Josh Hamilton’s Resurgent Hitting

On Sunday, Josh Hamilton carried the Texas Rangers’ offense. Going 5-for-6 while knocking in the tying run in the ninth inning and the go-ahead tally in the tenth, Hamilton had the biggest impact on the outcome of the game. With a +.672 Win Probability Added, it’s no wonder that the fans designated him Star of the Game.

Hamilton’s revived bat is a welcome sight for the Rangers. In his first season with Texas in 2008, the lefty hitter raked to the tune of a .304/.371/.530 line and a .385 wOBA. Even taking into account the friendly environs of Arlington, Hamilton’s hitting was 35 percent better than the league average (135 wRC+). Last year, however, Hamilton suffered through rib, abdominal, and back maladies, taking just 365 trips to the plate. His line fell to .268/.315/.426, with a .321 wOBA and a 92 wRC+.

Though a left shoulder injury sidelined him early in spring training, Hamilton has stayed on the field in 2010 and is enjoying the best season of his career. In 292 PA, the 29-year-old has a .337/.381/.600 triple-slash. His .422 wOBA ranks fifth among qualified MLB hitters, and his wRC+ sits at 163. Hamilton’s benefitting from some favorable bounces on balls put in play — his BABIP is .385, compared to a .330 expected BABIP and a career .335 BABIP — but he’s also beating the snot out of the ball. After a downturn in his power output last year, Hamilton has returned to his slugging ways:

After posting a mild .158 Isolated Power in 2009, with 9.2 percent of his fly balls leaving the park, Hamilton has a .263 ISO and a 20 HR/FB percentage in 2010. Typically an all-fields power threat, Hamilton didn’t hit with any authority to the middle field last year. He is back to hammering pitches to center this season, while also creaming the ball to the opposite field:

After failing to hit a single home run to center last year, Hamilton has gone deep nine times to the middle field in 2010. And, as his home run chart from Hit Tracker Online shows, they haven’t been cheap. All of those center field shots are in the 400-450 foot range:

Over all, Hamilton’s 16 home runs have an average Standard Distance of about 421 feet, compared to 411 feet last season. The American League average this season is 393 feet. Standard Distance measures the estimated distance a home run would travel, factoring out wind, temperature and altitude differences.

Josh Hamilton won’t keep hitting near .340, but he’s plenty capable of remaining an elite power hitter. ZiPS projects a .299/.355/.523 line for the rest of 2010, with a .383 wOBA and a .226 ISO. After a down, dinged-up season, Hamilton is back. Let’s just hope he can stay off the DL in the months to come.

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on and, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

16 Responses to “Josh Hamilton’s Resurgent Hitting”

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  1. CircleChange11 says:

    [1] Glad to see him back to form.

    [2] Are teams playing him to pull or WHAT? *grin*

    [3] I do like the Home Run Distance chart. Although the details of the graph make me feel as though we should be identifying his HR balls by latitude and longitude.

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  2. Adam D says:

    Can anyone explain to me why the Astros intentionally walked Vlad Guerrero with 2 outs to get to Hamilton (who already had 4 hits in the game) yesterday? I watched that happen with my jaw hanging open and questioning whether I really knew the game at all.

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  3. vivaelpujols says:

    Hamilton’s power both frightens and arouses me.

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  4. John says:

    His speed is absolutely amazing. He beat out a 2 hopper to SS yesterday for a hit. He’s one of the fastest first to third guys in the league.

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  5. Taylor H says:

    The real reason Josh Hamilton has been hitting so well as of late is the absence of Nelson Cruz. For whatever reason, Nelson Cruz seems to be Josh Hamilton’s kryptonite. In the 30 games during which they both played, this is Hamilton’s line:

    Avg: .261, OBP: .331, SLG: .470

    And during the 37 games Cruz has been out with an injury:

    Avg. .394, OBP: .420, SLG: .697

    Statistical anomaly? Probably. Yet, as a Josh Hamilton fantasy owner, I don’t want to see Cruz back in the lineup anytime soon…..

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      You are either just being a homer or being moronic if you are going to continue to argue that Hamilton has been aided by Cruz’s absence this year. And if you do, bring back some fucking evidence instead of bullshit.

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    • Eric says:

      I highly doubt that having Cruz, who this season has probably been the most productive “per-game” hitter in baseball, would make Hamilton worse…

      Couldn’t it just be that…

      He is fully recovered from his spring training shoulder injury?

      has fixed a mechanical flaw in his swing?

      is seeing the ball better like he did in the first half of 2008?

      has finally learned to adjust better at the plate?

      Clint Hurdle’s teachings took a little while to be put into play successfully?

      Balls falling into gaps instead of into gloves (don’t know what his BABIP/xBABIP was before June though)

      or any number of other things that would make a million times more sense than your Cruz statement?

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    • capt obvious says:

      Rangers are 41-0 when they score more points than the other team… I wonder how many of those games Nelson Cruz played in? Probably just a coincidence…

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    • Taylor H says:

      Not really sure why everyone seems to be so offended by an interesting statistical anomaly (one that I acknowledged was probably just that, btw), but perhaps everyone can take a second and just reeeeeelllllaaaaxxxxx. Obviously, there’s probably no real relationship between Nelson Cruz’s absence and Josh Hamilton’s resurgence. But can any of you honestly rule it out at this point?

      As for providing evidence, I was under the impression that statistics could be used as evidence. In fact, I thought that using statistics to make inferences was the point of this site altogether. I guess I was wrong. If more complex statistics are what you after, I suggest you compile them yourself it is so important to you.

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  6. Train says:

    Yeah, you guys are pretty damn rude, acting like a bunch of sabre snobs. The first thing a truly smart person knows is that he/she ain’t really so damn smart. There are all sort of baseball analysis advances that have been made over the last ten years making all those who thought they knew it all back then wrong, and I’m sure the same will happen over the next ten. Just because Taylor didn’t back his info up beyond surface stats doesn’t mean he is wrong and certainly doesn’t deserve your lame scorn. Sure, the variance in Hamilton’s stats with Cruz and without Cruz are far too large to be causal, and the sample size is far too small, but I bet there is some small interesting effect the absence of Cruz has on Hamilton, probably via change in batting order. Of course, I could be wrong, it could totally be causal, can’t say for sure unless I do the analysis. Until you are James Cameron, work on your manners.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      It could also be that Hammy got off to a slow start.

      What will be neat is if Cruz’s return coincides with Hammy’s regression to career norms.

      Then, you can say “see, I told ya”. *grin*

      There are quite a few factors that could influence the results, but due to the sample size, they might not be all that reliable.

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  7. GG says:

    +1 to Train

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  8. aweb says:

    Just a note on the article – isn’t it essentially impossible to hit a homerun less than 400 feet to centre? I know the distances are normalized for playing conditions, but since every park in the majors is pretty much 400ft+ to centre…Hamilton can’t hit 350 ft “cheap” ones there.

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  9. Ross Lindsey says:

    Nellie was back last night and Josh was .500/.500/1.500

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