Josh Hamilton: What Flaws Are Holding the Texas Rangers Slugger Back?
Hamilton has outstanding numbers overall—a .316 batting average, 24 home runs and 69 RBI in only 70 games played—but of late, he has struggled mightily at the plate.
In June, Hamilton is only hitting .207 and has already struck out 33 times. For reference, he only had 39 strikeouts in April and May combined.
So, what’s wrong with Hamilton’s game?
Hitting a baseball is already the most difficult thing to do in sports, and if you don’t have the correct timing, it's near impossible.
For Hamilton, the timing just hasn’t been there in June, according to mlb.com
"Starting my swing on time is the big thing," Hamilton said. "If I start early or I start late, I'm pretty much in trouble. If I start my swing on time, the pitches get as deep as they need to get and I get to see them better. It's a matter of focusing. It's about trusting your eyes, knowing when to start your swing and trusting yourself."
There have been multiple at-bats of late in which Hamilton has been just a tick late on a fastball or way out in front of a breaking ball.
For hitters, perfect timing comes and goes and it will eventually return to Hamilton. But a player of his caliber shouldn't go through prolonged stretches like these.
The great hitters find a way to quickly work through these issues, and make the work they do in the cage transfer to the field.
If his timing doesn’t come back soon the average will continue to fall.
Approach at the Plate
It is no secret that Hamilton is a very aggressive hitter.
So aggressive, in fact, that he swings at the first pitch as much as almost any other player in baseball.
This worked for him early in his career, but it has also been the most criticized portion of Hamilton's game—and for good reason.
Pitchers have caught onto to his forceful approach. To compensate, they have started to throw him offspeed pitches outside of the strike zone instead of first-pitch fastballs.
Hamilton has failed to adjust to this change in strategy, and it has cost him. He is consistently behind in the count: he has been behind 0-1 129 times this season as opposed to 89 at-bats in which he has reached 1-0.
When you get behind in the count it becomes tougher to find a good pitch to hit. Even with Hamilton's abundance of talent, it doesn't help to have to hit pitches right on the corner or nasty breaking balls.
Hamilton has all the natural skills but if he wants to be more consistent, he will have to learn to take a pitch.
He Has Been Pulling the Ball Too Much
Hamilton has the ability to hit the ball to fields with power, but of late, the only place he seems to drive the ball is to right.
In other words, he has had a major tendency to pull the ball.
Other teams have noticed too, which is why you are seeing more and more shifts employed against him.
As good as a hitter is Hamilton is, you would think he'd easily be able to beat the shift. All it requires is that he poke the ball the opposite way for an easy single.
However, in June at least, Hamilton has hit the ball directly into the shift on multiple occasions. He's not just hitting line drives into the shift, though; he's hit a lot of pop-ups and fly balls into right field.
When Hamilton was blazing early in the year, he was peppering the ball all over the ballpark. To break the slump he's in, he needs to get back to that.
Hitting the ball to the opposite field will help his swing, too. He'll have to shorten up his stroke and keep his hands back, which will help get his timing back too.
The best hitters in baseball work the baseball to all portions of the ballpark. For Hamilton to get back to that upper echelon, he will have to do the same.