There is one particular thought process specifically, however, that annoys me to no end. Steve Physioc is often the man that speaks of it, so that might be why it annoys me so much. But it is also what he is saying that annoys me.
It is a line that Physioc says often and one that even most little leaguers have heard. Baseball is obsessed with hitting the ball the other way.
While I understand that there is principle behind that obsession alongside the actual production, it is worth noting how wrong that thought process often is.
The principle being that if you are hitting the ball the other way, your aren’t out on your front foot and are therefore making solid, well timed contact. That’s fine.
However, the idea that hitting the ball the other way is the best avenue to success as a hitter is a fallacy.
Let’s look at Mike Trout, for example.
For his career, he has hit .297 on balls to the opposite field. Not bad at all. Well, not bad until you look at what he does when he pulls the ball.
For his career, Trout is a .513 hitter when he pulls the ball. Yes, you read that right. And his OPS is a whopping 1.413, compared to a much tamer .758 on balls hit the other way.
This is not an uncommon trend among baseballs best hitters. There are outliers of course, like Joey Votto and Bryce Harper. But for the most part, the league’s best hitters aren’t bad at going the other way, but they make their money when they pull the ball.
Enter Eric Hosmer.
In 2017, he has continued to hit ground balls at an astronomical rate for a power hitting first baseman, but this time, he has also all but abandoned the pull side.
That’s a formula for disaster, right?
Very wrong, actually.
Hosmer enters tonight’s game as one of the 20 best hitters in the American league with a 129 wRC+, a mark that would be a career high.
And he is doing so by hitting 50% of his batted balls on the ground and a career low 30% of his batted balls to the pull side. That pull percentage is the fourth lowest mark in all of baseball.
And the guys around him aren’t bad hitters. In fact, there are some pretty good ones, like Carlos Correa and Joey Votto. But then there is Joe Mauer and DJ LeMahieu and David Peralta and Dee Gordon. Black holes of power.
All of that leaves me trying to figure out how the heck his success is even possible?
The most telling stat of all is that Hosmer is slugging at a .493 clip, a would be career high, and a number that Royals fans have long been waiting for. He already has 35 extra-base hits, well on his way to his career high 56.
Do I have to tell you how little sense that makes?
How does a guy not pull or elevate the ball and still hit for power?
Well, there are a few answers.
For starters, he is making his fly balls count, with 20% of them leaving the yard. That figure is on par with his career high 21% set last season and well above his 13% career mark.
He is also hitting a ton of line drives, with nearly 25% of his at-bats ending in a line drive, another career high. For reference, Hosmer has hit 71 line drives this season. He hit 78 total last season.
But more than anything, he is just having tremendous success to the opposite field. While what Physioc said is incorrect more often than not, Hosmer is one of the rare exceptions.
On the season, Hosmer is hitting .466 on balls hit the other way, with a ridiculous .699 SLG%. Expand that to all batted balls not hit to the right side, and he is hitting .441 with a .658 SLG%.
With all that being said, I can’t say I have ever seen a season quite like Hosmer is having.
In his 359 at-bats, Hosmer has just 13 pull-side hits.
13. Total. We just played game number 94 on the season.
And that guy is one of the 20 best hitters in the AL.
That is ridiculous, people.
The Royals are back to .500 and are hot on Cleveland’s tails, much due to Hosmer's bat.
To get where they want to go, Hosmer is going to have to continue being a game-changer.
And I can't believe I'm saying this, but it would seem that Hosmer's approach is what is making him a game changer.
So here’s to continued opposite field, bizarro success from Eric Hosmer.
Keep frustrating the new-world-hitting-order for as long as you need.