There was a time when Josh Hamilton looked as though he was on his way to becoming one of the greatest hitters in Major League Baseball history. He was seemingly able to hit any pitch, and hit it wherever he so desired. Pitchers feared him, and he was at times invincible.
Then something drastically changed.
In 2008, his first with the Texas Rangers, we were all swept off our feet as we became enamored with the greatest redemption story baseball has ever seen. Hamilton hit .304 with a .371 on base percentage with 32 home runs and a staggering 130 runs batted in.
After injuries derailed his 2009 season, Hamilton returned to form by winning the AL MVP in 2010 – and rightfully so. Hamilton demolished pitching that season as he hit .359 with a .411 on base percentage with 32 home runs and 100 runs batted in. For many of us, it was just another sign that Hamilton was the real deal – someone who was going to go down as one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game.
Yet that has never come to fruition. Every season following Hamilton’s monstrous 2010 campaign has been a rollercoaster ride. At times you can see the brilliance of Hamilton showing through (43 home runs in 2012) but his production has become more inconsistent the longer his career continues. Just three years removed from his .359 hitting season of 2010, Hamilton went on to hit just .250 with 21 home runs and 79 runs batted in in 2013. It is a trend that has sadly been visible since that season.
When the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed Hamtilon after the 2012 season, they knew his average had decline but they were still counting on receiving some of those 43 home runs and 128 RBI he had produced the season before. Instead he has produced fewer home runs (31) and RBI (123) in the last two years combined (238 games) than he did in 2012 (148 games).
It has been tough to watch the progression of Hamilton – for as good as he locked in as he looked at the plate in 2010, he has been equally as lost at times in recent weeks. In just 332 at bats this season, Hamilton has struck out 108 times – that is almost exactly one strike out every three at bats (higher than his 26 percent chance of getting a hit). Once in a while we will get a glimpse of that old Hamilton – the one who signed a $133 million contract in 2013. Yet unfortunately more than not, we are reduced to seeing a version of Hamilton we did not expect to see at age 33 – the usual “prime” years for baseball stars.
Despite his struggles, Hamilton has continued to provide the Angels with leadership, and it has served them well as they lead the AL West with a, 83-55 record. It is a testament to Hamilton and his value as a teammate – that in spite of his struggles on the field, he finds a way to contribute to his team.
At 33 years old, Hamilton still has time on his side. One can hope that hitting coach Don Baylor and company can find a way to instill confidence back into the swing of Hamilton – but the trend as of late is not in his favor. Crazier things have happened, and Hamilton’s entire career is proof that you never know what is possible.
One thing is for sure – you can’t help but cheer for a man like Hamilton.
Cover Photo: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images
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