Results tagged ‘ Josh Hamilton ’
Author’s note: This article was originally posted on High Heat Stats (link).
When the Los Angeles Angels announce over the winter that they had agreed to a deal with former Rangers’ slugger Josh Hamilton, the first thought that ran through my head was “Good God, pitchers aren’t going to stand a chance against this modern day murderer’s row.” Those thoughts didn’t change much throughout the spring and by the time April rolled around I, like so many others, felt that a lineup including the legendary Albert Pujols, the powerful Josh Hamilton, and the electric Mike Trout would be piling up runs like they were going out of style. After all, if they could rank among the 3 or 4 best scoring lineups in 2012 without Hamilton, just imagine how scary they would be with him plopped in the #4 hole.
But as we sit here on May 16th, nearly 40 games deep into the regular season, the Angels enter play with the 11th ranked scoring attack in the American League and one of the worst records in baseball. So what’s been the deal in L.A.? The Angels have done a solid job making contact at the plate (their 103 OPS+ is 6th best in baseball) and they’re starting to work the long ball, averaging just over 1 home run a game, so why are they stuck with one of the most mediocre looking attacks in the league? The answer, I believe, lies somewhere as simple as the base paths.
Every single Major League team now has 30 games under their belts, which gives us enough data to start surveying the MLB landscape looking for surprises and disappointments. Fans in Boston, Kansas City, and Denver have to be thrilled with their respective teams hot starts.
However, for fans in other cities things haven’t been as bright. The Toronto Blue Jays were handed the AL East by most pundits before the season even began and they’ve fallen flat on their face out of the gate, carrying a 10-21 record that only the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins are envious of. Things are also starting to get dicey in Anaheim, where the Angels have once again stumbled in the early weeks of the season. Their supposedly vaunted offense has yet to earn its pay, thanks to its middle of the pack ranking in the AL in runs scored, and L.A.’s pitching staff minus Jered Weaver has been a disaster.
They’re not the only cities that are getting anxious about their ball club’s slow start either. Fans in Philadelphia were hoping that a once-great pitching staff led by Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee could rebound to carry the Phillies to the playoffs, but that hasn’t materialized thus far. The Dodgers were imagining themselves as the west coast Yankees with a budget to match. So far all that lavish spending has gotten them is 4th place and a struggling Matt Kemp.Even the handful of fans that attend Rays games have to feel a little nervous in the AL East watching their starting nine drop to 1-6 in games started by Cy Young winner David Price.
How much does momentum matter on a baseball field? Can a team that enters the playoffs at its lowest point top one that’s been riding a hot streak for more than a month now? How much stock do you put into the notion that the team with the most talent eventually wins out? Does being a two-time defending champion with all the benefits of big game experience matter? Or can a team that’s seemingly been playing above its head continue to their magical ways? These are just a sampling of some of the storylines floating around a compelling winner-take-all contest between Texas and Baltimore to kick of the American League playoffs.
Even though all 10 playoff spots have already been claimed this year, the last day of the season still has the potential for fireworks, particularly in the American League. There are plenty of important story lines floating around out there including: the American League West having a winner-take-all game out in Oakland, the AL East dogfight finally reaching a conclusion , and a Triple Crown coming into fruition, among other things. Let’s take a sneak peek at some of the more intriguing bits of news still left in the regular season.
Earlier this week I took a look at the best pitching staff in baseball this season, the Tampa Bay Rays, and today I want to take a look at the team with the best, highest-scoring lineup in baseball, the Texas Rangers. Texas has outscored every team in baseball this season and the margin, quite frankly, isn’t even close. The New York Yankees homer-ific attack is 38 runs behind in 2nd place, and the National League’s best outfit, the Milwaukee Brewers, have scored 42 fewer runs.
Sit down and watch a couple Rangers games sometime over the next couple of weeks, and you can immediately note the biggest reason why: no team in baseball possesses more depth, one through nine, than Texas. Leading off with Ian Kinsler, on down through the destructive middle of the order featuring Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre among others, this team is stacked. Hell, they just called up top prospect Jurickson Profar, and all he’s done so far is hit .333 with a homer and a game-winning RBI in 3 games. Texas has an excellent mix of speed, power, on-base ability, and clutch hitting to outscore any club in baseball, so let’s run through it, 1 through 9.
Adam Dunn, is by all means, having a terrific bounce-back season in 2012, after living a ball player’s nightmare for most of 2011. Dunn is also just off the pace to pull off one of the oddest and rarest Triple Crowns in history, as he leads all of baseball in each of the 3 true outcomes walks (81) and strikeouts (166) and homeruns (33). That also means an astonishing 57.8% of his 491 plate appearances have ended without the ball landing in the field of play. Only a meager handful of players in baseball history have ever approached that 57.8% mark, and according to Jonah Keri, only 5 players have ever won the homer/strikeout/walks Triple Crown, with the most recent being Dale Murphy in 1985. If you were wondering, Babe Ruth has done it on 4 separate occasions and is still the only player to accomplish this feat more than once. Will Adam Dunn add his name to the list? Let’s take a look:
Now that every team has about 1/3 of its season complete, we have a large enough sample of games to get a flavor for the awards races this year. Some of the early favorites to take home hardware are no where to be found, a group including Albert Pujols, Justin Upton, Tim Lincecum, and Roy Halladay. Some new and exciting players like James McDonald and Chris Sale have emerged, seemingly out of nowhere to take up residency on my 1st awards watch. Let’s take a look, starting with the MVP race today:
Josh Hamilton may very well be on his way to one of the best seasons in baseball history. He leads the entire major leagues in the Triple Crown categories, OPS+, and total bases. Over the past week, Hamilton has hit 8 homers, driven in 15 runs, been on base 2/3′s of the time, and has had one of the greatest individual games in baseball history. He won’t be able to keep up the pace he has set over the past week, but what kind of season is Hamilton looking at? Can he win the Triple Crown? Is 60 homers or 180 RBIs in the picture? Let’s take a look:
No player in professional baseball has hit for the Triple Crown since 1967, when Carl Yastrzemski led the American League with a.326 batting average with 44 homers and 121 RBI. Hamilton is currently hitting .407/.463/.873 with 17 homers and 40 RBI on the year, which gives him a comfortable lead in all three categories.
Concerning batting average, Derek Jeter is 2nd in the AL in batting at .372 and the rest of the field isn’t even close. The next closest hitters, Ryan Sweeney and David Ortiz, are all more than .50 points behind Hamilton and probably won’t keep their average this high for very long. Given that Hamilton is already a batting champion from 2010, and that he has such a substantial early lead on the field, I think he’s a safe bet to win the batting title.
His home run title will also be tough to take, because he has a 6 homer lead over Edwin Encarnacion, Curtis Granderson, and Adam Dunn. Dunn and Granderson have slugger pedigree and a history of topping 40 homers, so they could be threats if Hamilton cools off. But its probably going to take more than 43 homers that Jose Bautista won the title with last season if any player wants to beat Hamilton.
He’s on a stretch of 8 homers in 17 at-bats, making him the 3rd player in history with 17 homers in his teams 1st 33 games. He’s on an unsustainable pace for 85 homers, due to the fact that such a high percentage of his hits are leaving the park. Hamilton has only 4 doubles and 27 singles to go along with all of the homers, and out of the 38 fly balls he has hit this season, 17 have left the yard. That rate is unsustainably high, and will probably have to come back down at some point. This kind of early production gives him a great head start toward an eye-popping total and will probably put him over 55 for the season. That’s a number no other player is likely to top.
Finally Hamilton’s early RBI production has also been off-the-charts good. He’s got great hitters in front of him in the Texas lineup. Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus are speedsters who excel at aggressively running the bases, giving Hamilton extra RBI chances that many hitters do not get. 53 of his 118 at-bats, 45%, have come with men on base and Hamilton has made pitchers pay, racking up a MLB leading 40 ribbies. If Hamilton can play in 150 of his teams games this year, that would put him on a pace to drive in 200 runs, which would be a major league record besting Hack Wilson’s 191 set in 1930.
Hamilton is currently on pace to have one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. He has always had injury problems, even missing an entire month from his 2010 MVP season. If Hamilton stays healthy he has the kind of swing that strikes fear in opposing pitchers, because he covers so much of the plate with so much power. I think he has the best chance of any player in the past 20 years of hitting for the Triple Crown, and with the way Hamilton is currently swinging the bat, I think he WILL do it.
Around the League:
-The Cubs and Brewers played an extremely entertaining game last night, with Milwaukee prevailing 8-7 in the 13th inning. Corey Hart was the hero, providing the game-tying 2-run homer in the 9th and the game winning hit in the 13th, a single up the middle past a drawn in Cubbie infield. Hart was 4-7 in the game with a homer and 3 RBI.
-Raul Ibanez continued to swing a powerful bat for the Yankees, smashing a 3-run homer off Felix Hernandez to give New York a 6-2 win. He now has 6 homers and 19 RBI during his age-40 season, and like a much more celebrated Yankee teammate, he continues to defy father time.
-Carlos Beltran is also having an excellent week for the Cardinals, batting .455 with 5 homers and 12 RBI over his past 5 games. He’s now hitting .307/.410/.658 for the year with a National League leading 12 homers.
- The scalding hot St. Louis Cardinals. St. Louis has been red-hot all year and now has the best record in the National League to go along with the best run differential in baseball. New manager Mike Matheny has invigorated the lineup, unleashing the Cardinals on the base paths as well as at the plate. St. Louis is tops in the National League in homeruns, bashing 7 in their last 2 games alone, and is 2nd in the league in steals. Carlos Beltran may be having one the finest seasons of his career, hitting 10 homers and 26 RBI in the first 30 games. Last night he had 2 homers, including a grand slam, to push the Cards to victory. Another recent addition, Rafael Furcal, is also on a tear to begin the season. Furcal has yet to be caught in 6 steal attempts and is hitting .342/.409/.496, scoring 22 runs which is important for a leadoff hitter. Meanwhile the pitching staff hasn’t gotten a single inning out of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright has an ERA over 5.00, but they rank 2nd in the National League in runs allowed. Jake Westbrook, Kyle Lohse, and Lance Lynn are a combined 14-3. Each pitcher has an ERA under 2.20, with Lohse and Lynn having WHIPs under 1.00. The news keeps getting better in St. Louis because Allen Craig has returned and bashed the ball in his first 6 games, slugging 2 homers and 3 doubles for a .364 batting average. The Cardinals have a lot of depth, both on the mound and in the lineup, and they look to be emerging as the early favorites in a jumbled National League.
- Josh Hamilton’s monster night. Last night in Baltimore Josh Hamilton became the 16th player in history to hit 4 homers in a game, and the first since Carlos Delgado accomplished the feat in 2003. Hamilton’s production also included one double and 8 RBI to cap off a perfect 5-5 night. He totaled up 18 bases for his efforts, 1 shy of Shaun Green’s major league record 19 from a May 2003 game. Hamilton also took over first in baseball in the batting average, slugging %, total bases, and in the home run race after just this one game. And what’s more impressive may be the home runs. Baltimore’s Camden Yards is a hitter neutral park, and 3 of Hamilton’s 4 jacks were to straightaway center, over 400 feet away. The one homer he didn’t hit to centerfield was no cheapie either. Hamilton bombed it to opposite field, for a 380-foot blast. Hamilton is completely locked in at the plate and the rest of the league needs to look out right now.
- Baltimore’s Bullpen. The biggest reason the Orioles are surging right now? Their bullpen has been lights out. When Buck Showalter turns the game over to his bullpen, Baltimore has not let him down. Out of the Orioles 6 most frequently used relievers (all with more than 13 innings pitched), only 1 has allowed more than 3 runs. Closer Jim Johnson and middleman Luis Ayala have yet to allow an earned run over a combined 28 innings. Even the position players are getting in on the act. During Sunday’s 17-inning marathon against the Boston Red Sox, DH Chris Davis was called upon to pitch. He responded by throwing 2 scoreless innings striking out 2, while Adam Jones provided the offensive lift, hitting a 3-run homer. If Baltimore’s firemen continue to pitch this well, the O’s could stay in the race for the long run.
- Milwaukee’s infield situation. On Sunday the Brewers lost the 2nd member of their Opening Day infield, when Alex Gonzalez went down with a torn ACL after Mat Gamel had already gone down with a season-ending knee injury. The Brewers have responded by going uber-defensive, starting Cesar Izturis at short and Travis Ishikawa at 1st. Izturis is one of the worst hitters in the majors with a career 64 OPS+ in 4000 at-bats. Ishikawa is also a very light hitting 1st baseman, with 17 career homers in 643 at-bats. Milwaukee will need to find an upgrade if they want to compete for the playoffs this season, because they can’t afford any more light hitting bats. Nyjer Morgan and Rickie Weeks are off to terrible starts, hitting under .200 apiece, and Aramis Ramirez hasn’t been much better, batting only .216. Milwaukee has already fallen into 5th place in the NL Central, 6 behind St. Louis, and they need to get things turned around quickly.
- Colorado’s Starting Pitching Staff. You know its bad when your best pitcher to date has been 49-year-old Jamie Moyer. The Rockies have gotten almost nothing out of their pitching staff, ranking last in the National League in runs allowed, homeruns allowed, hits allowed, and ERA. The aforementioned Moyer is the only Rockie checking in with an ERA+ above league average, and he’s just barely over at 110. The biggest issues so far have been the inability to strike batters out and locating pitches in the strike zone. We knew Moyer would struggle with this, but who would have thought that Jeremey Guthrie would post a 1.8 Ks/9 rate in his first 24 innings? No one on the staff has a K/BB rate better than the league average of 3. The worst perpatrator has been poor Jhoulys Chacin, who has been bombed so far, giving up 7 homers, 31 hits, and 15 walks in just 24.2 innings of work. It’s a shame too, because the Rockies offense is rolling, ranking 2nd in the National League in homeruns and OPS, as well as 3rd in runs scored behind a resurgent Carlos Gonzalez.
- Daniel Bard’s balky 2nd inning. Last night in Kansas City Daniel Bard had a little bit of a problem with balking. On his 1st balk, Bard had a runner on 1st and 3rd. He attempted the old fake-to-3rd-throw-to-1st, but never made a legitimate move to the 3rd base bag. Bard attempted to argue, but the umpires made the correct call, because Bard’s foot came up but never got close to moving in the direction of 3rd. The move led to the Royals’ 1st run of the game, and moved the runner on 1st down to 2nd. The 2nd balk was also an easy call the umpires got right, and occurred during the same at-bat 2 pitches later. A pitcher is not allowed to make a move toward a base and not throw the ball and when Bard brought his foot down, then turned to 2nd, he was caught red-handed. It ended up costing Bard and the Red Sox another run when Chris Getz singled home Moustakas. Bard appeared to get a little jumpy with the base runners on, which is interesting because the runner both times was Mike Moustakas, the owner of 3 career steals in nearly 500 at-bats. Moustakas is a very nice looking young hitter, but he’s not exactly Ricky Henderson out there.