Josh Hamilton takes a cut. Image courtesy of Keith Allison.
For the second offseason in a row, the biggest offensive name on the free agent market is going to become an Angel. The deal’s not official just yet, but T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reported that the Angels and Josh Hamilton have agreed to terms.
A few big names like Michael Bourn, Ichiro Suzuki, and Nick Swisher have yet to sign, and there is sure to be another trade or two to take place, but it’s hard to imagine anything topping this.
So, you know the drill by now. What does this do to Hamilton’s free agent value?
The biggest negative is the move from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to Angel Stadium of Anaheim. You can look at the profiles of the most recent Angels and Rangers teams on Baseball-Reference to see how those parks are graded over the years.
- Angel Stadium of Anaheim: Multi-Year – Batting – 92, Pitching – 92, One-Year – Batting – 91, Pitching – 91
- Rangers Ballpark in Arlington: Multi-Year – Batting – 112, Pitching – 111, One-year: Batting – 107, Pitching – 100
Albert Pujols suffered his lowest career batting average in 2012 (.285) and hit the fewest home runs of his career (30) in his first season with the Angels. It’s fairly safe to say that had he not been batting in front of Mike Trout and Torii Hunter, his RBI total would have been a career low, too. As it was, his 105 RBI was his second-lowest total, only six more than what he did in 2011 despite playing in seven more games.
Hamilton’s a .304 career hitter with a .260 career average in Anaheim. Although he’s played in significantly fewer games there, Hamilton has more career homers in Baltimore than he does in Anaheim. Heck, even if we’re comparing the other two AL West Road Stadiums (not counting Houston), Hamilton has six career homers in Seattle and Oakland (both pitcher’s parks) and five in Anaheim.
Even for a hitter like Hamilton who can crash a ball out of any stadium in the world, moving from such a hitter’s park to such a pitcher’s park is a change.
There aren’t many negatives to this move and I promise we’ll get to the positives. But without getting too much into the personal demons that Hamilton’s dealt with over the years, I do want to say that any change of scenery for guys who deal with those issues is not a small thing. I’ve known plenty of addicts in my life and I know that they’re often told to keep the environment around them stable, so long as it’s working.
So guys like Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Elvis Andrus, Michael Young (though he’s already gone to Philly), etc. not only represent great teammates and lineup protection, but they are also familiar surroundings to Hamilton in what’s been a comparatively calm time in his life. I know that there have been a few fairly public relapses, but they’ve been short-lived and even those were comparatively tame compared to what Hamilton was fighting through early in his career.
Make no mistake.
- On a personal level, I am pulling for Hamilton more than I pull for many athletes, despite the fact that I am not a fan of the Rangers, Angels, or any team he’s ever played on.
- I am not saying that he’s going to relapse, even in a fairly minor way.
I am just saying that he’s leaving familiar teammates and a familiar city. On that note, Southern California and the Dallas Metroplex are very different environments. Even if he stays clean, you’d have to at least consider an adjustment period that lasts a little longer than your average athlete.
He’s leaving a great group of teammates, but joining an absolutely stacked group of players around him. It’s a bit of a challenge to figure out just how Mike Scioscia will order his lineup, but it’s a good problem to have. Hamilton and Pujols will almost certainly be the 3-4 hitters, even if the order is reversed which I would do. Trout will certainly bat in front of them, probably leading off again.
Behind them you’re going to see guys like Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales, who will offer plenty of protection. If Hamilton does indeed bat third and Pujols cleans up, you may see a repeat of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle in 1961 where despite Maris breaking the single-season home run record, he never drew one intentional walk.
While I can talk about Pujols regressing a little bit last year, the bottom line is that he have the following fantasy line: 85 runs, 30 homers, 105 RBI, 9 steals, .285 average. Do you know how many guys would kill to have that kind of floor? He’s still one of the most feared hitters in the game.
When you think about what Hamilton can do as a hitter and then consider how many times he’ll be batting with men on base and good protection behind him (even if Pujols bats in front of him), the potential is massive.
Also, while I normally think that a long-term contract is an overall negative for one year’s production when compared to someone in a contract year, I don’t think that was the case for Hamilton. His personality is one where I think being in a more stable situation will help his mindset and in turn, his production.
The talent around him just outweighs everything else, which says something because the talent in Texas was pretty good. I don’t necessarily know that I expect another 43 home run season in Anaheim but overall, I think he’ll improve on 2012’s stat line. Before we look at a projection range, let’s look at what that fantasy line was. 103 runs, 43 homers, 128 RBI, 7 steals, .285 average.
Now, let’s take a look at some predictions. And actually we’re going to look at two charts here.
If he bats in front of Pujols
|Best Case Scenario||580||203||49||117||41||133||12||.350|
|Worst Case Scenario||505||143||39||84||27||81||6||.283|
If he bats behind Pujols
|Best Case Scenario||560||187||65||110||37||125||15||.334|
|Worst Case Scenario||485||135||37||77||24||79||7||.278|
Fantasy owners out there should hope for a Hamilton-Pujols combo. But either way, he’s still a valuable commodity.