Flanny’s Five: No getting around it now — Hosmer needs to be dropped in order
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — OK, the good news is that the Tigers finally have cooled off and just got swept in a three-game series.
The bad news is that the team that swept the Tigers is the Royals’ next opponent — Tampa Bay.
The Rays suddenly are smoking hot, winners of 10 of 12. And the Royals have just dropped two straight as their bats have gone cold again.
But baseball can be crazy: One good break for the Royals tonight can turn their fortunes around, and send the Rays reeling again. And what a pitching matchup — James Shields vs. Jake Odorizzi, both part of the whopper trade the Royals pulled off in 2012.
THE HOZ DEBATE
A trip to Nebraska probably isn’t going to do Eric Hosmer that much good, so I’m not advocating that. We already know he can murder minor-league pitching. And a trip down in the batting order might get Hosmer’s attention equally as much anyway.
Manager Ned Yost continues to coddle Hosmer, hitting him second and third despite Hosmer’s dismal production. Worse yet, Hosmer seems unaware of how much damage he is doing to the offense.
For example, Hosmer is a notorious first-ball hacker, even though the results suggest strongly that he should be more patient. He is just a .238 hitter on first pitches and he has hit into three double plays on first pitches, two of which ended games after promising rallies. But he keeps on hacking at first pitches.
And even when Hosmer does get a huge advantage in the count, he tends to keep on hacking and often gets himself out. Here’s a woefully telling statistic: After the count reaches 3-0 on Hosmer this year, he is hitting .000. That’s right — he is 0 for 9 in those situations while drawing 13 walks.
Hosmer also has gotten himself out three times on 3-0 pitches alone. You already know my stance on swinging on 3-0 pitches — yes, you might see a great pitch on that count, but the 3-1 pitch might be just as great, so stop helping the pitcher out. (The Royals are just 3 for 12 swinging on 3-0 pitches.) And why a .254 hitter gets the green light on 3-0 is beyond me anyway.
The point is that we have seen the great potential in Hosmer offensively. We saw what a productive second-half hitter he was in 2013. But until he develops more plate discipline, he needs to hit down in the order. Way down.
It’s that time of year when we all moan about All-Star snubs, and certainly the Royals have a couple in that category. There isn’t anyone better in a setup role this year than Wade Davis, and shortstop Alcides Escobar is as good as it gets right now at his position. Both would have been deserving All-Stars.
But truthfully, there are a lot of other snubs out there, too — Erick Aybar, Kyle Seager, Ian Kinsler, just to name a few.
The Royals are fortunate to have three players on the All-Star team because they don’t have anyone who gets enough fan support. At least Greg Holland, Alex Gordon and Sal Perez know their peers appreciate them, and that means a lot to each of them. They have told me so.
There are no statistics or advanced metrics to measure this, but the Royals certainly increased their overall baseball IQ last week when they signed Raul Ibanez and called up Christian Colon.
Ibanez basically is a coach in the making, and he relates well to everyone in the clubhouse. You also won’t see him making foolish decisions on the diamond, like missing the cutoff man (ahem, Justin Maxwell) or killing rallies by swinging at 3-0 pitches over his head and popping out.
Colon, too, plays with baseball smarts, I am told by the Royals’ minor-league folks. Colon might not have the physical skills you would have hoped from a former first-rounder, but Royals officials believe he is a winner who is selfless and plays all out (thus the Derek Jeter comparisons when Colon was drafted).
GOOD DAY TO REST
It will be interesting to see how Billy Butler and Gordon — both slumping — will respond to having a day of mental rest Sunday. Sometimes players just need a game to sit back on the bench and observe; it can put them back in the proper mindset.
The telltale sign a player needs a mental day off is when he starts hacking at pitches way out of the zone, giving away at-bat after at-bat (see: Eric Hosmer).
Last year at this time the Royals dropped five straight right before the All-Star break and were six games under .500, eight games out of first place.
They do not want a similar scenario to unfold.
In fact, the Royals could whip Kansas City fans into a frenzy this week if they were to take two of three from Tampa, and then put another hurt on the Tigers in the big four-game set starting Thursday. It should be a playoff-like atmosphere at The K for the Tigers series, especially if the Royals don’t fall flat in Tampa.