Sunday, October 16, 2011

Eric Hosmer's Defense

Blue 8505 took issue with my penalizing Eric Hosmer for his defense in my Rookie of the Year column.
That's the problem with using geek stats alone without common sense. If you had actually watched Eric Hosmer play defense you would see why SCOUTS says he will win the gold glove multiple times. He is a stud with the leather. Also, he is very good at many categories across the board. 
To be sure, I didn't watch every single one of the eleven hundred thirty-five and two-thirds innings that Eric Hosmer played in the field in 2011. However, I did see Hosmer play a fair amount, and my takeaway wasn't the same as Blue's.

From what I have seen Hosmer is certainly no butcher with the glove. But he's not a defensive wizard either. I spend most of my time writing about Rotisserie baseball so grading defense is not what I do, but if I had to rank Hosmer merely using my eyes, he'd probably rank somewhere in the middle or a little lower.

I haven't seen anyone suggest that Hosmer is a future Gold Glove candidate. This doesn't mean that someone hasn't suggested it, but it does tell me that Hosmer as a Gold Glover is far from a consensus. Most scouting reports I've seen give the impression that his ceiling is as an above average first baseman. He has a good arm for a first baseman, though this helps Hosmer less at first base than it would at any other position - particularly in the American League where there aren't as many plays on bunts.

The oddest part of attacks on defensive analytics is when someone says or implies that you should "use your eyes." My biggest complaint about UZR is that it's nothing but eyes, not the other way around. Every play is judged by a stringer, who makes a value judgment about what happened on the field. The stringers might have made some bad calls and said something was in Hosmer's zone that wasn't...but every ball in play is evaluated.

Maybe UZR is wrong and Hosmer is good defensively. But the issue isn't that Hosmer's evaluation is based on a formula that doesn't take into account what's happening on the diamond. The issue - if there is an issue at all - is that the evaluation is incorrect and the party or parties responsible for evaluating Hosmer are grading him on a harsh curve. I'm skeptical that a 21-year-old whose prospect reputation rests almost entirely on his bat is a sudden defensive whiz in his first full season. Common sense tells me that it's more likely that Hosmer was below average defensively - not great - in his rookie campaign. And the numbers strongly reinforce this idea.

No comments: