Mar 17, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels left fielder Josh Hamilton (32) bats in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
What is the impact of losing Josh Hamilton? Well, for starters, Hamilton’s injury was the result of Josh doing something that every Little Leaguer is taught not to do. He dove into first base on a routine ground out. With that, Hamilton tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb, and has a recovery timetable of six to eight weeks. This may or may not be a blow to the Angels’ offense. So what does losing Josh Hamilton mean for the Angels?
On the plate appearance during which Hamilton injured himself, he was hitting .454, with an on-base percentage of .545, and a slugging percentage of .741. His OPS was/is 1.286, and his OPS+ stands at a staggering 271. Hamilton was showing the player that won the 2010 American League Most Valuable Player Ward, and the one who plowed through the first two months of the 2012 season.
But how much does Josh Hamilton’s injury impact the Angels offense as a whole? First, let’s look at the entire lineup. All nine starters individually, Hamilton included, have career OPS+ over 100. That’s huge. It’s the kind of production a team should ideally have, accumulating from every position. The Angels had eleven players with OPS+ over 100 last season, second only to the World Champion Red Sox. And most of those players are still there.
The Halos also have a very deep offense. JB Shuck led AL rookies in hits in 2013, and was sent to AAA Salt Lake. That’s how deep the Angels are. Josh Hamilton’s injury prompted Shuck to be called up. Now he’s platooning with Collin Cowgill to fill in for Hamilton. And both have performed well.
Shuck is hitting .357, with a .400 on-base percentage. Right now his OPS+ is at 179! Cowgill himself has an OPS+ of 183. These numbers are from a small sample size. But the Angels will take it. Even if they drop off considerably, the production the team got from both players recently could still prove to be a difference maker later in the season.
You never know when that one or two win gap could be the result of your little guys filling the void in a couple of games in mid-April.
The Angels are still second in the AL in runs and leading the Majors in homeruns. They also came into the season with ten players who are capable of knocking double digits in homers. So the question now is: Should we really be asking questions about the offense? Their offense was able to absorb the struggles of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. They can do the same in 2014. But Albert himself is healthy and is getting it going.
The key thing overall should be the fact that the Angels’ young starting pitching is still healthy. It’s the pitching overall that needs to be the center of focus, no matter what. And so far, despite allowing the most homeruns in the AL, the Angels’ staff has improved dramatically over last season, with a 1.22 WHIP (6th in AL) and leading the AL in strikeouts.
So, as of right now, what losing Josh Hamilton means is this: They have the offensive depth to cover it. And if their pitching holds up, Josh Hamilton’s return in June could be the equivalent of adding an elite power bat to an already potentially lethal offense.
And there’s one more thing we should keep in mind. His name is Mike Trout.