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When Josh Hamilton signed his $125 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels, much of the baseball world was ready to pronounce them one of the elite lineups in the game, featuring Hamilton along with MVP runner up Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols returning for his second season in LA. However, Josh Hamilton has had an abysmal start, and the Angels rank 19th as a team in runs per game as of May 16.
Josh Hamilton’s numbers on the season thus far represent career worsts in almost every category. He has always been known as a free swinger, and set a career high 25.5 K% last year while maintaining incredible numbers overall, showing that he can succeed while striking out at a very high rate. However, some of the power loss this year could be due to his increased ground ball rate and lower walk rate.
Hamilton has struggled particularly catching up to fastballs in 2013, whiffing on the pitch almost 30% of the time. He has also been pulling fastballs much less often than he has in the past, showing that his bat speed isn’t keeping up with them.
Further evidence of his struggles to catch up to fastballs is that the most significant increase in his whiff rate against the pitch comes on high fastballs. His whiff rate increases for all locations, but the most dramatic increase is seen on high fastballs.
While he isn’t catching up to fastballs as often this year, he is trying to pull more changeups. As he is trying to pull more changeups, more are being thrown to the outside part of the plate against him. This combination of factors has led to his average and slugging against changeups to plummet. He is rolling over on many of these pitches, as just under 70% of the changeups that he has pulled have been ground balls.
Overall, Josh Hamilton is struggling in 2013 like he never has before. His struggles seem to predominantly stem from his approach against fastballs and changeups. If Hamilton can’t shorten his swing to catch up to more fastballs and adjust his approach to stop trying to pull outside changeups, he is in for a long five years in Los Angeles.