The Royals continued their magical ride this weekend, taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the American League Championship Series and putting the Orioles on the ropes as they head to Kansas City in an unenviable situation. The Royals' reputation for small-ball tactics belies the reality that the Royals have beaten the Orioles largely due to excellent defense and the long ball (an unexpected Billy Butler stolen base notwithstanding).
The Royals' success has been much to the delight of Kansas City icon George Brett, who was in awe of the team winning the Wild Card game, let alone the ALDS. Though they were dead last in home runs and walks during the regular season, the Royals have shown enough offensive firepower to bring them within two games of the World Series, led in large part by Eric Hosmer. Hosmer has exploded offensively, conjuring images of 1985 George Brett, who in 14 games posted a .450 wOBA and a 181 wRC+. So far this postseason, Hosmer has put up unworldly numbers, posting a .580 wOBA and a 282 wRC+.
|George Brett, 1985
|Eric Hosmer, 2014
Brett was 32 years old in 1985, and the baseball world was already aware of the great player he was ----- Hosmer on the other hand is only 24 and is relatively unknown to the casual baseball fan. He was the third pick in the 2008 amateur draft and was brought up full-time in 2011, when he played in 128 games in KC. Despite Hosmer's raw power, he failed to hit 20 home runs or put up an OPS above .800 in any regular season, with 2014 as no exception. Hosmer played in 131 games in the regular season and hit only 9 home runs. His 6.4% walk rate was below league average (7.6%), and he had a pedestrian 99 wRC+. Then the postseason happened, and Hosmer exploded.
This postseason, Hosmer has tripled his walk rate, from 6.4% to 20.7%, and his ISO, from .127 to .391. He already has two homers, compared to his nine from the regular season, and he has been making better contact, nearly doubling his line drive rate from 16.9% to 31.3%.
Taking into account the context of a number of Hosmer's extra base hits only adds to 2014 postseason lore. In the wildcard game, Hosmer tripled in the bottom of the 12th, scoring the tying run en route to defeating the Athletics, and advancing to the ALDS. In game two against the Angels, he cracked a two-run homer off Kevin Jepsen to give the Royals a lead they would not relinquish.
This is not to imply that Eric Hosmer will turn into the legend George Brett has, but if Hosmer turns into a superstar, the 2014 playoffs will be seen as his coming out party. Should this playoff joyride continue for KC, these Royals will go down as the unlikeliest of heroes, with Hosmer as the face of the team. Regardless of how this all ends, winning as an underdog and buying beers for an entire city does seem to be the stuff of legend.
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All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs
Steven Martano is a contributing writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano.