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January 23, 2014

Tale of the Tape

Freddie Freeman vs. Eric Hosmer

by Wilson Karaman


Today we’re going to take a look at a pair of emerging 24-year-old sluggers, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer. Freeman put together a breakout campaign in 2013, posting the third-best season of all first baseman, and, after a slow start, Hosmer rebounded with a scorching final four months of the season to finish eighth at the position in standard 5x5 leagues. When you look at the future of the first-base position these are two of the premier young players in the game, and Mike Gianella has listed them back-to-back as four-star options for 2014. Mike’s list gives a slight nod to Hosmer as the preferred option, but it’s clearly a pretty tight battle. Let’s take a look under the hood and see what these two look like mano-a-mano.

Batting Average
If you look only at the surface stats you’d be tempted to give Freeman the nod. He posted a better average last season (.319 to Hosmer’s .305) and owns a better career mark (.285 to .277) over a comparable number of plate appearances. But a “not so fast!” caveat is all kinds of warranted here. Freeman’s 2013 campaign was fueled by a very high (and very likely unsustainable) .371 BABIP, and his 11.6 career SwStr% is almost three points higher than Hosmer’s. Freeman chases about 2.5 percent more balls out of the zone than Hosmer, and he makes contact with pitches in the zone almost seven percent less often. Hosmer’s disastrous sophomore campaign in 2012, meanwhile, was fueled in part by a dismal .255 BABIP—a number that carried over into the first two months of 2013 as well. Assuming the flowers and heartfelt apology Hosmer gave to Lady Luck last June keep him out of the doghouse, he’s the better bet to produce a higher average going forward.

Advantage: Hosmer

On-Base Percentage
This is another tough call requiring a delicate balancing of past performance and future projection. Freeman again has the one-year (.396 to .353) and career (.358 to .332) advantages, and it’s even more pronounced here. Hell, that’s an altogether dominant advantage to date. Freeman’s walk rate is almost two percentage points better than Hosmer’s in their MLB careers so far, and the advantage actually stretched to a full three percentage points last year. And yet…Freeman’s a significantly more aggressive hitter than Hosmer, and Hosmer’s lack of luck has been a central factor in the diminished OBP to this point in his career. If you go back to their minor league days Hosmer showed the far greater OBP potential of the two, posting a minor-league walk rate of 12.6 percent to Freeman’s 7.8 percent. And after his luck turned around last June Hosmer put up an elite 13.7 percent walk rate to drive a .394 OBP over the season’s final four months. I’m very tempted to slip this one narrowly into Hosmer’s column as well, but in the interest of crediting what appear to be legitimate walk rate gains at the big-league level by Freeman and not overrating less than 500 plate appearances of performance by Hosmer I’ll begrudgingly call this one a draw… for now.

Advantage: Even

Home Runs
While Hosmer’s scouting record always hinted at plus-plus power he’s yet to really develop it into playable homerun power. His .148 ISO thus far reflects a troubling tendency to put way too many balls on the ground; his career 52 percent ground-ball rate is a percentage you’d gladly take out of a Billy Hamilton or a Starling Marte, but not something you want to see out of a top tier slugger. Couple that with a HR/FB rate that’s still a couple points south of Freeman on the balls he does put in the air, and I’ll take Freeman’s demonstrated low-to-mid-20s home-run output as a starting point by a pretty comfortable margin for the time being. It’s also worth noting that Freeman plays a in a significantly better ballpark for left-handed power; Turner Field plays neutral for lefty homeruns, while Kauffman Stadium logs a 90 HR park factor for left-handers, making it one of the tougher places in the majors for left-handed power to play. I see room for plenty of growth for both players as they’re both just beginning to enter their physical primes as hitters, but the edge goes to Freeman here.

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Related Content:  Fantasy,  Freddie Freeman,  Eric Hosmer

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<< Previous Article
Transaction Analysis: ... (01/22)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Tale of the Tape: Jona... (01/16)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Tale of the Tape: Juri... (01/30)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Players to Tar... (01/23)

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