Thursday, May 09, 2013

The 1-Year Later Josh Hamilton Post

Yesterday, May 8, was the 1-year anniversary of one of the most memorable nights in DFW sports history.  Twas the night that Josh Hamilton hit 4 Home Runs in 5 at bats at Baltimore.

They were all 2-run homers and it marked only the 16th time in the history of baseball that 4 home runs were hit in the same game and it rocked the sports world.  Not only that, but the 8 RBIs were his new career high and the 18 total bases on the night against the Orioles was an all-time American League Record.

It continued a run of fantastic play in 2012 that seemed like it might go on for the entire summer following the 2011 World Series where Josh appeared to have won with a Home Run late in Game 6 until bad things happened.

Here are reminders of the heroics on May 8, 2012:

People that occasionally knee jerk (I look in the mirror), have these discussions in front of live microphones.  I am pretty sure I was ready to rush to his representatives the next day and figure out this negotiation that had troubled the public for quite a while before that evening.

Caution was being thrown to the wind.  He was so good that we should ignore all of the warning signs that things could end without much notice.

That night raised his average to .406, his OBP to .458, his slugging to a Bonds/Ruth-like .840, and his OPS to 1.298.  He sat at 14 Home Runs, with 36 RBIs, and a strikeout rate at 19.8%.

He clearly had issues to consider that made Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, or Jayson Werth's contracts seem unreasonable comparisons, but both sides - assuming they wanted to extend their relationship, would have to find numbers to work with on a new post-arbitration contract to get him that cash that he has worked hard to attain.

If you can remember back that far, he certainly was not against saying things that gave you pause.  The latest, after his "issues" that popped up before spring training in 2012, were that there would be no "home town discount" to stay with the Rangers.  They were not owed anything by his calculations which may have been his sincere feelings or just negotiation tactics.  Either way, they were not well received when most observers had seen the Rangers bend over backwards to accommodate him.  They did, and to this point in time, he had not let them down in 4 years and change with the Rangers.

Here were his career numbers from 2008-May 8, 2012 with the Rangers:

526 2071 113/414 .316/.370/.556 .927 19.9%

And, again, here were his numbers from 2012 on May 9, 2012:

27 106 14/36 .406/.458/.840 1.298 19.8%

I am always fascinated by the negotiation in sports.  It is something that we have a hard time relating because in the world most of us live in, it is all based on past performance.  We do things well, and it is generally assumed that we continue to do things well in the business world because our speed or hand-eye coordination shouldn't affect our ability to sell or buy or broadcast.

Sure, the employer looks at age with some consideration, but compared to a professional athlete, that seems like a distinct difference, and then compound it with Josh's very complex backstory.

He needed a contract.  One that would carry him from 2013 (when he turns 32 on May 21) to the end of his productive years.  If he could get 8-10 years like everyone else, he would try, but we would find out that the Angels bid 5 years and we really have very little proof of whether there even was a 2nd bidder to know if they merely outbid themselves.  

Anyway, back to last year.  He would remain red hot through the month of May and here were his numbers on June 1, 2012:

48 186 21/57 .366/.417/.758 1.175 21.5%

And somehow around there is where the "things" started happening.  Tough to go back and list them all, but there were contact lenses, energy drinks, lethargy, tobacco, and a list of things that made guys like me put him in the Dez Bryant "it is always something with this guy" bin.  

It absolutely affected his play, but his numbers, even when playing poorly still looked pretty strong in certain categories.  Here is what the numbers from June 1 - the end of 2012 looked like:

101 380 22/71 .245/.322/.487 .809 32.3%

Again, a stat line of 22 home runs and 71 RBIs is a real nice season for most players.  If we are going to say this is only 4 months of a year and that it is supposed to be shockingly pathetic, you can understand some people wondering if you are being reasonable.

Here is the whole of 2012 that the Rangers' brass had to chew on against the moment in Oakland that has become his defining last moment as a Ranger:

148 562 43/128 .285/.354/.577 .930 28.8%

versus this:

So, by the end of the year, Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan had to make a decision. I am reasonably sure that there were never real sincere efforts by JD to sign up for more years with Hamilton here. Nolan has given indications since then that he was more interested, but even that is difficult to pin down.

 The Angels put a giant 5 year/$125m deal on Josh and of course, since then we have heard Josh alienate the city with his thoughts on DFW being a "baseball town" or not.

That makes for good copy, but if he puts up another year of 43 HRs and 128 RBIs, there is a pretty good chance the Angels win big and his comments are but a footnote.

But, because his play from June 1 to the end of the season in 2012 appears to have relocated in Anaheim, the mystery of what the next 5 years will be like in California has become a daily discussion in Texas.

Make no mistake - he, just 1-year ago today, was a fan favorite.  Maybe, he was THE fan favorite.  At least on a national level, he was the face of the Texas Rangers.

He has since left and returned to boos.  It looks like another absolute stroke of genius from Daniels, a guy who appears to be incapable of getting decisions like these wrong anymore.  Josh has started very slow in Anaheim so far this season.  Very slow.  Even with a home run yesterday in Houston, here is why the good people of Orange County are freaking out:

33 132 3/10 .205/.255/.311 .566 30.3%

The numbers for the last year from May 9 to May 9 will not be as stunning as June 1 to June 1, we assume, but given his very poor start in Anaheim, we can now look at the last 365 days from Josh.

Josh Hamilton, May 9, 2012 through May 9, 2013:

154 588 32/102 .245/.313/.469 .783 30.7%

Again, for ease, here are the numbers from 2008 - May 8, 2012 (what looks like you would assume a $25 million player produces):

526 2071 113/414 .316/.370/.556 .927 19.9%

And then, here are the American League Averages for this year for the entire league:

.255/.321/.411 .732 22.5%

This tells you that he has dropped substantially in most numbers, and that power advantage he has will largely disappear when we go June 1 to June 1 in a few weeks.

It is way early to declare a 5-year contract a failure before Mother's Day of season 1.  But, he is a player who said himself that:

"When I feel a sense of urgency, I do worse. I need to keep working the process, have good early work and cage sessions, and when it clicks it will click." 
"Every day I get to play a game for a living, I have fun," Hamilton said. "It's no fun when you stress about every pitch, every at-bat. If you have fun, you'll play to the best of your ability. It's going to come eventually. It's not there yet. Stress just prolongs things."
He is way better than he is showing, but you do wonder if the Rangers got out at just the right time on this highly volatile stock.

Early returns seem to indicate as much.

1 comment:

Eric Smith said...

An interesting read...this is a human interest story/case study that will likely keep legs for the entire season due to his strikeout rate and his lack of mental edge. The stress comment says a lot. 90% of the game is mental and the other third luck :)
What does that leave?

Having followed the Rangers since Pete Inc, I still find it just wild and almost surreal that we have the best team AND farm in the division consistently. I love it!