It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Well, neither one of those is exactly true, but the swing of Eric Hosmer’s season – literal swing, too – has really been a tale of two halves. With the help of Baseball Prospectus, we’ll help guide you through how much change Hosmer has made since the beginning of the season, and how it has effected his production.
APRIL 1 – MAY 29
48 Games: .262/.323/.331, 1 home run, 7 2b, 1 3b, 15 bb, 31 k, 13 rbi, 18 runs
For the first two months of the season Eric Hosmer couldn’t pull the ball in the air to save his life. Nearly anything he hit in the air with power went the opposite way, and anything that was pulled was grounded to second base. There was a period of time where one could count on their hand the amount of hits Hosmer had east of second base.
Hosmer had only 12 singles and one double pulled to the right side in the first two months of the season. This is extraordinary considering many thought Hosmer could be the mini version of Joey Votto. Here’s what Votto did his first two months of the season.
Baseball Prospectus broke Hosmer down the first time on May 29 with a piece by Sam Miller who came to some conclusions about his swing.
Hosmer is consistently late on fastballs. In seven days, I saw Hosmer foul off 18 pitches, and my recollection is that one of them—a slider that he dribbled toward the first-base dugout—was pulled. Nearly without fail, the rest were fastballs that he popped foul into the left-field stands or, occasionally, lined sharply toward the third-base dugout. Part of this is approach—as noted, he goes the other way—but the frequency of foul pop-ups on fastballs points to an inability to catch up and get on top of these pitches.
Statistically the numbers agreed with Miller’s analysis. In the first 48 games of the season Hoz batted .243 with a .290 slugging percentage against fastballs. His gearing up to hit the fastball made him unbalanced for offspeed pitches, to which he hit .259 with a .259 slug against.
Miller showed these issues with his swing:
(Note: picture on the left is of his 2011 swing, picture on the right is of his 2013 May swing)
First, the infamous leg kick is much higher and pronounced in his May swing.
Second, Hosmer’s balance was all kinds of off. I’m mean, really, there was no balance at all.
Things looked pretty ugly all around.
MAY 30 – PRESENT
42 Games: .308/.342/.523, 8 home runs, 11 2b, 1 3b, 10 bb, 20 k, 27 rbi, 28 runs
On May 30, George Brett was hired as the one of the new hitting coaches along with Pedro Grifol. Since then, Hosmer has been a different player.
Some of it seemed to happen immediately as Hosmer batted .314/.352/.373 in his first 13 games after Brett and Grifol were hired. But Hosmer had stretches like that in the first two months of the season as well and it didn’t turn into continued progress. And as we saw above, Hosmer’s swing was all out of whack.
This would change.
In addition to fixing Hosmer’s balance and leg kick issues, Grifol and Brett changed the positioning of Hosmer’s hands, bringing them up to around above eye-level. A second review of Hosmer’s swing by Baseball Prospectus – this time R.J. Anderson – shows some of the changes.
It appears that Hosmer and Moustakas have spent plenty of time in the batting cages, as both have made adjustments to their mechanics. Hosmer’s change is subtle. He moved his hands up, from face level to helmet level:
The changes to his swing mechanics have seen dividends.
After hitting just one home run in the first two months of the season, Hosmer hit eight over his last 42 games. Much of this has come from his ability to start pulling the ball with power.
Not only was he able to start hitting the ball around the field, he was also able to hit with power to all fields. The power we all thought he had started to show up and he started to look like that Votto guy.
Fastball: .305 BAA, .533 SLG, 9 2B, 5 HR
Breaking: .293 BAA, .415 SLG, 3B, HR
Offspeed: .364 BAA, .727 SLG, 2 2B, 2 HR
It is amazing what a change in hitting mechanics, and the renewed confidence it brings, can do for a player’s production. Hosmer is more than talented enough to sustain something close to what he is doing for a full season. For now, let’s hope he sustains this for the final 72 games of the season.