Sunday, 16 December 2012

Hamilton rated elite, despite decline

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have been good for surprise movement in the free-agent market over the last two seasons. This year, they splurged on Josh Hamilton, agreeing to terms with him on a lengthy, pricey contract today.

Let's take a closer look at this move from a number of different perspectives.

The contract
A five-year, $125 million contract would be the third-largest multi-year free agent contract in terms of average annual value, trailing the two free-agent deals signed by Alex Rodriguez (for an average of $25.2 million and $27.5 million respectively) with the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees.

It is the second-largest free-agent contract for an Angels player in terms of total value, trailing only the 10-year, $240 million deal signed by Albert Pujols last season.

Hamilton’s value
Over the last three seasons, Hamilton has totaled 15.3 Wins Above Replacement, the fourth-most for an outfielder, trailing Ryan Braun (20.0), Jose Bautista (17.5) and Andrew McCutchen (15.9).

Hamilton ranks fourth among all players in that span with a .952 OPS and 322 RBI (tied for fourth). He is one of six players with 100 home runs in the last three seasons.

Hamilton’s value in that span has been more and more related to his offense than to his all-around game. His advanced defensive metrics have plunged a bit.

In 2010 and 2011, he was credited with a combined 13 Defensive Runs Saved (a stat that measures an outfielder’s ability to turn batted balls into outs and the deterrent value of his throwing arm).

But in 2012, that dropped to -9 Defensive Runs Saved, almost all of which was accumulated in the final two months of the season.

Hamilton did not finish strong offensively either, or at least not with the sort of dominant production that he’d previously had.

After hitting .368 with 21 home runs, and a 1.184 OPS in April and May, Hamilton hit .245 with 22 home runs and an .809 OPS from June to October.

As a result of both his offensive and defensive decline, Hamilton’s 2012 WAR was 3.4. That ranked tied for 52nd in the majors and ranked just outside the top-20 among outfielders with Yoenis Cespedes and Adam Jones.

He actually rated two wins worse than the player he'll be replacing in right field, Torii Hunter, who signed with the Detroit Tigers this offseason.

Why the Angels needed Hamilton
The 2012 Angels had Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Torii Hunter in their everyday lineup, but they didn't have much of a left-handed presence in their lineup last season as most other teams, ranking last in the AL in total at-bats and homeruns by left-handed batters.

Will Hamilton prosper in Anaheim? He is moving from Rangers Ballpark that had a Park Factor of 117 for home runs last year according to (seventh-most hitter-friendly in the majors), which means that 17 percent more HRs were hit there than at the average stadium, to Angel Stadium that had a park factor for homers of 76 last year (fifth-most pitcher-friendly in MLB), which means that 24 percent fewer homers were hit there than at the average stadium.

Looking ahead to Opening Day
Coincidentally, Hamilton will return to face his two previous teams in the Angels first two series of the season.

The Angels open the 2013 season with three games in Cincinnati (Josh Hamilton’s team in 2007) against the Reds, then head to a three-game set to face the Rangers in Texas.

Kimberly Joseph Allie Mutch

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