On Monday night against the Chicago White Sox, Eric Hosmer hit an 0-1 pitch 405 feet to the opposite field.
After the game Hosmer was asked whether he was encouraged that he hit the home run to left center: Was it a good sign that he hit a ball that hard to the opposite field?
Hosmer said yes: “When I’m going good, that’s the way I’m going.”
Lots of people have offered theories on why Eric Hosmer has struggled at the plate; lots of people have offered theories on how to fix things.
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Now here’s what Eric Hosmer thinks.
Swing mechanics versus pitch selection
The act of hitting a baseball is mysterious even to the guys who do it for a living.
Blink your eyes twice and that’s how long it takes a fastball to leave a pitcher’s hand and hit a catcher’s mitt. Things are happening in fractions of seconds; too fast to think your way through the act of hitting a baseball.
All you can do is react to what your eyes see and let your body take over.
The difference between a pop up and home run is also measured in fractions. So telling someone they ought to hit a 95 mph fastball one-16th of an inch lower on the ball so they get more loft in their swing isn’t very realistic.
And trying to change your swing in the middle of a season is difficult.
It takes thousands of repetitions before a swing comes naturally. If a hitter tries to make a major adjustment, he knows he’s probably going to get worse before he gets better.
And a lot of the time, the problem isn’t the swing; it’s the pitches the hitter is swinging at.
Swinging at a bad pitch can break down a good swing.
Why Hosmer needs to lay off the inside pitch
If Eric Hosmer knows he best when he’s going to the opposite field, why does he ever get away from that approach?
Eric’s 6 feet 4 and has long arms. That being the case, pitchers have been trying to jam Hosmer on the inside part of the plate: “That’s been the book on me for the last couple of weeks.”
So when a hitter is getting jammed on the inner third of the plate, he has several options:
1. He can try to get the barrel of the bat out in front of the plate sooner.
2. He can try to create more room inside by rotating his front shoulder away from the plate.
3. Or he can do the simplest thing of all; let that inside pitch go by.
Hosmer has been trying the first two options with poor results.
Trying to get the barrel of the bat out in front has Hosmer starting his swing sooner and that results in poor pitch selection. Just look at his fifth inning, bases-loaded strikeout on Monday night:
White Sox pitcher Dylan Covey started Hosmer with two fastballs and the second one was inside. Hosmer swung at it and fouled it off.
Now that Hosmer was trying to cover the inside fastball, Covey could throw a changeup away. Hosmer also swung at that and missed it badly. Covey threw another pitch in, Hosmer fouled it off and Covey then threw another changeup away for a swinging strikeout.
Trying to start his swing early and hit the inside fastball made Hosmer vulnerable to the off-speed pitch away.
And trying to create enough room to get to an inside pitch by opening up his front shoulder — something Hosmer isn’t doing consciously — has him rolling over and hitting grounders to the second baseman.
According to Hosmer he needs to lay off that inside pitch so he can handle the pitches out over the plate: “I’ve got to give that pitch to the pitchers.”
Trying to hit the inside pitch is screwing up Hosmer’s mechanics and pitch selection.
Don’t give too much credit to the opponent
But if Hosmer manages to lay off that inside pitch, won’t every pitcher in the league exploit that part of the plate?
Well, they can try.
And if a pitcher can face Hosmer four times and hit the inside third of the plate with every pitch, Hosmer will probably have a lousy night.
But most pitchers on most nights can’t do that.
On most nights the pitcher will make a mistake out over the plate. If Hosmer sticks to his game plan, he’ll be ready for it.
Tony Gywnn wrote two books that said he wanted a pitch on the outer half. Every pitcher in the league knew that was what Gywnn was looking for and yet Gwynn still got that pitch.
Pitchers make mistakes and good hitters wait for one.
But fixing the problem is easier said than done
Hitters have to discipline themselves and put their ego to one side: Don’t try to hit everything, give the pitcher his pitch.
But when the pitcher throws your pitch, make him pay.
Hosmer knows what the problem is and he knows what he needs to do to fix it, but it’s easier said than done. If Eric Hosmer wants to hit better than he has, he needs to stick to the game plan; lay off the inside pitch and drive the ones out over the plate.
And that’s according to Eric Hosmer.