How Josh Hamilton helps, and hurts, a team

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
6:14
PM ET
As with most things related to Josh Hamilton, there are two sides. And as one of the most fascinating free agents in history, both of those sides will undoubtedly be scrutinized.
Josh Hamilton
Hamilton
What cannot be debated is that since Hamilton’s arrival, the Texas Rangers have been a much better team than before his arrival.

Not all of that can or should be attributed to Hamilton himself; however, it’s not a coincidence that the Rangers’ offensive production ticked up noticeably in the five years he’s been with the club (2008-12) compared to the five years before the Rangers’ trade with the Cincinnati Reds that brought Hamilton to Texas.

How can we quantify the impact made by Hamilton?

From 2003-07, the Rangers team OPS was .781, they averaged 5.2 runs per game and about 1.3 home runs per game. From 2008-12 – the “Hamilton era” – the Rangers team OPS was .783, they averaged 5.1 runs per game and about 1.2 home runs per game. In other words, the Rangers offense simply remained steady after the arrival of Hamilton.

Not exactly.

When one compares the Rangers production to the major-league average over the two five-year spans, it becomes clear just how much better the Rangers’ offense was with Hamilton.

The Rangers’ run scoring went from about 9 percent above the league average to more 14 percent above league average. Similarly impressive advances were made in the team batting average and OPS (see chart).

Clearly, the departure of Hamilton would have a distinct impact on the Rangers’ offense.

After all, when you look at strictly offensive performance from 2012, Hamilton’s +4.4 offensive Wins Above Replacement (oWAR) -- which removes the defensive component from WAR – was the second-best mark on the Rangers behind Adrian Beltre.

In a vacuum, that production could have been the difference between the Rangers making and missing the postseason. His offensive production would be missed.

But, there’s always another side with Hamilton, and in this case it’s his defense. Despite producing 4.4 oWAR in 2012, Hamilton’s net WAR production was a relatively modest 3.4.

Why? Because Hamilton was a net negative on defense, costing his team more than a win with his glove.

To compound the issue, most of Hamilton’s worst defensive work was done while he was producing his worst offensive stretch of the season.

From Aug. 1 through the end of the regular season, Hamilton produced a Minus-9 Defensive Runs Saved mark, compared to being nearly league-average from the beginning of the year through July (-1 DRS).

Only four players -- Pedro Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Nelson -- were worse over the final two months.

Which is why Hamilton’s departure, while it would undoubtedly impact the offense, may not hurt the Rangers all that much overall. Craig Gentry, a cheap and ready-made outfield replacement, produced +2.8 WAR in 2012 on the back of some outstanding defensive work.

And while it might seem impossible that a player who hit one home runs in 269 plate appearances could be a replacement for Hamilton, who hit 43 home runs, the numbers suggest it would far less of a net loss for the Rangers than one would initially think.

That’s why there are always two sides to everything Josh Hamilton. In this case, we’re not talking about on the field versus off the field, but rather in the batter’s box versus in the outfield.

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