Josh Hamilton: Rangers Star Has Legitimate Shot at Snapping Triple Crown Drought
Josh Hamilton is playing baseball like people used to play Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball on Nintendo 64. Hamilton is hitting .400 with 18 home runs and 44 RBI through 34 games this season.
No, you are not reading that wrong. Hamilton is throttling opposing pitchers on a nightly basis. He is focused, confident and extremely talented. Hamilton's mind-blowing pace has him chasing an honor only fourteen players in baseball history have ever grabbed: the Major League Triple Crown.
Hamilton has been one of baseball's best hitters for the past three years, but his health has been an issue. If Hamilton can stay healthy, he is a legitimate contender to snag baseball's most coveted honor.
Hamilton's Triple Crown chances hinge on his success and everyone else's. He will need to stay healthy and perform at an extremely high level if he wants to claim this elusive honor.
Let's take a look at Hamilton's batting average, home runs and RBI. Then, we will see why Hamilton has a very real chance at the 2012 triple crown.
Hamilton's torrid pace has resulted in a .400 average. He will not maintain this ridiculous average all season, and in all likelihood he will not need too.
The only player close to Hamilton's absurd average is David Wright. Wright is hitting .398. Behind Wright's mark are Derek Jeter's .367, Rafael Furcal's .359 and Matt Kemp's .359 average. None of these players, outside of possibly Kemp, are talented enough to maintain their scorching pace.
Even Kemp, one of baseball's true five-tool players, is not notorious for his contact hitting.
The AL West is a pitcher-friendly division with plenty of good pitchers available. Hamilton will be tested, and will cool off at some point, but has a very real shot at maintaining a .340-.350 average.
If he can do that, he will be right in the mix.
Hamilton's 18 home runs are five ahead of the next closest mark so far this season. Carlos Beltran has 13. Adam Dunn, Curtis Granderson and Matt Kemp all have 12.
Hamilton's four home run performance against the Orioles on May 8th was a huge part of his current long-ball total. However, he has legitimate 40-50 home run power because of his quick wrists, bat speed and fluid hips.
Hamilton gets his bat through the zone with precise accuracy and lightning-quick speed. he knows how to keep the barrel level all the way through the zone and reaches many good pitches. This makes him difficult to pitch around, or overpower, even for baseball's best pitchers.
If Hamilton stays healthy, his home run total will not slow down. He has a flawless stroke, and could chase Barry Bonds' single-season record, if he plays enough games.
Again, outside of Kemp's 12 homers, no one should chase Hamilton in this department. Dunn has a ton of raw power, but is inconsistent. Beltran and Granderson are powerful, but not that powerful.
Hamilton's 44 RBI lead baseball. This comes down to timely hitting and a potent supporting cast of players in the Ranger lineup.
Currently, no player is within 10 RBI of Hamilton's current mark. Andre Ethier has 33 RBI. Carlos Beltran has 32, and Miguel Cabrera has 31.
Hamilton will benefit from the Rangers' lethal combination of hitters all season. He is just one of nine players hitting .270 or above, and powerful first baseman Mike Napoli is not one of those.
The Rangers will play meaningful baseball all season. Hamilton will have ample opportunities to deliver big hits and produce more runs for the Rangers offense.
Which category will keep Hamilton from winning the triple crown?
Ethier has only had 100 RBI once in his career, and that was three years ago. Beltran's scorching start will slow down some. Cabrera is the largest threat to Hamilton's hopes of leading baseball in RBI.
What Does This Mean?
Right now, none of this really means anything. Major League Baseball's 162-game season is a marathon of epic proportions. A hot 34-game stretch does not mean anything in the long run.
However, Hamilton is talented, and in a perfect situation to make a Triple Crown happen. He will get offensive support all season and hits in a hitter-friendly park.
Hamilton's health is the biggest question mark moving forward. There is nothing, and no one, Hamilton is not capable of hitting, but he must stay on the field to do it.
All initial signs scream Triple Crown for Hamilton. Now he just has to make it happen.
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