The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad 100-RBI Season

Depending on your perspective, you might think that Eric Hosmer had a career season. After all, he wasn’t just an All-Star, he was the All-Star Game MVP! He hit 20 homers for the first time — his 25 dingers were six more than his previous season best. And he drove in 104 runs — 11 more than his previous best. And yet, for the third time in his career, he was a replacement player or worse in terms of WAR. Did Eric Hosmer just have the worst 100-RBI season on record?

The answer is no. But he’s definitely in the conversation. Let’s take a look.

Worst 100-RBI Seasons
Player Season Age Pos RBI PA HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ BsR Pos+Fld WAR
Ruben Sierra 1993 27 OF/DH 101 692 22 0.233 0.288 0.390 0.290 79 3 -33.6 -2.6
Dante Bichette 1999 35 OF 133 659 34 0.298 0.354 0.541 0.379 100 -1.5 -40.6 -2.1
Joe Carter 1990 30 OF/1B 115 697 24 0.232 0.290 0.391 0.295 80 1.8 -29.9 -2.0
Joe Carter 1997 37 OF/1B/DH 102 668 21 0.234 0.284 0.399 0.295 72 -1.4 -14.8 -1.4
Joe Carter 1996 36 DH/OF/1B 107 682 30 0.253 0.306 0.475 0.334 92 0.8 -22.4 -0.6
Tony Batista 2004 30 3B 110 650 32 0.241 0.272 0.455 0.304 76 -4.3 -1.3 -0.3
Eric Hosmer 2016 26 1B 104 667 25 0.266 0.328 0.433 0.326 101 -4.9 -20.5 -0.2
Tony Armas 1983 29 OF/DH 107 613 36 0.218 0.254 0.453 0.309 84 -0.5 -9.9 -0.2
Del Ennis 1957 32 OF 105 537 24 0.286 0.332 0.494 0.359 116 -0.6 -27.9 -0.1
Ray Pepper 1934 28 OF 101 598 7 0.298 0.333 0.399 0.337 81 -1.8 -4.9 -0.1
Leon Wagner 1964 30 OF 100 710 31 0.253 0.316 0.434 0.327 105 2.2 -27.9 -0.1

What this table, and subsequent research, first reveals is that Ray Pepper had a weird career. What else it reveals, however, is that Hosmer escapes the bottom thanks to the truly awful seasons authored by Sierra, Bichette and Carter. As luck would have it, I’ve actually written about Bichette’s unbelievable 1999 season before. Hosmer’s season takes place in a far different environment; the offensive environment is not as super-charged, and Hosmer’s ballpark is nowhere near as extreme as Coors Field was in 1999. As you can see, Hosmer’s offense, at least by wRC+, is one of the better seasons here. Also, his defense wasn’t the worst of the group, which is why his WAR is in the middle of this dreadful almost-dozen.

Still, his poor fielding is a large part of why Hosmer had such a bad season. When he first came up, Hosmer had trouble with his defensive range. He got himself on better footing and his range was neutral from 2013-2015, but this season his range problems crept back up. As August discussed back in June, part of that may have been that he’s had a bunch of tough plays to make. That might be fair, but I want to focus on the “likely” plays.

Inside Edge classifies all batted balls into specific buckets. “Likely” batted balls are those that they say should be turned into outs 60-90% of the time. Tougher than routine, but certainly not impossible. Hosmer was one of 25 first basemen to see at least 10 such batted balls, and his percent converted was by far the lowest in the game.

First Base Likely Play %, 2016
Name 1B Inn # 60-90% 60-90%
Marwin Gonzalez 677.0 13 92.30%
Mitch Moreland 1,080.2 12 91.70%
Ryan Zimmerman 969.0 11 90.90%
Adam Lind 797.0 10 90.00%
Miguel Cabrera 1,262.0 16 87.50%
Yonder Alonso 1,136.1 16 87.50%
Freddie Freeman 1,411.2 15 86.70%
Joey Votto 1,342.0 19 84.20%
Paul Goldschmidt 1,389.1 18 83.30%
Edwin Encarnacion 636.1 12 83.30%
Carlos Santana 556.2 12 83.30%
Mark Teixeira 872.2 14 78.60%
Jose Abreu 1,355.2 18 77.80%
Joe Mauer 831.2 13 76.90%
Mark Reynolds 907.0 21 71.40%
Chris Davis 1,327.0 29 69.00%
Brandon Belt 1,330.1 16 68.80%
Hanley Ramirez 1,145.0 16 68.80%
Mike Napoli 859.1 15 66.70%
Adrian Gonzalez 1,295.1 11 63.60%
James Loney 784.0 11 63.60%
Anthony Rizzo 1,337.0 18 61.10%
Chris Carter 1,338.0 20 60.00%
Wil Myers 1,294.0 12 58.30%
Eric Hosmer 1,351.0 13 46.20%
SOURCE: Inside Edge
Minimum 10 “Likely” plays

That’s pretty bad, but I know what you’re thinking: it’s a small sample. Two points: first, sometimes seasons turn on small samples. This isn’t necessarily a reflection of his true talent, but merely what happened as best as we can quantify. Second, his percentage equates to him having converted six of those 13 plays, but even if he had made 50% more, i.e. nine of them, he’d still be ensconced in the bottom half of that list. Simply put, Hosmer’s defense just wasn’t very good this season. If we break down those 13 Inside Edge “likely” plays a little more, we can see some evidence of the lack of range.

Eric Hosmer “Likely Play Log, 2016
Made? Date Inning Outs Air/Ground Contact Batted Ball Type Event Field Area Glove Pos
No 4/10 6 0 Ground Weak Groundball Single 1B / 2B side Glove Side
No 5/14 2 1 Air Well-Hit Line Drive Single 1B line Glove Side
No 5/31 9 1 Ground Medium Groundball Single 1B line Glove Side
No 6/1 6 1 Ground Medium Groundball Double 1B side Backhand
No 8/3 3 2 Ground Medium Groundball Single Right Field line Straight up/at
No 8/13 1 0 Ground Medium Groundball Single 1B line Straight up/at
No 8/13 4 2 Ground Medium Groundball Single Right Field line Backhand
Yes 6/12 1 1 Ground Weak Groundball Ground out 1B / 2B side Backhand
Yes 6/18 8 2 Ground Weak Groundball Ground out 1B line Glove Side
Yes 7/8 6 2 Ground Medium Groundball Ground out 1B line Backhand
Yes 7/15 4 2 Air Well-Hit Line Drive Lineout 1B line Straight up/at
Yes 7/29 3 0 Ground Medium Groundball Ground out 1B line Backhand
Yes 9/20 6 2 Ground Medium Groundball Single 1B / 2B side Backhand
SOURCE: Inside Edge

As you can see, Hosmer had trouble with medium-hit “likely” ground balls. He missed five of the eight plays that fall into that bucket, including two that were hit “straight up or at” him. He missed six of the 10 plays in which the contact was “medium” or “well hit” — which, again, suggests that he was too slow to cover the ground necessary to make the play.

Hosmer was also slower than ever on the basepaths. This is somewhat troubling, given that Hosmer isn’t really that old — this was his age-26 season. Of the 92 players age 26 or younger this season who tallied at least 300 plate appearances, only 15 had a worse speed score (Spd) than Hosmer, and three of those 15 were catchers. Of those 92 players, he was one of just nine to finish below replacement in all three base-running component metrics: UBR, wGDP and wSB. We’ll call them “three negatives” base-runners.

“Three Negatives” Baserunners, Age-26 or Under, 2016
Name Team PA UBR wGDP wSB
Yasmany Tomas Diamondbacks 563 -0.8 -2.0 -1.5
Aledmys Diaz Cardinals 460 -1.6 -0.7 -1.1
Stephen Piscotty Cardinals 649 -1.5 -0.3 -1.0
Matt Duffy – – – 366 -0.4 -1.6 -0.7
Eric Hosmer Royals 667 -2.3 -2.0 -0.6
James McCann Tigers 373 -1.8 -1.6 -0.6
Tommy Joseph Phillies 347 -0.4 -1.2 -0.4
Jurickson Profar Rangers 307 -0.8 -0.6 -0.2
Salvador Perez Royals 546 -3.5 -0.4 -0.2
SOURCE: Inside Edge

And again, two of these nine players — McCann and Perez — are catchers. I’m tempted to quote Dean Wormer here, but that just seems cruel.

For the game as a whole, he finished with the 10th-worst BsR. The ages of those who finished below him: 37, 33, 40, 33, 28 (catcher), 36, 33, 29, and 33. The point, in case it wasn’t yet clear is that Hosmer is really slow, especially for his age.

Lots of players have driven in 100 runs in a season before. Twenty-two players did so this season, Hosmer included. These players aren’t always good — RBI is more a function of who hits in front of a batter and that first player’s ability to get on base. RBI, as a counting stat, is also largely aided by the ability to stay in the lineup all season. Of course, players who (a) bat behind a talented on-base guy and (b) stay in the lineup all season — they’re usually pretty good. So it’s a surprise when one is so bad. Consider: a simple average of the WAR figures for this year’s 22 different 100-RBI players produces a result of 4.0 WAR. Hosmer’s -0.2 WAR is the worst by a full win. As it turns out, his season put him on the short list for worst 100-RBI season ever. He wasn’t the worst, but the fact that he’s on the list is worrisome, and you really couldn’t blame the Royals if they non-tendered him this winter.

(header photo via Keith Allison)





Paul Swydan used to be the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for Boston.com and The Boston Globe. Now, he owns The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Acton, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan. Follow the store @SilUnicornActon.

newest oldest most voted
ashlandateam
Member
ashlandateam

The sad thing is that most Royals fans will interpret this as ‘advanced stats are dumb,’ not, ‘perhaps we shouldn’t overpay Eric Hosmer because he somewhere between league average and replacement level.’

HamelinROY
Member
HamelinROY

Well he’s definitely not getting $200m…
However we also should account that if there is an enormous deficiency in WAR, it is the fielding portion. Only once in 6 years have BR and FG been within 1 WAR of value for Hosmer, with differences of 1.4, 0.9, 2.0, 1.1, 2.1, and -1.1 in his value, with this being the first year that BR values him higher.

Regardless, he’s going to want way more than we should ever pay him and something tells me this is his last season as a Royal.