CHICAGO -- If you're trying to dig deep into the numbers and analyze why Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer is off to a slow start, it would be easy to single out his high ground-ball rate.Entering Monday's game against the White Sox, Hosmer, since 2016, had put the ball on
CHICAGO -- If you're trying to dig deep into the numbers and analyze why Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer is off to a slow start, it would be easy to single out his high ground-ball rate.
Entering Monday's game against the White Sox, Hosmer, since 2016, had put the ball on the ground 59.8 percent of the time, the 10th-highest rate of anyone in baseball, according to Statcast™. That rate wouldn't be so detrimental for someone with blazing speed such as Miami's Dee Gordon or Royal-turned-Mariner Jarrod Dyson.
But that could explain why Hosmer slumped badly after the All-Star break last season, and why he's started this season with a .192 average through 19 games after going 0-for-4 in Monday's 12-1 loss.
Another explanation: Bad luck.
According to Statcast™, Hosmer's expected batting average this season, heading into Monday -- based on exit velocity and launch angle combinations -- was .326. That gap from his real average was .123 points, the second-largest gap of any hitter in baseball behind Toronto's Devon Travis (xBA of .296, actual BA of .136).
In other words, when Hosmer has hit the ball hard this season, he hasn't been rewarded very much, which could lead to frustration for many players. But Hosmer said it's all just part of baseball.
"You don't want to go out and try changing things," Hosmer said. "Having a few years of experience keeps you sane. As a younger player, you might immediately try to change some things and make it worse.
"You just know it can change quickly."
Hosmer is not the prototypical power hitter, which is why he doesn't get wrapped up in launch angles, ground-ball rates and so forth.
There is evidence to suggest, though, that when Hosmer does elevate the ball slightly, his numbers improve. Hosmer's exit velocity on non-ground balls in 2015 and '16 was 95.1 mph.
That 95.1 mph exit velocity was higher than the Giants' Buster Posey (94.4) and the Cubs' Kristopher Bryant (94.0) and well above the league average of 92 mph.
But the Royals are cautious not to encourage Hosmer to start lofting his swing path. And Hosmer isn't eager to do that, either, preferring to focus instead on better pitch selection.
"We drafted him to hit in our ballpark, which is a big ballpark," general manager Dayton Moore said. "We drafted him as a gap-to-gap guy, a line-drive guy. The object is to hit the ball hard, on the barrel.
"When you don't do that, you're in a slump no matter if you hit the ball in the air or on the ground."
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.