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Thumb sapping Josh Hamilton's power

7/25/2014

Juan DeLeon/Icon SMI

Josh Hamilton has struggled to hit for power since returning from a thumb injury.

The Los Angeles Angels have gone 15-6 since the start of July. A big reason for the surge has been their offense, which has scored 114 runs since July 1, the most in baseball. But should the offense be even stronger?

Josh Hamilton started the season red hot, slashing .444/.545/.741 in the first 8 games of the season. Hamilton obviously wasn’t going to maintain those numbers, but it did give Halo fans hope that he could become the power threat he was with the Texas Rangers when he slashed .305/.363/.549 over five seasons.

Thumbs down

Unfortunately, Hamilton then slid head-first into first base and tore a ligament in his left thumb.

Josh Hamilton
This Season

He has now played in 45 games since returning from the disabled list. In those games he has just three home runs, after hitting two prior to getting hurt.

Thumb injuries are notorious for sapping a hitter’s power. Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper suffered a torn ligament in his thumb on a head-first slide a couple weeks after Hamilton did. He has seen his slugging percentage go from .422 before the injury to .368 after.

Trouble with the curve

This season, pitchers have found success attacking Hamilton with curveballs. He is batting .200 against the pitch. League average is .247.

Hamilton has missed on 49 percent of his swings against curveballs. 22 of his 42 plate appearances that have ended in a hook, have resulted in a strikeout.

Waiting for his pitch

All is not lost for Hamilton, the main thing he needs to do is be more patient at the plate. When he gets a pitch in the middle zone vertically he is hitting .391, more than 100 points better than league average. But when a pitch is either up or down he is hitting .243.

Hamilton has swung at 37 percent of pitches he has seen outside the strike zone. Among players with at least 200 plate appearances this season, that ranks 24th highest out of 257 players. As a result, 60 percent of the pitches he has seen have been out of the strikezone. The only player who has seen a fewer percentage of strikes is noted free-swinger Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants (62 percent of pitches outside of zone).