How would Josh Hamilton like the Philadelphia fans?
Fortunately for the Phillies, the best free agent available can play center field. Josh Hamilton started 84 games in center for the Texas Rangers this season. He also happened to hit a career-high 43 home runs with 128 RBI, which would provide a major boost to the middle of the Philadelphia lineup.
Hamilton's best days in center field are probably behind him, unfortunately. According to FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating, he allowed nearly 13 more runs than an average center fielder this season. He also cost his team 11 defensive runs saved.
So the Phillies are better off sticking Hamilton in left field either right away or after a year or two, depending on how long of a contract he received from Philadelphia. Even if Amaro acquired Hamilton, he'd still need to get a center fielder.
That's one reason why Philadelphia shouldn't sign Hamilton. But here's why it would be a bad idea for Josh to choose the Phillies as his next team.
Those Philly Fans
Philadelphia sports fans get a terrible rap for throwing batteries at J.D Drew, cheering when Michael Irvin suffered a neck injury and booing Santa Claus. It's a lazy shortcut to defining the fanbase of an entire city, much like those who make cracks about Detroit fans setting cars on fire.
Extreme incidents aside, however, Philadelphia is far tougher on its sports stars than Arlington, Texas. But Rangers fans booed Hamilton for his poor performance at the end of the season and he noticed it.
"Personally, myself, it never would matter how high I was -- if I went to a sporting event, I would never boo somebody or I would never yell obscenities at somebody," Hamilton said to ESPN Dallas' Tim McMahon. "That's just me."
If he was bothered by home fans giving it to him, wait until he encounters the horde at Citizens Bank Park.
Hamilton might not find the fans friendly at the Phillies' home ballpark, but the playing conditions may not agree with him either.
Despite Citizens Bank Park's reputation as a bandbox, it was actually more of a pitchers' park in 2012, according to ESPN.com's park factors. Compare that to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, which was the fourth-best stadium for hitters in MLB this season.
But Hamilton would still be able to hit some home runs in Philadelphia. Citizens Bank Park was in the upper-third of homer-friendly parks this year. That probably doesn't matter to Hamilton, however. His home-road splits for home runs were virtually even, as were all of his statistics across the board.
The Phillies' home park isn't terribly suitable for doubles, however, playing fairly neutral. That could cut down on the number of extra-base hits Hamilton could accumulate.
Perhaps it should be noted that Hamilton wouldn't be facing Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels if he joined the Phillies. Those three pitchers surely have something to do with offense staying down at Citizens Bank Park.
The Wrong Side
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Phillies need a right-handed bat to complement lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the middle of their lineup.
In a previous piece, I wrote that the fear of having three consecutive left-handers in the middle of the order is probably overblown. Hamilton hits left-handed pitching well enough to make sure that the Phillies wouldn't have three automatic outs against southpaws.
But perhaps it's worth asking if Hamilton benefits from having a strong right-handed bat hitting behind him, a luxury he's enjoyed throughout his career.
In 2008, when Hamilton hit 32 homers with 130 RBI, he had Milton Bradley following him in the Rangers lineup. That season, Bradley had a slash average of .321/.436/.563 with 22 home runs and 77 RBI. He also led the league in on-base percentage and OPS.
During his MVP season of 2010, Vladimir Guerrero had an excellent season batting cleanup behind Hamilton. He hit .300 with an .841 OPS, 29 homers and 115 RBI.
For the past two seasons, Hamilton has had Adrian Beltre hitting behind him. Beltre's averaged 34 homers and 104 RBI with the Rangers, and this year, he's had one of the best seasons of his career, batting .321 with a .921 OPS, 36 home runs and 102 RBI.
If there's something to that—and it really could just be a coincidence or benefit of playing for a good team that knows how to put together a lineup—Hamilton should perhaps look elsewhere for a lineup that fits him better.
With the Milwaukee Brewers for instance, Hamilton could have Ryan Braun or Aramis Ramirez hitting behind him. Adam Jones or former teammate Chris Davis could protect him with the Baltimore Orioles. Even the Seattle Mariners could provide Jesus Montero or Justin Smoak, though those two aren't the caliber of the other hitters mentioned.
Signing with the Phillies wouldn't be the worst decision Hamilton has ever made. (After typing that sentence, I realize what an understatement it is.) He would play for one of the most enthusiastic fanbases in MLB, live in a great city, play in a nice ballpark and join a team that expects to compete for the playoffs every season.
But would it be the best decision Hamilton ever made? It doesn't look that way.
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