To what do you ascribe the protracted late-season relevancy of the Kansas City Royals? (Yes, I realize the Boys in Blue are getting beaten black and blue by Detroit as I type this but I wrote this post this morning.) The starting pitching? Could be—it’s generally been quite good. The bullpen? Perhaps–it’s been, like the starting rotation, extraordinarily reliable and effective. But for my money, it’s the big guy playing first.
Eric Hosmer has been on a season long tear. And lately, he has been an on-base machine. In the six games preceding tonight’s contest, Hos has nine hits (including two doubles) and four walks in 27 plate appearances. That’s an OBP of .519. It’s true that he has only scored three times in this span but then, he usually has Billy Butler batting behind him and Butler is collecting GIDPs like a kid grabbing chocolate eggs on Easter morning. Over his last 27 games, Hosmer has an OBP of .400, which is Cabrera-esque and so far this year, his slash line is .300/.354/.445 with an OPS+ of 117. Dang.
There has been some criticism of Hosmer for not hitting home runs. Ridiculous. This criticism makes me think of Wall Street. Company A says it is going to turn a 7% profit, which is great. But the three or four analysts at the big investment firms covering Company A scratch their heads and say, oh geez, we think Company A should be making 12%. And when the annual report is released and it shows Company A actually made a fantastic 8% profit, there are many who see it as a failure because of misguided expectations. Hosmer is a helluva player. To knock him because some people continue to hold on to outdated ideas like teams need “power from the corners” and such is just plain silly. Would I like to see him hit more homers? Sure. But he’s a line drive hitter so I wouldn’t expect him to get more than 20, maybe 25.
Looking deeper into the numbers, which you can via www.baseball-reference.com if you have the time and inclination, Hosmer’s production becomes more impressive. He’s hit lefties as well as he has righties (respective OBP’s of .352 and .355), does equally well home or away (OBP .347 and .361 respectively) and produces with men on base (.298/.355/.468.) But perhaps the most telling stat is his batting in “late and close” games. Www.baseball-reference.com lists this stat and says it refers to plate appearances in the 7th inning or later, with the team at bat tied, up by a run or with the tying run on deck. In essence, the exact times you need men to successfully handle the ash most. Hosmer has 94 PA in these situations and has produced six doubles, a triple and four homers as part of a slash line of .422/.479/.663. Incredible.
Now Alex Gordon has been good too. But he’s been fading all year long. Each month, his OBP and other stats drop. Billy Butler can get on base but then the base paths turn into sand. Plus he only plays half of each game. Salvy Perez has been coming on strong but overall has not nearly been as consistent or effective on offense as anyone mentioned so far. (For example, Perez has not performed as well against the better teams in the league, on the road or in the “late and close” games. Still glad to have him of course.)
So hats off to Hosmer for leading Kansas City to its recent relative heights in the standings. And here’s to hoping he doesn’t cool off until November.