Judging the Royals

Eric Hosmer: What makes him special?

Eric Hosmer hit a two-run homer in front of Texas Rangers catcher Carlos Corporan in the sixth inning Thursday in Arlington, Texas. Alcides Escobar scored on the play.
Eric Hosmer hit a two-run homer in front of Texas Rangers catcher Carlos Corporan in the sixth inning Thursday in Arlington, Texas. Alcides Escobar scored on the play. AP

No, it’s not the hair, but that’s an excellent guess — if I found out Eric had a team of barbers on 24-hour call to keep that ‘do perfect, I would not be surprised. In terms of playing baseball, what makes Eric Hosmer special is opposite-field power.

The Royals just finished a four-game series in Texas and — if I counted right — 10 home runs were hit. Eight of those home runs were hit by left-handed batters. Prince Fielder took a couple balls out to center, but for the most part it was lefties taking advantage of the Rangers’ right-field porch.

So if you’re a pitcher and you’re trying to avoid the long ball when playing in Texas, you might want to pitch left-handed power hitters away. It’s hard for most hitters to reach out and hook an outside pitch and hit it with any power to the pull side of the field. And if a left-handed hitter takes that outside pitch to left, most guys can’t hit for power.

Eric Hosmer can.

Lately Hosmer has been making a habit of hitting balls over 400 feet to the opposite field, and he did it again on Thursday. In the top of the 6th inning Hosmer took a Sam Freeman fastball — thrown to the outside part of the dish — and hit it over the wall in left center.

Pitchers pitch to the outside part of the plate to negate a hitter’s power, but if the hitter has power to the opposite field, the pitcher is in a bind; the hitter can leave the yard whether the pitch is inside or outside.

Hitting the ball to left-center with power makes Eric Hosmer special … and the hair doesn’t hurt, either.

Shin-Soo Choo was better than the scoreboard indicated

As much as I would love to take credit for saying something smart, I can’t. As I’ve said before: if I say anything remotely intelligent, it’s because someone smarter than me said it first and this next bit is no exception.

After Monday’s game I pointed out that you can’t just look at the batting average on a scoreboard and think you know what’s going on; that number is an average (hence the name) and the hitter might be going much better or worse than that number would indicate.

Shin-Soo Choo came into the Royals series hitting .183, but look at the week of baseball preceding the Royals series and he was hitting more like .300. Shin-Soo Choo came in hot, and the Royals did nothing to cool him down.

In four games against the Royals, Shin-Soo Choo was 10 for 19 with a couple of homers. So a guy hitting less than .200 overall was smoking hot for four days, and if you did your homework you could see it coming.

Drew Butera might be around a while

After the Royals acquired backup catcher Drew Butera, general manager Dayton Moore said Erik Kratz was still their backup catcher. But hang around a team long enough and you realize something is true until it’s not. They’ll tell you a guy is not hurt three days in a row and on the fourth day put him on the DL.

I have no inside knowledge, but if Drew Butera impresses the Royals, he might be around a while.

Don’t sweat what Butera does on offense; if a backup catcher could hit he probably wouldn’t be a backup catcher. You want a good catch-and-throw guy, and in the seventh inning of Thursday’s game, with Luke Hochevar on the mound, Butera showed what he can do.

Carlos Corporan was at the plate and on the fifth pitch of his at-bat, he turned on an inside 94-mph fastball and hit it home-run distance, but pulled it just foul. So if you’re thinking along with the hitter, what does that show you?

The hitter’s getting the bat head out early and barreled up a good fastball.

So what’s the next move?

You gotta decide if the hitter is the kind of guy who will think along with you and adjust, or if he’s the kind of guy who will just keep doing what he’s doing. Butera called for an 88-mph cutter away and Corporan swung the bat like he was getting another 94-mph fastball inside. He swung and missed by a healthy margin and Carlos was headed back to the dugout.

Butera plus Guthrie might kill two birds with one stone

Drew Butera has caught Jeremy Guthrie twice now and in those games Guthrie has an ERA of 2.92 — with Salvador Perez behind the plate Guthrie’s ERA is 6.52. But the perils of looking at one stat and thinking you know the answer applies here: we haven’t looked at what teams or hitters Guthrie faced, or pitch velocities, or anything else for that matter; but we do know Guthrie and Butera have teamed up for two of Guthrie’s better outings.

If the Royals like the way Butera handles Guthrie and they need to find a way to rest Salvador Perez on a regular basis, keeping Butera around might kill two birds with one stone.

To reach Lee Judge, call 816-234-4482 or send email to ljudge@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @leejudge8.

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