The statement seemed unbelievable to me ... especially after Statcast data this week showed Eric Hosmer has the second-fastest sprint speed of any MLB first baseman.
Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards, while talking about how sprint speed doesn’t always produce good baserunning statistics, pointed to Hosmer as one of the exceptions before delivering this nugget: “ ... he’s gone first to third on a single only once out of 17 chances this year.”
That number seemed remarkably low, which made me wonder: What’s going on here?
A deeper dive shows that Hosmer is dealing not only with some bad luck — but he’s also getting no help from teammate Salvador Perez.
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The first step was to reach out to Mitchel Lichtman, who provided me with the instances when Hosmer was on first and had an opportunity to get to third on a single.
And it turns out that the 1-for-17 number isn’t completely accurate. For one, that only went through Sunday’s games, and Hosmer had two more chances this week to go first to third (he didn’t go either time).
Also, the one time he made it? That was on an error, so it probably shouldn’t have counted.
Let’s eliminate some other noise. There were two times when Hosmer couldn’t advance to third because the runner in front of him was held ... not his fault. Twice more, he couldn’t go because the hit was an infield single, and two more instances when he held up because his team was down more than five runs in the ninth inning — situations where no player should gamble for an extra base.
That leaves Hosmer as 0-for-12 advancing from first to third on singles to the outfield — a feat accomplished roughly 30 percent of the time league-wide.
It’s a small sample, but still interesting for a player with Hosmer’s above-average speed. So what’s happening in this instance?
My guess was that Hosmer might have just been playing it conservatively too often. Maybe he didn’t trust his speed while trying to avoid mistakes on the basepaths.
It’s why what I saw was surprising. Hosmer, in those 12 clips, didn’t have much of a chance to get to third.
And that was mostly because of his teammate Perez.
Here’s an example of something that happened often when Hosmer was on first.
I’ll save you some time. Perez had nine of the 12 hits when Hosmer at first. Seven times, he pulled the ball, leaving Hosmer little choice but to cruise into second.
You can see this in GIF form here. I’ve marked Perez’s hits with a blue “S” in the corner.
It was a factor I never would have considered before. Part of the reason for Hosmer’s lack of advancement was lineup construction — and the player’s batted-ball tendencies who hits immediately behind him.
Hosmer did have two chances to advance on singles to right, but even on those, he doesn’t appear to deserve blame. One was a bloop by Perez that was nearly caught by Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, while the other was a hard-hit grounder from Jorge Bonifacio that was quickly fielded by the shallow-playing Daniel Robertson.
This much we know: Advancing first to third has been more difficult for Hosmer than many of his MLB peers.
He has some bad fortune — and also a good teammate — to thank for that.