Baseball is a game of numbers, and here are three that San Diego Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer should shoot for in 2021.
Eric Hosmer is coming off of his best season in a Padres uniform, albeit a brief one. Indeed the season was 60 games long, and for Hosmer, it was even shorter, playing in just 38 due to illness and ailments. That didn’t stop him from batting .287 with a .851 OPS and 131 OPS+, all of which are the best numbers since he arrived in San Diego, when he signed an eight-year, $144 million contract ahead of the 2018 season.
The big question is- can Hosmer replicate such numbers over the long, rigorous, “normal” regular season ahead in 2021? Essentially, Hosmer played well for a month and a half last year. In 2021, that will be barely a third of the season.
If Hosmer were to meet these three statistical goals in 2021, he will have done his part to help the Padres meet their sky-high expectations for this season. Also, these are numbers that are absolutely attainable for a player like Hosmer and his track record.
On-base plus slugging (OPS) is one of the better all-encompassing numbers out there. It displays the player’s ability to get on base as well as how much damage he does when he puts a ball in play. In his first two seasons in San Diego, Hosmer’s OPS floundered around .728 (the league average in 2020 was .740). An .800 OPS is slightly above average, and Hosmer has shown he can reach that, even in a normal, non-shortened season.
He eclipsed .800 three times with Kansas City before he did so in last year’s pandemic season. Frankly, it’s not an astronomical number, and it might even be a little underwhelming for a first baseman making $21 million this season. However, with the bevy of weapons, the Padres have in the lineup around the 31-year-old, Hosmer will be the least of their worries if he can attain such an OPS.
Home run numbers by themselves are getting less and less important as more and more sluggers are swinging for the fences, as the whole league is obsessed with launch angle. Hosmer’s hit at least 20 home runs in three seasons, including in 2019 for the Padres, when he smacked 22.
Home run numbers for Hosmer are a bit different. He will never be the prototypical powerful first baseman like Freddie Freeman or Paul Goldschmidt. However, if Hosmer hits at least 20 bombs, one would assume that indicates he is spraying the ball all over the yard and not corkscrewing the ball into the infield grass like he has done much of his time in San Diego. His average launch angle in 2018 was a miserable -1.5 degrees. Consequently, his power numbers evaporated, and he failed to hit 20 dingers in 157 games. The launch angle went up to 8.7 degrees last season, and his power numbers rose accordingly. His nine home runs over the 60-game season in 2020 would be a pace of just over 24 home runs over 162 games. Hosmer cannot afford to slip back into his worm-burning days of hitting grounder after grounder.
Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a telling, all-around number that also takes into account a player’s defense. His most valuable season in San Diego was 2018, at 1.4 WAR. With the money, he is making, and where the Padres hope to go this year, that simply will not cut it. He reached at least 2.5 WAR three times with the Royals. In fact, three times, he posted a WAR higher than 3.0, which is approaching an all-star level.
The Padres need this to be Hosmer’s most valuable season in San Diego. Over 162 games, his 1.1 WAR in 2020 is a pace of 3.0 WAR. This would also require his defense to be better than it has. This is a guy who won four Gold Gloves with the Royals. Overall, in San Diego, he has 2 Defensive Runs Saved in three seasons. This is not to say that is a horrible number, but it’s certainly not Gold Glove-level. Getting back to playing solid defense, along with maintaining his power numbers from last year, will boost his WAR to where it needs to be.
A vast majority of Padres fans who responded to this poll on Twitter agreed that this would be an acceptable season for the Friars’ first baseman.
Is a 20 HR/.800 OPS/2.5 WAR season acceptable for Eric Hosmer? (making $21 million) #Padres
— Nick Lee (@NickLee51) March 13, 2021