For Josh Hamilton and the Los Angeles Angels, this issue has lingered for over a year and a half. For Hamilton, it goes back over two years ago. It’s a problem that needs fixing. And especially in the wake of the season-ending injury to Garrett Richards, the time has never been more crucial for Hamilton to get himself right for the stretch run.
Last season was a miserable marathon of Hamilton trying to get himself going. It wasn’t until August that he finally put it together and started hitting like the Josh Hamilton we’re accustomed to seeing. His hot streak to end 2013 helped the Halos plow through the final six weeks of their schedule to bounce back and almost finish with a .500 record, something that was unthinkable coming into August.
Well, there are six weeks left in this season. And it’s time for Josh to grow up.
Manager Mike Scioscia did something he rarely does with a struggling player–he went public with Hamilton’s struggles. He admitted that Josh is not the same player right now that he was when he was in a rival team’s dugout. That says something right there. When Mike Scioscia talks like that, one must listen. Or they run the risk of becoming the next Jose Guillen. That’s one of the things I love about Scioscia. And Josh needs to pay attention.
Hamilton dismissed his accountability partner from the clubhouse to help himself grow up. He now cites his wife and four daughters as his true support system. Now, it appears the next step is to grow up a little more as a veteran ballplayer on a team bound for October baseball.
In his first game back, after sitting two games to get his head right, Hamilton went 2 for 3 with 3 RBI in an 8-3 romp over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Hamilton’s batting average dropped quickly from around .290 coming into the recent Freeway Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. His average now stands at .264. Hamilton still only has 8 home runs. But up until two weeks ago, he was still hitting. It’s not like his entire season has been the same grind as last season. It is much better in many ways. His OPS+ is 116. That’s an offensive metric that pegs him as still being above average.
To be frank, Josh’s production has not been great since returning from the DL in June. In fact, his sizzling .444 early-season average before going down with a torn ligament in his thumb is the main reason his batting average was around .290 two weeks ago, and is still afloat at .264. But where do you go from .444? The only way to go is down.
The same logic applies to his 2012 season. Through May, Hamilton had a .368 / .420 / .764 slash line, with 21 HR / 57 RBI. That is a 162 game pace to tie Barry Bonds’
bogus single season home run record at 73, and to break Lou Gehrig’s single season RBI record at 197. He went on to hit .245 / .322 / .487 with 22 HR / 71 RBI in his remaining 101 games.
Josh had nowhere to go but down. Statistically speaking, he was way overdue to falter, to where he ended the season with an overall line of .285 / .354 / .577 with 43 HR / 128 RBI. That looks like a great MVP season. But it was mostly packed in the first two months. A great example of how even overall numbers can be as deceiving as earned run average.
Now, just to clarify, these are not excuses for Hamilton. They are simply observations to illustrate how incredibly inconsistent Josh Hamilton has been over the last three seasons. His 162 game average since the start of 2012 still sits at 32 HR / 107 RBI. Again, that’s mostly because of the first two months of 2012. But that pace can easily be spread out more, and we have a more consistent Josh Hamilton, and perhaps better contributions in key spots throughout those three seasons.
That is where getting Josh Hamilton right comes into play here. There is probably not a better presence in any dugout to help Josh with that than Don Baylor. Josh is in good hands. Now, it is up to Josh to take Baylor’s teachings and apply them, so that 32 HR /107 RBI full season pace can be more consistent, and reflective of his every day production.
Because it’s crunch time in Anaheim.