Eric Hosmer has been to two World Series in his career, but individually he’s never had a season like the one he’s having now.
The San Diego Padres have become the talk of the baseball world this season, whether it’s because of their defying ridiculous unwritten rules or the fact that if the season ended today they’d be in the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Part of their resurgence has been due in large part to major contributions to a trio of guys that haven’t lived up to their contracts until now. More specifically Eric Hosmer, who signed an eight-year, $144 million contract in 2018.
This seems somewhat hard to believe because Hosmer has a World Series ring, so you’d think living up to expectations is something he’s already used to.
When the criticism starts circling around, then you know it’s time to make adjustments, and one adjustment in particular has really propelled him to a career year. With advancements in player and ball tracking and the added emphasis on launch angle over the last half decade, it may come as a shock to people that Hosmer has never had a season with an average launch angle above six degrees. He’s even had a season with a negative average launch angle.
Hosmer’s average launch angle has been hovering around 10 degrees this season. Why is launch angle so important? For one, you can’t hit home runs if you don’t actually hit the ball in the air. Secondly, part of Statcast’s criteria for barreled ball and sweet spot hits is the launch angle of the ball.
Barreled balls require a launch angle between 26-30 degrees (the range increases the harder you hit the ball) and sweet spot hits require an angle between 8-32 degrees. Hosmer already has 11 barreled balls on 86 batted ball events this season. He had 33 all of last year and his career high is 44 barreled balls.
So, what has the higher launch angle done for his production? He’s posted career highs in xSLG, wOBA and xwOBA by wide margins. He has eight home runs in his first 28 games this season which means had this been a full season he’d be on pace to shatter his career high of 25.
The name of the game is to hit the ball hard and in the air these days. It’s hard to do serious damage at the plate when you don’t hit the ball in the air. Hosmer has committed to getting the ball in the air more often and it’s paid off for him, and it’s a part of the reason the Padres are looking like a real threat in the playoffs.