Before breaking his finger, the Padres’ Eric Hosmer finally increased his launch angle
The “new” baseball media, more prone to sabermetry than their predecessors, have never appreciated too much the performance of San Diego Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer. According to Fangraphs, he was worth 0.5 WAR in the first two seasons of his eight-year contract and $ 144 million since signing in San Diego after the 2017 season.
I’m a sabermetry-oriented guy, sure, but I’ve always been a Hosmer fan for a number of reasons. First of all, I spotted him until I was 15. His advanced talents put him on the MLB radar screen at a very young age. He could punch, strike for power, play defense and pitch very well as an amateur. He even ran well for his post. His opposing field power was some of the best I have ever seen from a prep player.
Second, he always answered the bell. The sixth tool, in my eyes, is health and sustainability. Between 2012 and 2019, Hosmer played at least 152 games in all seasons but one, and recorded very little time in DH during that time.
Hosmer has shown glimpses of reaching his considerable potential throughout his career, particularly in the 2017 season immediately preceding his free agency. He deployed a .318-.385-.497 slash line, a 135 wRC + and 4.0 WAR. He was a pure blow-before-power player who looked like he was about to produce more power.
Hosmer has always been what I affectionately call a “low angle-to-throw guy.” I recently wrote about some AL 2020 position players that fit this description. Hosmer’s average launch angle peaked in his 2011 rookie season at 10.4 degrees. He enjoyed this 2017 career season despite a personal best average launch angle of 3.8 degrees.
How did he do it? He hit his liners and Grounders much harder than the league average, and cut his K-rate to a four-year low of 15.5% and increased his BB rate to a career high of 9, 8%. This career best K-BB spread has given him a lot of leeway when it comes to the quality of the batted ball. Personally, I had little problem with the contract awarded to him by the Padres. Solid platform year, entering his season at 28, with a young skill set. There was no reason Hosmer couldn’t keep improving as he increased his average launch angle over time. He had plenty of room to grow before he became a problem.
This is when its evolution is reversed. Its K rate increased to 21.0% in 2018 and 24.4% in 2019. Its walking rate decreased to 9.2% in 2018 and 6.0% in 2019. With this wider K-BB gap , Hosmer’s margin of error in batting authority and quality has decreased significantly.
And this quality itself began to deteriorate. Its average launch angle somewhat declined further, hitting a low of 1.3 degrees in 2018 before rebounding into positive territory at 2.1 degrees in 2019. Its average flying ball exit velocity, no later than ‘in 2016, above the 93.0 MPH average, declined steadily to a lower average of 88.5 MPH in 2019. The Padres ended up with an $ 18 million per season player with a young skill set, but with all the arrows pointing in the wrong direction. Something had to give.
This season, Hosmer finally seemed to get it. His average launch angle has risen sharply to 8.6 degrees, his highest rating since 2014. More importantly, he hits the ball much harder.
Its 91.4 MPH average output speed is over a full standard deviation above the league average. It hasn’t hit those highs since 2016. To top it off, it hits its flying balls harder than ever, at an average output speed of 95.6 MPH. That’s more than two full standard deviations above the league average, in the highest level among regulars.
This is how Christian Yelich became Christian Yelich. He hit his flying balls really hard, although he didn’t hit many of them. He retained all of his good points – using the court, hitting liners and Grounders hard, handling his Ks and BBs, never spawning – and once he increased his flying ball rate he became, eh good, Christian Yelich.
This path still exists for Eric Hosmer. He didn’t really change his swing – he adjusted his selectivity to the plate. He doesn’t roll as much over easy terrain on the traction side and jumps lengths that he can drive more aggressively. I wrote about the sharp increase in the number of ground players shot in both leagues this season – Hosmer remains among the minority of players who cannot be too out of step, as he often hits the ball on the ground hard in the other. meaning.
Eric Hosmer is only 30 years old. If he comes back as expected from the broken finger – he hurt him by bunting! – as expected, it will be very close to 1500 hits. Enemies might have a real problem with Hosmer making a legitimate run to the 3000-hit bar on the road.
There are a lot of big producers in the majors today with the skills of former players. They cut and shoot, and give the throwers big holes that they will eventually exploit. Eric Hosmer is living proof that you shouldn’t give up on a guy with young player skills, even if it is questionable to offer them $ 144 million at the height of the market.