I don’t mean to beat a dead horse. I know I just wrote about Josh Hamilton’s approach at the plate on Tuesday. We’re not breaking any new ground here, but last night was such a striking example of Hamilton’s current problems, and the four images I’m about to show you make the point so obvious that they need to be recorded for posterity.
Josh Hamilton struck out four times last night. He reached base once, when he was beaned by the first pitch of an at-bat. I’m not going to show you that at-bat, because, well, he got beaned, so I’m pretty sure you know where the pitch was. Here are the MLB Gameday graphics for his other four at-bats.
1st inning, vs Doug Fister:
Give him a free pass here – he didn’t really do anything wrong. He took the two pitches that were way outside and swung at the three that were in the strike zone. Fister just located well, and sometimes you have to tip your hat to the pitcher. Hamilton probably should be looking for pitches away only at this point, but that doesn’t mean he can hit every pitch on the outer half of the strike zone. This was more good pitching than bad hitting.
3rd inning, vs Doug Fister:
Again, Hamilton laid off two pitches that weren’t close, so kudos to him for that, but the rest of the at-bat was not great. Ahead 1-0, he swung at a very borderline pitch on the outer half at the knees. The next pitch was almost exactly the same and he swung at it again. He finished the at-bat by chasing three pitches out of the zone. Of the seven pitches he was thrown, only one was a strike, and he still struck out.
4th inning, vs Doug Fister.
The prototypical Josh Hamilton at-bat in June. Three pitches away, three swings, three strikes. You could credit Fister with good locations on the first two, and maybe laying off an 0-2 pitch away isn’t something Hamilton is ready for, but this was a clinic in how to get Josh Hamilton out right now.
8th inning, vs Octavio Dotel.
Dotel is a guy with very questionable command against left-handed batters, and exactly the kind of guy you don’t to be aggressive against. Let him fall behind in the count. Hamilton started to, then bailed him out. He chased a 1-0 fastball away, then a 2-1 fastball near the outside corner. Both of those pitches could have easily been called balls, and Hamilton could have been in extremely advantageous counts. Instead, he ended up 2-2 after four pitches, then had to defend against pitches right on the borders. If he takes either of the pitches out of the zone, he probably gets into a 3-0 or 3-1 count and gets a shot at a meatball or a walk. Instead, Dotel struck him out for the fourth time on the night.
In his last three at-bats strikeouts, he saw 16 pitches, and only one of them was clearly within the bounds of the strike zone. Fister and Dotel did a nice job of living near the outside corner, but Hamilton swung at 12 of the 16 pitches they threw and guaranteed that they’d be ahead in the count in each match-up.
On the night, he swung at 15 of the 22 pitches he was thrown, and one of those hit him. A 71% swing rate is just too high. I don’t know how to motivate Josh Hamilton to stop swinging the bat, but someone in the Rangers organization needs to figure out how to do it.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.