BALTIMORE -- For whatever reason, Royals Gold Glove first baseman Eric Hosmer can't seem to impress the alleged advanced defensive metrics such as Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) or Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), which always seem to score him as a below-average defender.
But scouts, coaches and teammates believe those measures are misguided and inaccurate, and furthermore, don't present the whole picture of Hosmer's defense.
As one American League scout said, "He's as good as there is. Period. If you don't believe that, you're not watching the game very closely. Could his range to his glove side be a little better? Sure. But overall, he's as good as it gets."
Royals manager Ned Yost agreed, pointing out the multitude of areas Hosmer excels at.
"You just go up and down the list," Yost said. "You look at his footwork around the bag, the ability to make great picks, handling pickoff throws, chasing foul balls, his arm strength. Everything."
The Royals' coaching staff believes no one is better at the 3-1 play (first baseman throwing to the pitcher covering) than Hosmer.
"Every time," third-base coach Mike Jirschele said, "the throw is right there."
Perhaps what Hosmer is best known for, though, is his acrobatic ability to pick errant throws in the dirt.
"He just makes it look so easy," Yost said, "you almost assume he can do it every time. It's not that easy."
Degree of difficulty on scoops is not a measured statistic yet. Perhaps that is next for the constantly evolving Statcast™, which was introduced in 2015.
But what is measured is the trust his infielders have in Hosmer.
"We have so much trust with him when we make a throw because we know the throw doesn't have to be perfect," Royals third baseman Moustakas said. "If we dive for a ball, and we have to hurry our throw, we know he's going to pick it or stretch and get it. There are other first basemen around where you'd have to stop, and try to hit them right in the chest with the throw. You lose valuable time that way. We don't have to worry [with Hosmer].
"Maybe someday Statcast™ will be able to track that ability to pick and stretch, and the degree of difficulty. That would be great."
Hosmer saves his infielders numerous errors each season on errant throws. Hosmer also saves the Royals' pitching staff hundreds of extra pitches during the course of a season with great plays.
"I don't know how you can even quantify a number, but it's a lot," right-hander Jason Hammel said. "He makes a great pick over there, but if he hadn't and you face another batter, it could be four or five or six more pitches that inning. And if the inning is extended to several more hitters, it could be 30. You don't know.
"And that's for each great pick. Just add that up over an entire season."
And it's not just Hosmer's hand-eye coordination that is superior. He uses his 6-foot-4 frame and wing span to present a massive target.
Perhaps the play of the year for the Royals came in Detroit during a 3-1 win on July 25. With runners at the corners and one out in the eighth, Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez lined a shot into the right-field corner.
Jorge Bonifacio made the catch, then threw back toward first base as the baserunner, Michael Mahtook, tried to scramble back. Hosmer stretched his entire frame into foul ground while somehow keeping his foot on the bag, and made a spectacular pick of a one-hop throw for a double play, ending the inning.
"I don't know anyone else who can make that play," Jirschele said. "Just the quick thinking to get in position, hold his foot on the bag, make a great pick with his long wing span."
The Royals see similar type plays from Hosmer all the time, so they mostly just wave off the unfavorable advanced defensive metrics on him. Hosmer doesn't seem to care about those statistics, either.
"That's for all you guys to figure out," Hosmer said, smiling. "I'm just trying to win games and do whatever I can to help this team."