The Royals are on fire. But that’s not the most important thing happening in Kansas City. The Royals are currently four games over .500. They have won the last 5 series and are finishing an 8-1 road trip. They are one of the hottest teams in baseball.
But unfortunately, not to be a downer, it may be too little too late. I would love nothing more for the Royals to make the playoffs, but their percentage chance of making still stands at right around 10 pct. They are still 7.5 games behind The Tigers and 4.5 games out of the Wild Card. That may not sound too far back, but there’s four teams, The Rays, Indians, Rangers and Orioles, all ahead of them. So not only would The Royals have to make up that ground, but everything would have to go right with the other teams too in order for The Royals to pass them all up.
That’s why, even more exciting than the recent success of The Royals, is the success of Eric Hosmer. Hosmer was talked about as being the possible best of the three when compared to Bryce Harper and Mike Trout while coming up. Here’s a Sports Illustrated article from 2011, naming Hosmer as the best power prospect over both Trout and Mark Trumbo. Here is Keith Law talking about the potential of Hosmer, comparing him to Adrian Gonzalez.
“Hosmer had a solid big league debut in 2011 as the American League’s youngest regular, but it only represents a fraction of what he’s capable of producing,” writes Law. “He’s very strong and has great hip rotation to produce power to all fields, and showed great pitch recognition on his way up the Royals’ system before an early promotion in May.
“The surprise of his year on offense was that he didn’t get walks as often as he did in the minors, which could be just a young player making adjustments, or commensurate with a team philosophy that doesn’t value getting on base. Hosmer’s an agile first baseman with a plus arm (he was up to 94 as a pitcher in high school) who’d probably be fine in right field, although the Royals show no inclination to move him. His ceiling is an Adrian Gonzalez-type of player, adding value through average, walks, power, and defense, but with a little more speed as well.”
Royals fans expected so much from him, and he didn’t deliver right away, like Harper and Trout did. With Royals fans becoming more used to top prospects not panning out and fears of problems in the development process of their farm systems, it’s become easier to just accept it when a player’s talents don’t come to fruition.
But what made Hosmer so great along has been his ability to make adjustments. Every step of the way, he has kept up with the level of adjustments that were needed. But besides the hot streak he had when he first came up, he has been rather unimpressive in his tenure as Royals first baseman. And it’s not just his stats, it was also his appearance. You could see the problem in his swing. He had too much going on in the swing. In theory, his swing worked. He was both getting power from dropping his arms back and crouching down to get some uppercut power. But everything happening in it was causing him to not get much on his swings. As you can see from this Royals Review article, his groundball rate was insane.
Groundout – 30.1%
Single – 20.3%
Strikeout – 15.7%
Flyout – 9.3%
Walk – 7.2%
“When we got here, his hands were in close (to his head),” Brett said. “We moved them back a little bit. So now, he doesn’t have to move his hands back to hit. They’re already back. Now, he just has to bring them forward.” Since the change, Hosmer is batting .296 and has been able to pull the ball in play more often. Brett thinks Hosmer has less going on with his hands now since they’re better positioned, which reduces the movement in his swing.
“His swing is shorter,” manager Ned Yost said. “He’s in a better position to pull the ball. His stride is shorter. He’s backed up off the plate. He’s getting more extension to his swing. He’s getting the bat head out on pitches in.”
The narrative about Brett fixing The Royals became annoying after a while, but it is possible he helped fix one player, potentially the best player. And that extra production has helped the Royals that much more. You can see it in Hosmer’s swing. Much more compact, creating less ground balls and he’s getting much more on his hits.
And the statistical results are undeniable also. In March and April, he had an OPS of .643. In May, his OPS was .659. Brett was quoted in the above article on June 18th. In June, Hosmer’s OPS was .889. In July, .847.
So Royal’s fans should be very excited, but maybe not for the obvious reasons. This is the Eric Hosmer we have been waiting for. There may be too many obstacles to overcome this year. And the future may not be quite ready yet, it’s still undeniable, the future is definitely here.