On Sunday, Josh Hamilton carried the Texas Rangers’ offense. Going 5-for-6 while knocking in the tying run in the ninth inning and the go-ahead tally in the tenth, Hamilton had the biggest impact on the outcome of the game. With a +.672 Win Probability Added, it’s no wonder that the fans designated him Star of the Game.
Hamilton’s revived bat is a welcome sight for the Rangers. In his first season with Texas in 2008, the lefty hitter raked to the tune of a .304/.371/.530 line and a .385 wOBA. Even taking into account the friendly environs of Arlington, Hamilton’s hitting was 35 percent better than the league average (135 wRC+). Last year, however, Hamilton suffered through rib, abdominal, and back maladies, taking just 365 trips to the plate. His line fell to .268/.315/.426, with a .321 wOBA and a 92 wRC+.
Though a left shoulder injury sidelined him early in spring training, Hamilton has stayed on the field in 2010 and is enjoying the best season of his career. In 292 PA, the 29-year-old has a .337/.381/.600 triple-slash. His .422 wOBA ranks fifth among qualified MLB hitters, and his wRC+ sits at 163. Hamilton’s benefitting from some favorable bounces on balls put in play — his BABIP is .385, compared to a .330 expected BABIP and a career .335 BABIP — but he’s also beating the snot out of the ball. After a downturn in his power output last year, Hamilton has returned to his slugging ways:
After posting a mild .158 Isolated Power in 2009, with 9.2 percent of his fly balls leaving the park, Hamilton has a .263 ISO and a 20 HR/FB percentage in 2010. Typically an all-fields power threat, Hamilton didn’t hit with any authority to the middle field last year. He is back to hammering pitches to center this season, while also creaming the ball to the opposite field:
After failing to hit a single home run to center last year, Hamilton has gone deep nine times to the middle field in 2010. And, as his home run chart from Hit Tracker Online shows, they haven’t been cheap. All of those center field shots are in the 400-450 foot range:
Over all, Hamilton’s 16 home runs have an average Standard Distance of about 421 feet, compared to 411 feet last season. The American League average this season is 393 feet. Standard Distance measures the estimated distance a home run would travel, factoring out wind, temperature and altitude differences.
Josh Hamilton won’t keep hitting near .340, but he’s plenty capable of remaining an elite power hitter. ZiPS projects a .299/.355/.523 line for the rest of 2010, with a .383 wOBA and a .226 ISO. After a down, dinged-up season, Hamilton is back. Let’s just hope he can stay off the DL in the months to come.
A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.