Did Eric Hosmer leave his Gold Gloves in K.C.?

Credit: USA Today Sports

Credit: NBC7

Eric Hosmer has failed to provide Gold Glove-caliber defense in his time with the San Diego Padres.

In Friday’s 9-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Eric Hosmer committed his 13th and 14th errors of the season. In the fourth inning, he made an error on a pickoff attempt, in the seventh on a fielding attempt that allowed Carson Kelly to reach third.  This shoddy defense combined with a Manny Machado mental lapse and 12 strikeouts, provide the perfect microcosm of the second half of this season and certainly didn’t help former manager Andy Green’s cause.

This year Eric Hosmer leads all regular first baseman in errors, followed by Josh Bell of the Pittsburgh Pirates with 13 and Pete Alonso of the New York Mets with 12.  By contrast, Yuli Gurriel of the Houston Astros has committed three errors in 105 games, Paul Goldschmidt of the St. Louis Cardinals five errors in 154 games.

When the Padres signed Hosmer in February of 2018, the team touted his defensive skills among the attributes that made him a desirable addition.  Aside from the Kansas City Royals, the team that drafted Hosmer in 2008, agent Scott Boras found no takers until the Padres stepped in and signed Hosmer to an eight-year deal worth $144 million.  At the time, that represented the largest contract in the history of the Padres’ existence and dwarfed that of resident first baseman Wil Myers (who has since operated in limbo as a player without a position).

During his nine-year career, Hosmer has had a penchant for up and down seasons at the plate and has continued that pattern as a Padre.  However, he had a reputation as a solid defender.  After all, he won Gold Gloves in 2013 and 2014 and 2015 and 2017, didn’t he?

First base may require less mobility and skill than other infield positions especially shortstop but has its distinct requirements:  holding runners, throwing to second, flipping to first, and picking balls out of the dirt. In fact, the best first basemen save their fellow infielders from errors. Defense at first becomes more crucial on a team fielding players out of position as well as rookies or younger players.

Credit: AP Photo

But errors tell only a small part of the story with more advanced metrics revealing below-average defense throughout Hosmer’s career.  According to FanGraphs, Hosmer has had only four seasons with positive numbers.  Last year he did have eight DRS (defensive runs saved), but his year he’s gone backward (-4 DRS). During his nine-year career he rates -17 DRS, -27.9 UZR -27.9, -2.9 UZR/150.

Despite the Gold Gloves, Hosmer’s substandard defense has not gone unnoticed.  In June, 2016 FanGraphs featured an article by August Fagerstrom on Hosmer’s defense which noted that “The advanced numbers, the traditional numbers, the video scouts all say the same thing: Eric Hosmer is a perfectly ordinary defensive first baseman, likely one whose below-average range is canceled out by a penchant for scooping balls in the dirt.”

In 2017, Hosmer received the Gold Glove despite the fact that Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins ranked first in UZR and first in DEF.  It’s hardly a secret that the award often resembles more of a popularity contest among the voters than a thorough examination of actual performance.

In October 2018, Sean Thornton of SBNation Royal Preview discussed Hosmer’s award:

The one name that jumps out on this list is an old friend of ours, Eric Hosmer: Hosmer won his 4th Gold Glove last year but as most of us are aware of, the defensive metrics aren’t kind to Hos. Hosmer was 10th in the American League in Defensive Runs Saved among first baseman with 900 innings or more, 8th in UZR and 10th in Fangraphs DEF.

At the plate, Hosmer’s batting line of .273/.319/.433/.752 this year does show an improvement over last year’s .253/.322/.398/.720, but his defense has frankly cratered.  Even if he deserved one or more of his Gold Gloves, he certainly didn’t bring any to San Diego.

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Diane Calkins
Baseball has been a part of Diane's life since her father played professionally (mostly at the minor league level). She has written for a number of publications and concentrated on companion animal welfare. She welcomes the opportunity to write about the sport she loves. Diane shares her home with her husband and a house full of rescued animals.

12 thoughts on “Did Eric Hosmer leave his Gold Gloves in K.C.?

  1. If we are going on the principle of trying to win/playing the best players then, logically, a player like Hosmer should be benched or cut. There are a plethora of players out there, and several on the team, who can play much better than Hosmer (even apart from the money). So why not eat humble pie, admit Preller’s Folly (and hopefully fire Preller) and then play a better player–all in the hopes of winning? But this will not happen.

    The two main options are:

    A: Force an inferior player to play–one who has a negative effect in multiple ways–just because he makes an absurd amount of money.

    Or

    B: Bench/cut said player (the money be darned) and play better players who will perform better and have a much better impact, and give the team a much better chance at winning.

    Preller and the Padres WILL choose B, and we all know it, and we will all experience the negative impact of this, yet some will defend it.

    1. Hi Tommy T
      Your comments are spot on as usual. Unfortunately, the Padres can’t turn back the clock, save the money and let Wil Myers (or Josh Naylor) play first, the only place on the diamond he’s seemed comfortable. The Hosmer money would have been better spent on pitching, and the outfield would have been less crowded.
      Bottom line, a guy leading MLB in errors at a position should not be getting regular playing time if there are other options.

  2. To be clear, this is not an up year in batting. Offensively he is far worse than last year, at least according to ESPN’s WAR…about 1.5 less this year than last. He is also, of course, far worse defensively. Yet the padres have SIX MORE YEARS of Hosmer! And it is guaranteed to get worse. He is THE worst first baseman in the league, by far.

    1. You are right, LB,
      It’s not an up year. However, his defense sticks out much more, especially when the Padres offense, on the whole, has been middling at best. After the game in which he made two errors, I started to really look at the numbers this year and then his whole career. Frankly, I was shocked.
      I can’t help but wonder if the Padres did their due diligence in checking him out. Plus, the team already had a first baseman, Wil Myers, who will be paid handsomely next year. Why spend that kind of money on another first baseman?
      Six more years indeed.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      Diane

  3. Thanks for the good article, Diane — as always.

    While I’m sure Hosmer is a great clubhouse guy, this is one signing that the Padres never should have done; they already had Wil Myers, Josh Naylor was just a year away, and Hosmer’s record (as a pretty good, but on-again-off-again hitter) was already well-established. Several of us were concerned about this — here’s my piece from nearly two years ago: https://www.eastvillagetimes.com/2018/01/5-reason-why-the-padres-should-not-sign-eric-hosmer/

    1. Hey Greg,
      Thanks as always for your interest and comment. You were certainly right in questioning the acquisition of Hosmer. No one other than the Royals had any interest in signing him, and certainly, no one was willing to ante up for that ridiculous amount of money especially on a first baseman. Even more bizarre was the fact that we had a first baseman who had momentarily been the face of the franchise who was then replaced on both fronts. Wil Myers must have whiplash at this point.

  4. Ya, this is something that was brought up a ton when he first signed. A lot of people were confused that we brought on Dave Cameron (Who had mentioned Hosmer as one of his biggest flop candidates) and immediately signed Hosmer.
    The people at the time said stuff like “defensive metrics are so nebulous, but he’s a Gold glover”. Was a weird, disjointed signing then (1B was already becoming a lesser valued position, forced Wil to move, lot of money for someone that doesn’t hit a lot of HRs), and….it has proved to continue to be one.

    I sincerely hope Hosmer was the owners stepping in and saying “Go get him. He’s a winner, a leader, and look at his career year!” rather than Preller. If it was AJ……….OOF.

    1. Hi BK,
      Appreciate your comment, which is spot on. I thought about mentioning Dave Cameron (and his influence or lack thereof) in the article, but it was so long I decided not to go there. The extension for Wil Myers, followed by the acquisition of Eric Hosmer continues to puzzle me to this day. Frankly, neither made any sense. I keep harping on the fact that spending big money (at least for the Padres) on first base is frankly silly.
      Diane

    1. Thank you, Phil!
      Frankly, I was shocked when I looked at his numbers overall, but even more so when I read articles on FanGraphs and elsewhere. This was not some deep, dark secret.
      At least the Padres are never boring…
      Diane

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