Eric Hosmer has been a key catalyst driving the San Diego Padres offense.
San Diego Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer’s first two seasons in San Diego have been rather forgettable. Despite signing a massive 8 year, $144M contract, Hosmer has posted below-average batting lines of 95 and 91 wRC+ in 2018 and 2019 and totaled -0.5 fWAR and. The key frustration with Hosmer’s offense is that despite an above-average exit velocity (90.2 career EV), he has a career ground ball rate of 54%. Mix that ground ball rate with being a LHH and Hosmer can be easily shifted against for tons of easy outs.
This season Hosmer is off to a strong and intriguing start, slashing .238/.304/.524 good for a 122 wRC+ through 69 plate appearances. That would be his best mark since he was a 4.0 win player with a 135 wRC+ his last year in Kansas City.
This isn’t just a random hot streak from Hosmer though, it would appear he’s made real changes to his swing that the Padres should be excited about. Consider this AB against Madison Bumgarner where Hosmer hits a double off the right center field wall.
That was a tough pitch against a lefty down in a usually lethal 0-2 count and Hosmer reached out and crushed it. That type of swing has happened more often than not for Hosmer early on in this shortened season.
There are multiple statistical indicators Hosmer is actively working to drive the ball with more authority.
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The first indicator is that Hosmer is pulling the ball in 2020 more than he ever has in his career. Hosmer’s career Pull% sits at 31% but from 2017-2019 he didn’t break the 30% level. This season his Pull% has ballooned to 38.5% indicating that Hosmer is making a direct effort to pull the ball more often.
Next, Hosmer’s launch angle is demonstrably different than any year of his career. His career launch angle is a worm burning 3.1° but this season has increased all the way to 11.3°. Considering one year Hosmer actually managed a negative launch angle, this seems to be an intentional change to generate more air contact.
In addition to Hosmer making a concerted effort to pull the ball in the air, he is being more aggressive at the plate. Much like launch angle and Pull%, Hosmer’s first-pitch swing rate is up to a career-high 35%. This newfound aggression has helped drop his K% has dropped down to 16% after averaging 23% in the last two years.
If there is a downside to his new approach, he is making 75% contact on pitches out of the zone which could lead to poor contact and easy outs. Nevertheless, the overall offensive profile of Eric Hosmer appears to be massively improved in 2020.
The San Diego Padres have been electric offensively and find themselves at 18-12 in position to challenge the Dodgers and the rest of the NL for a wild card spot. Eric Hosmer deserves a ton of credit for being an offensive force in a very good lineup.
While sample sizes are still small, it’s clear that Hosmer’s approach and intent at the plate has changed. The biggest hole in Hosmer’s offensive game seems to be going away now that he’s pulling the ball in the air at career-high rates. That’s great news for the Padres, who are now getting the Eric Hosmer experience they paid for.