Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I'm All In for 2013 - The Hos BABIP Edition

Even people who don't watch baseball and think Kansas City is somewhere near Little Rock, Arkansas agree that if the Royals are going to do anything this season, then Eric Hosmer needs to hit.

A look at his slash line from 2011 (293/334/465) to 2012 (232/304/359) pretty much tells the story: the kid stopped hitting.

To be more precise, he stopped hitting the ball in the air. (All stats below from the wonderful Fan Graphs)

Hosmer's line drive percentage barely budged from the previous year, but his ground ball to fly ball ratio went way up from 1.57 to 1.92 (league average is 1.33). Since not every team plays Yuniesky Betancourt at second base, more ground balls generally means more outs. As such, his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) went from .314 to .255.

The good news is that BABIP is one of those stats that tends to bounce around from year to year. Hosmer's career line, including minors, is .284, a touch below the .297 baseline. So, one can wish that simple regression to the mean will add 25-30 points to his numbers and put him solidly back on the path to superstardom.

Luckily, Hos has given us more than good wishes to count on. While he was busy hitting everything into the gloves of American League infielders, his overall approach didn't change. Pitchers gave him more breaking balls, as is to be expected for a second-year player, but he actually swung at fewer balls outside the strike zone in 2012 than the previous year.

Swinging at strikes is a good thing... when you can center the ball and hit it in the air, and I think Hosmer is poised to do a lot of damage this year.

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