In 2011, ESPN’s Keith Law tabbed Kansas City first base prospect Eric Hosmer as the number five prospect in all of baseball. Hosmer did little to make anyone doubt this ranking as he hit .439/.525/.582 as a 22 year old in Triple-A and earned a call up to the big leagues.
Hosmer continued to rake as he jumped to the highest level at age 22 and hit .293/.334/.465 with 19 homeruns and he even stole 11 bases. Hosmer would go on to finish third in the American League rookie of the year voting despite starting the year in Triple-A. The future looked brighter than ever for this budding star.
Hosmer’s sophomore year got off to a rocky start as he hit only .188 in the first month of the season. The rest of the season was nearly as bad and Hosmer finished with a .232/.304/.359 triple-slash line and hit less homeruns in 2012 than he did in 2011 despite playing 152 games and reaching the plate 35 more times than he did in 2011. It was safe to say that Hosmer had a serious sophomore slump.
But, despite the down year, there is hope for optimism and, for the fantasy baseball player out there, a potential steal in your draft at first base in Eric Hosmer.
Last week I wrote about a pitching statistic that you needed to know called FIP and this week I will introduce to you the latest need-to-know stat: BABIP. This stat can be used for pitchers and hitters and is one of the best indicators of luck, or in Hosmer’s case, bad luck.
BABIP stands for batting average on balls in play. Much like I explained in last week’s article, balls hit in the field of play are prone to random variation, or luck, and the hitter and pitcher have little power to control the outcome. Sometimes a hitter gets that “bloop” hit and sometimes he hits the ball 110 miles-per-hour right into the defender’s glove. Hosmer fell into the latter group more often than the first.
Hosmer posted a BABIP of .314 in his rookie season. This number is a little over the league average but a player with his profile (roughly 70% of balls in play are non-flyballs) tends to hit in this range. Last year, though, Hosmer’s BABIP was the seventh lowest in the majors at .255.
There are times that a lower or higher BABIP can be explained. These times are when a player puts the ball in the air more, hits more infield flies, or hits less line-drives. Hosmer, however, maintained his same rates and even improved some from the prior year.
Hosmer’s line-drive in 2011 was 18.7% and in 2012 it was 18.5%. His infield flyball rate improved from 11.3% to 9.7% and his flyball rate dropped from 30.7% to 27.9%. All of these factors indicate that Hosmer should have had a similar BABIP as the prior year and an increase in his stats.
Oddly enough, Hosmer was much more patient in 2012. His walk rate jumped from 6.0% to 9.4% and the percentage at which he swung at a pitch out of the strike zone (O-Swing%) improved from 36.3% his rookie year to only 31.7% his sophomore year.
Thanks to advanced stats like BABIP, we can sometimes predict whether a player will regress back to the norm or if his prior season was likely his norm. In Eric Hosmer’s case, I feel confident in predicting regression to the norm and I fully expect Hosmer to put up career numbers in 2013.