The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's episode of the Statcast™ Podcast. To hear more from Statcast™ expert and columnist Mike Petriello and MLB.com director of content Matt Meyers, subscribe by clicking here.
Petriello: First I think we have to get to Eric Hosmer, because that's kind of been in the news lately -- reports that he wants a 10-year contract next year. Now, he refutes that, but, you know, it was from Ken Rosenthal, I believe, who's a very respected reporter. Eric Hosmer has one more year left before free agency, and I think the perception of Eric Hosmer's value versus, maybe, the data-based perception of Eric Hosmer's value, is wildly different. Would you agree with that?
Meyers: To a degree, yes. He's certainly someone that, based on traditional stats -- he had 100 RBIs last year, despite that it was one of the lowest OPS+ ever for a 100-RBI season -- he has had some good seasons. And also, he kind of passes the eye test. He's been on a couple of winning teams, he was a really high Draft pick -- so there are a lot of things that kind of elevate his stature. But I'm still not convinced that there's gonna be a huge market for him next year when he's a free agent.
Petriello: I guess in his favor is that the first-base market next winter is pretty lousy. I mean, Carlos Santana is probably the best, but he's several years older. But if you look at Hosmer, his career so far, .335 on-base, .428 slugging percentage, so that's a 107 Weighted Runs Created Plus, where 100 is league average. So he's basically been a league-average hitter or slightly above, but compared to first basemen? The bar is a little bit higher there. So I looked at some guys maybe he would compare to in the past. And the one that really stands out to me: James Loney. Through their age-26 season, the stat lines are almost identical. Weighted Runs Created Plus -- for Hosmer 107, for James Loney it was 108. And really, James Loney did not turn into a guy who ... he's bounced around a lot.
Meyers: Yeah, the profiles are pretty similar. Drafted as a high-school first baseman, which is a profile that usually doesn't turn out that well. Because basically, to be a really productive Major League first baseman, you have to hit for power, and it's harder to project power on high-school kids.
Petriello: Yeah. Well, you have to hit for power like you said, but also if you don't hit for power, you need to make a lot of contact, and his contact has gone down the last three years.
Meyers: The Loney comp, it makes a lot of sense, because their profiles just across their entire careers have been very similar. And if you're not hitting for power, it's really hard to be valuable as a first baseman.
Petriello: I like to compare him also to Brandon Belt, who I think is extremely underrated. If you look at the last three seasons, Hosmer versus Belt, Belt blows him away, in pretty much every category. On-base percentage, Belt beats him out .365 to .338; slugging percentage, .471 to .432. He's got triple the Wins Above Replacement. And Belt signed a six-year, $79 million extension. Now, two of those years were not true free-agent years, they bought out arbitration years, but what he did get was $64 million over his four free-agent years. And I think that sounds about right to me, if Hosmer has another similar year. Like, he'll probably get more than that, but I think that seems about what you might expect. Nothing crazy like 10 years, $200 million, right? I mean, that's kind of the ballpark?
Meyers: The one thing I wonder about Hosmer is that his home park is not conducive to power at all. And I do wonder if he's the kind of hitter, if you put him in a park where suddenly his pull power might be rewarded, if he could become. When Curtis Granderson was on the Tigers, he was kind of a gap-to-gap hitter; I think he led the league in triples one year. Then he went to the Yankees, and he was like, "Wait, I can just yank everything," and he became a home-run hitter.
Petriello: He hit 43 homers, 41 homers.
Meyers: And I do wonder if, depending on a different ballpark, if -- we've seen players do this, Brian Dozier being the prime example, basically like, "You know what, I'm just gonna try to pull everything" -- if Hosmer could become the home-run hitter people kind of expected him to be. But as we know, Kauffman Stadium might be the worst home-run-hitting park in baseball.
Petriello: I will buy that. I think that's hurt him. I would agree with that.
Meyers: I'm not saying he can do it, but I am curious if he tried to re-invent himself as a hitter if he went to a different park, what that might look like.