7 23.7 35.8 38.5 25.7 19.4 47.2 33.3

His groundball rate has increased from offspeed pitches. His groundball rate on off-speed pitches up to June 11 was 56.5%. Since then, it has been 71%.

He is also whiffing more, with his strikeout rate rising from 18.1% before June 11 to 20.4% since then. Hosmer hasn't had much trouble handling the hard stuff, but breaking pitches have been an issue for him in the second half.

Whiff Percentage Hard Breaking Off-Speed
Until June 11 8.8 10.7 18.7
June 11 and After 8.9 20.1 20.9

Hosmer is also swinging at more breaking stuff period, swinging at 40% of breaking balls before June 11 to nearly half of all breaking balls after that. Pitchers have recognized this, throwing him slightly more breaking balls since June 11, going from 27% of total pitches thrown to 29%, with fewer fastballs.

It could also be that Eric Hosmer is just, well, tired. His batted ball speed is down in the second half. Perhaps this is understandable considering the two deep post-season runs the Royals had the past two seasons.

Batted ball speed Line Drive Ground Fly Ball Pop up
Until June 11 95.9 94.4 95.6 79.0
After June 11 98.9 91.3 91.6 81.5

Eric Hosmer continues to be a lightning rod with debates on how valuable his defense is, to whether or not he is worth a $200 million contract, to why he disappears for months in a season. The Royals could use a much more consistent Eric Hosmer in 2017, but whether or not he makes the adjustments needed to avoid these kind of cold spells remains to be seen.