The off-season is always full of hope….and angst.  Let’s face it, Dayton Moore’s off-season has come down to having faith in comeback seasons from Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios, competence from Edinson Volquez and the idea that great defense and a dominating and deep bullpen can get the Royals back to the post-season.  It might work, maybe, but you know what would make it all a lot easier?  If the title of this column is a realistic conversation come August.

I bring this topic up because in a random (i.e. didn’t feel like working the other day) scan of Eric Hosmer’s Baseball Reference page an interesting comp comes up at the top of his Age 24 similarity score:  Keith Hernandez.

Comparisons and similarity scores and projections and whatever are what they are:  interesting, but certainly not concrete indicators of what a player will become.  Humans, it seems, are kind of hard to predict.

That said, let’s have a little fun.

Hosmer got his career started basically a year sooner than Hernandez, logging 128 games as a 21 year old rookie.  Hernandez had played 78 major league games over two seasons before logging 129 games in his age 22 season.   In each of their first nearly full major league season, both guys were pretty good:

AVG OBP SLG OPS+ wRC+
Hosmer 293 334 465 118 113
Hernandez 289 376 428 127 130

As we know, Hosmer followed up his 2011 rookie season with an abysmal 2012 (80 wRC+) and an encouraging 2013 (120 wRC+), but let’s take a little liberty and skip over that 2012 campaign and match our two subjects up age to age.  Why can we do that?  Because I said so.

As indicated in the preceding paragraph, Hosmer had a good age 23 season (2013) and so did Hernandez:

 

AVG OBP SLG OPS+ wRC+
Hosmer 302 353 448 118 120
Hernandez 291 379 459 125 124

Then both of them fell on some hard times during their age 24 season:

 

AVG OBP SLG OPS+ wRC+
Hosmer 270 318 398 98 99
Hernandez 255 351 389 108 107

If you’re into awards, both players won Gold Gloves that season.  If you like counting stats, Hosmer had 35 doubles and 9 home runs.  Hernandez had 31 and 11, plus 64 RBI:  6 more than Hosmer.

Without questions, Hernandez up to and through age 24 had enjoyed a better and more consistent career than Eric Hosmer has, but they are not dramatically far apart.   A system devised by far smarter folks than me has designated Hernandez as the most similar player to Hosmer at this data point in their careers.

So, and I bet you saw this coming, what happened to Keith Hernandez in his age 25 season?  MVP, baby.

Twenty-five year old Keith Hernandez hit .344 in 1979 with a .417 on-base percentage and slugged .513.  His OPS+ was 151, his wRC+ a robust 156.  He slashed 48 doubles and had 11 triples, 11 homers and 11 steals.  All told, Keith Hernandez was valued at 7.4 fWAR that season.  There was debate that year as to whether he was the true MVP, but that is one hell of a season.  Not only that, but Hernandez was a remarkably similar player for the next seven years.

Pretty sure we would all be pretty happy with Eric Hosmer becoming Keith Hernandez.  Quite frankly, that is exactly what the Royals will likely need to make it back to the post-season in 2015.