Eric Hosmer has played 11 baseball games since April 26. He has at least one hit in all but one, and at least two hits in five.
He is 18-for-40 with five extra-base hits, a slash line of .450/.500/.700. He’s raised his batting average 93 points, his on-base 88 points, and his slugging — ahem — 155 points. His numbers have gone from unplayable for a full season to, basically, his career averages. All in less than two weeks.
Lee Judge has done a good job pointing out the importance of inside fastballs with Hosmer, and Hosmer’s increased production has seemed to generally mirror his ability to lay off that pitch. When Hosmer went 0 for 1 with three walks in a game last week, Ned Yost told him that three weeks ago he’d have been 0 for 4.
It’s never that simple, though. Hosmer’s long limbs and what baseball people often call “moving parts” has always made his swing and approach more complicated than most.
Some of this is simply the natural process of a human body getting into and out of grooves. Hosmer has always been a streaky hitter, and probably always will. The key is to make the good streaks last as long as possible, and the bad ones end quickly.
Some of that is the inside fastball, some is timing, some is confidence, some is the opposition. There are no simple answers here.
If you want to look at the numbers, a few things stick out. Some of this is luck. Before April 26, just 22 percent of the balls Hosmer put in play were hits. Since April 26, more than 48 percent of them have been hits.
Much of that is because he’s just hitting the ball harder, of course. Using the data from FanGraphs* he is making “soft” contact just 14.3 percent of the time since April 26, compared to 20 percent before.
* And, yes, I understand the irony in using FanGraphs here. FanGraphs has had what at times has seemed like a bizarre war against Hosmer. But, it’s good information.
He’s also hitting fewer grounders — 52.0 percent since April 26, compared to 61.5 percent before — which has always meant more production.
Again, there are no simple answers here. But when Hosmer is right, his at-bats are as enjoyable a watch as any Royals hitter in recent memory.
Being a parent changes your view of the world, in almost every way. You plan your days around nap times and bedtimes. Your DVR is full of “PAW Patrol.” You learn to watch your step around the house, particularly if you don’t have shoes on, because stepping on a Lego or matchbox car is one of the most painful experiences this life has to offer.
You also see the world around you differently, and not just in the ways people always talk about — finding good role models, being more aware of your own actions, legitimately getting excited if you pass a construction site with your toddler in the car.
You start to, literally, see the world around you differently. I used to love Char Bar because it serves delicious food and has a deep beer menu. Now I love Char Bar because that back patio makes it one of the best spots in town to take kids.
I used to love the convenience of Kansas City because it meant I knew exactly how long I needed to get from anywhere in town to anywhere else. Now I love it because it means I know I won’t be stuck in traffic with two screaming kids in the back.
I used to love restaurants like Potpie, or Le Fou Frog, or bars like the Quaff. I still do, but more in theory than anything else, because now I spend more time at the zoo or Science City or bike rides around the neighborhood.
This could go on for several more paragraphs, about all the parks, or kid friendly stores, or deep roster of kid theater and story time and a thousand other good things for families to do together.
What I’m saying here is that you hear people talk all the time about what a great place Kansas City is to raise a family, but it’s probably impossible to really understand what that means until you start to raise a family here.
I’m three years into that process of understanding, and seeing what everyone has been talking about. It’s a place that grows with you.
Amazingly, this question came in before Monday night’s game, in which Escobar led off.
But, even with Esky going for two hits — it probably came off sarcastically, but I’m legitimately surprised he didn’t get three — and the Royals winning 7-3 they rank dead last in baseball in runs, hits, doubles, batting, on-base, slugging, OPS and total bases.
That’s dead last in baseball, not just the American League, so they’re even behind the teams that have to let their pitchers hit.
The Royals are batting .213 with a .275 on-base and .335 slugging percentage. Currently, 183 batters have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title — the Royals would rank 156th in batting, 164th in on-base, and 155th in slugging.
Their .609 OPS is higher than just one regular hitter in the major leagues last year, and just 12 in the last ten full big league seasons.
Here’s one for you: Cardinals pitchers, with just 63 plate appearances, have driven in 11 runs. Brandon Moss and Lorenzo Cain are currently tied fourth on the Royals with 7 RBIs.
So, sure. Let Esky hit wherever he wants.
I hope I live to be 200 years old. I’ve been googling, and I want to do it, so long as I don’t have to change my diet or exercise habits.
And if I live that long, it is unlikely that Kansas City will experience something as enthralling, perspective-changing, and memorable as the Royals’ rise from trash to trophies.
I believe this is true, even in the likely — don’t laugh! — event that the Chiefs win the Super Bowl before those 200 years are up.
Because the Chiefs have never had a relevance problem, at least not here in Kansas City. They haven’t had fans give up, or be ashamed, at least not outside of 2012.
That was more than a championship. It was a sport’s revival, literally changing how an entire region views itself and its teams. When I talk about the fall of 2014, and most of 2015, I get goosebumps. That’s not a figure of speech. Literal goosebumps.
I can’t speak for everyone. Or, really, anyone other than myself.
But I don’t think I’ll ever forgot that experience, or not recognize what it did for the city I call home.
No matter what happens from here, a long list of men — Dayton Moore, Ned Yost, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, on and on — will forever be remembered fondly in Kansas City.
But, and I know I say this a lot, but I say it a lot because it’s true: sports force you to compartmentalize like few other places in the world.
I believe it’s possible to recognize and appreciate what the Royals did two and three years ago while also being disappointed in an 11-20 record. I believe it’s possible to intellectually understand how difficult it is to sustain success particularly for a small-money franchise while also being frustrated that the offense is this bad.
Being sad that Alex Gordon is currently hitting worse than Tony Pena Jr.* does not mean forgetting what he meant for the Royals’ rise, or that your image of him won’t always be pointing to the sky as he rounds first after homering off Familia.
* That’s not an exaggeration, by the way. Pena Jr.’s career OPS in the big leagues is .548. Gordon’s OPS at the moment is .491.
We always knew this wouldn’t last forever. Nothing does, particularly in sports. Even Tim Duncan retired. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be frustrated in the moment.
Well, Eric Hosmer looks like a star again. Lorenzo Cain is getting on base more than ever before. Danny Duffy, Jason Vargas, and the currently hamstrung Ian Kennedy* range from very good to terrific. Joakim Soria is effective again.
* Yeah, that was bad. Sorry.
But, more to the point, here’s something good: the Royals could be in position to turn their worst-case scenario into their best.
Nobody likes to watch a team they cheer struggle like this, but the front office will have some options. All of those players mentioned above, plus Mike Moustakas and Kelvin Herrera, could be particularly attractive to contenders.
If the Royals are losing anyway, and facing an offseason where three of their best four position players are free agents, they could jump-start the next rebuilding process by infusing their farm system with talent acquired through trades.
I wish they would have chosen a path before this season. I wish they would’ve either gone all-in on trying to make it work one last year, by bumping payroll and pursuing Josh Reddick and perhaps other free agents, or gone all-in on rebuilding by trading veterans for young talent.
If the losing continues anything close to this pace, the decision will be made for them. I don’t know if waiting to start the rebuild means accepting less in trades. I don’t know that there’s any possible way to know that for sure.
But, at the very least, it would mean a better future for the Royals than doing nothing.
General outcomes for the 2017 Royals, ranked:
1. Win lots of games, get back to the playoffs, one last encore performance for the championship core.
2. Lose lots of games, but the most valuable players perform at a level high enough to generate trade interest, restock a mostly depleted farm system, build back with an eye toward 2020 or so.
3. Be good enough to not sell off at the deadline, but not good enough to make the postseason. Get, maybe, a compensation pick or two from the lost free agents.
If that top outcome is gone, then the second outcome is pretty good. The Astros hit bottom, but built back up quickly.
I’ll quibble with your wording here a bit, and say that forcing someone to take Gordon’s contract would be ignoring “reason.”
I understand your point, that Gordon is 33 years old, and expensive, and would not be around for the end of another long-term build.
But my disagreement with that extends beyond the obvious, which — and Steve knows this, he mentioned it in a follow-up — is that you take less back in a trade.
Let me be clear: if that was the only negative, it would be enough for me. Payroll is going to decrease in the future, naturally, as the expensive players move on. The sole focus should be acquiring as much talent as possible. Talent will win games down the road. A lower payroll in 2018 and 2019 won’t mean much in 2021.
But I also think Gordon could help, in his own way, if the Royals transition. He is, by all accounts, an exemplary teammate. A work ethic beyond question. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to keep a guy who loves the organization, and who has been through the worst, and seen the best. That could be valuable.
Gordon isn’t a rah-rah guy. I don’t know that it’s in his personality to be a pseudo player-coach, the way Raul Ibañez was toward the end of his career. But I do think he’s a stand-up man, and would be willing to help where he could.
But, again. The big thing here would be accepting less in a trade. The Royals need to maximize value.
It does feel like we’re getting a bit ahead of the plot here.
First, and most obviously, is the Royals can still win. This year. In 2017. Seriously. They’ve been miserable and are still only six games out.
The best scenario is less likely than it was a month ago — they’d need to finish 81-52 to win 90 games, which is the five-year average since the invention of the second wild card. That’s a 99-win pace, which is better than the 2015 World Series champs, so highly unlikely. But it’s possible. Game 4 in Houston didn’t look likely, either.
I understand if you want to ignore all of that. But, even then, you must account for the need of trade partners, and baseball history says most teams don’t start seriously talking trades until July.
Names might be exchanged toward the end of May — teams really do love that 40-game mark — but then the seller will want to scout farm systems, and the buyer will want to scout big league teams.
Negotiations require some sort of deadline, or leverage, and it’s in the Royals’ best interests to cultivate the biggest market possible. Often, that means waiting.
Nine years ago, the Indians traded CC Sabathia to Milwaukee on July 7. At least in my memory, that’s one of the earliest “deadline” trades in the last decade. It’s certainly possible that major moves could be done before that, but it would be unusual.
In other words, we’re about two months early on this.
But let’s keep going!
The short answer: No.
The more nuanced answer: no, but some players/contracts are more touchable than others.
For instance: Jason Vargas might be the easiest to trade. He’s relatively cheap, pitching terrifically, and set for free-agency. He is unlikely to sign a $50 million contract, so the Royals would not even be sacrificing a potential comp pick.
On the other end of the spectrum: Sal Perez and Danny Duffy would be difficult to trade. The Royals would require a package that not only would account for either player’s talent, but also long-term contracts that are under club-friendly terms.
The players that, generally, fit the profile of potential trade targets would be Vargas, Ian Kennedy, Kelvin Herrera, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer. That’s a lot.
Even if the Royals go into sell-mode — one more time, that’s far from a certainty — it’d be very surprising if all of them were dealt. But if they’re not in contention at the deadline, it’d be shocking if at least a couple of them weren’t dealt.
One last thing: if the Royals do become sellers, it is my belief that of the group listed two paragraphs up, the Royals would be most hesitant to trade Hosmer. If he finishes with a good season, he’s the most likely to be worth a comp pick, and the Royals would like to try to sign him this offseason.
First, I think it’s far too early to say the Royals are likely — or unlikely — to re-sign Alcides Escobar. So many moving parts. From Escobar’s point of view, maybe he gets a better offer, or wants to go somewhere else.
From the Royals’ side, what if Raul Mondesi shows enough hitting progress to be worthy of big-league at-bats? What if another team offers more than the Royals think he’s worth?
But, sure, I could see it. Depending on a few different things, it might be a good move. Please, before you curse me out, let me explain.
He’ll be cheap. He is currently 177th out of 185 regular hitters in OPS. His previous rankings, in reverse chronological order: 143rd out of 146, 141st of 142, 115th of 147, and 140th of 140. He is also a fading defensive player. He is still good, but no longer terrific.
So ... why would anyone want this player?
Well, the Royals need someone to play shortstop. The organization values defense, particularly at premium positions, and if they don’t think Mondesi is ready they could see Escobar as a relatively cheap — two years, $4 million? — stopgap who will credibly play an important defensive position.
I’d still bet against it. He is bordering on unplayable offensively, even for a rebuilding team, and if Mondesi improves his pitch recognition and confidence at the plate you’d rather cut the cord and go with the young player.
But, yeah. I could see it.
We talked about this some on the Border Patrol, but I actually think he’ll retire after this season. I want to be clear that this is just me speculating. He has never said anything publicly — or even privately, that I know about — that this is his last season. This is just me wondering, knowing him a little, and connecting dots that I may be imagining.
But, I will answer your question.
Ninety percent of this depends on what the Royals do between now and whenever Yost retires. We don’t know what the franchise will look like for the next manager, or even when the franchise will be looking for the next manager.
But assuming it’s a rebuild similar to what Yost took over, well, Raul Ibañez is the first name that comes to mind. The front office adores him, he obviously has history with the Royals in good times and bad, and he’s widely respected throughout the game. He would be, based on everything I know and have heard about him, a terrific fit.
The problem with that for the Royals is they’re not the only ones who respect Ibañez. He played for five organizations, which means he has former teammates or coaches or officials with most teams in baseball.
If Ibañez decides he wants to manage, the Royals would not be the only interested team.
Jason Kendall might be a fit, depending on his own goals. Mike Jirschele can be a big-league manager. Dale Sveum and Dan Wakamatsu have been big-league managers, and are on the staff right now. I wonder if Mike Sweeney would be interested.
I haven’t put much thought into this, but those are the names that come to mind first.
Also, I’m contractually and morally obligated to say this: the next manager won’t be nearly as important as the players he manages.
Can it be both?
The surrendered goals came down what was effectively Sporting’s junior varsity right side of the defense, substitutions as the team played its third game in nine days.
But, still, here are the goal totals for Sporting’s road matches so far: 0, 2, 0, 1, 0, 0.
So that’s not awesome. Also, Minnesota is an expansion club that won for just the third time this season, and still has the worst goal differential in the league.
One game isn’t cause for overreaction, either way. But you would expect championship clubs to manage a bit better there, and now Sporting will have to figure out a way to play its next game without Dom Dwyer.
So ... mild concern?
Well, I would argue that the NBA playoffs are interesting, and major league baseball, and soccer (MLS and internationally), and golf, and plenty else.
But, to answer your question, no. There is essentially no chance that Kansas City will land an NHL team in the near future.
In the last round of expansion, no bid was submitted for Kansas City, and if it was, it was unlikely to generate much interest. There is no apparent local owner or ownership group. Lamar Hunt Jr., who owns the minor league Missouri Mavericks, has said he doesn’t think Kansas City is a good place for the NHL.
The Sprint Center is 10 years old. There is very little hockey culture here. Any of these factors might be a fatal flaw. All of them present a damning case. We could go on.
Potter Stewart’s “I know it when I see it” line comes to mind here.
This is a bit of a fuzzy line, and I assume you’re asking because of something specific you saw or experienced, but the view on this probably depends on which side you saw it from.
I have an almost endless tolerance for celebrations at the professional level. More than that, I want more celebrations in the big leagues. It’s entertainment. Supposed to be fun, and if the other side doesn’t like it, they’re adults and paid professionals. Get better.
At the high school level, the calculus is a bit different. Nobody needs a 16-year-old going Barry Bonds and pirouetting out of the batters box. High school sports should be competitive, lessons learned through both winning and losing, but amateur teenagers don’t need to be directly taunted, either.
I suppose the biggest thing for me would be whether the celebration comes from a genuine place of excitement, or a manufactured sense of wanting to show out.
An aside: the 3-year-old is starting to hit off a tee. The first time he really clubbed one, I got a little too excited, and told him that when he homered he should flip his bat. I showed him out to do it, and it was, objectively, hilarious.
Then, last week, a neighbor’s kid was over. They were taking turns on the tee, and my son tossed his bat, and hit his friend in the face. It was an accident, but 100 percent my fault. I felt like the dumbest jerk in the world.
Now, after he hits, my kid will hold the bat above his head with both hands, then just gently drop it, and announce to the world, “I drop my bat.”
And, actually, that would be a completely gangster celebration for a home run.
One quick disclaimer: I happen to be two episodes into “O.J. Made In America.” I resisted watching this for a long time because I felt like enough of my life had been devoted to his life, but a friend convinced me to give it a try, and it’s terrific.
I don’t feel like I can put it on the list because I haven’t finished it. I don’t know if it would be No. 10 or No. 1, but I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be on the list somewhere.
OK, here goes:
1. “Baseball.” So ambitious, comprehensive, incredibly well told. Legitimately made me more of a fan of baseball. Introduced the world to Buck O’Neil, too.
2. “You Don’t Know Bo.” I am helplessly biased.
3. “The U.” So entertaining.
4. “When We Were Kings.” But, still, probably not as good as “The Fight.”
5. “Fab Five.” The basketball version of The U, basically.
6. “The Two Escobars.” Probably should be higher on this list.
7. “Murderball.” Incredible.
8. “The Best That Never Was.” Could’ve been a cliche’d story, but so well done.
9. “Hoop Dreams.” Changed the way I looked at basketball, in many ways.
10. “Nine Innings from Ground Zero.” Powerful.
Facebook is the absolute best.
But it’s a good question. I don’t have an answer that makes any real sense.