If you saw the Saturday afternoon game against the New York Yankees, you also saw first baseman Eric Hosmer save his teammates at least a couple of errors. A good first baseman makes the rest of the infield better; a bad one makes the rest of the infield worse.
During the last home stand the Royals had Mike Moustakas working out at first base; they wanted some options that would improve their defense in the later innings. I asked infield coach Mike Jirschele the toughest thing about playing first, and he said it was the footwork. We tend to think about a first baseman’s hands, but Jirsch is right: Good footwork makes everything else easier; bad foot work does the opposite.
If a first baseman steps toward the throw too soon, he won’t be able to adjust. Anything off line will probably get by him. That being the case, good first basemen wait until they see the throw, then they stretch in the right direction. They can use the width of the bag to help; they can go to the outfield side of the base to reach throws in that direction or shift their feet and go to the infield side of the bag to catch throws up the line. But waiting to see the throw before doing the necessary footwork means you have to be nimble on your feet.
Eric Hosmer is.
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If you pay attention you can also see Hosmer use the height of the bag to his advantage; if the throw is high he’ll put his foot in the middle of the bag and stretch up on the tip of his toes—it extends his reach just an extra inch or two, but that can be the difference is making the play or missing it. He’ll also go over the bag into foul territory to make a catch; a less agile first baseman will let those throws get by, and you go from having an out to having a runner in scoring position.
Next time you watch Eric Hosmer receive a throw, focus on his feet —and you might see how he’s making his teammates better.
Read more on Lee Judge’s blog at KansasCity.com