LA Angels: Will Josh Hamilton Be More Valuable Than Albert Pujols in 2013?
The left-handed slugger will bat No. 4 in a dynamic offense that will also feature Albert Pujols. The two stars together account for 14 All-Star game selections and four MVP awards.
With $33.4 million of the 2013 payroll (22.7 percent) going to Pujols and Hamilton alone, expectations are high for the duo in Southern California. Their combined production will go a long way in determining whether the season ends in success or disappointment.
But which player will be more valuable to the team in 2013?
Comparing Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols across a variety of statistical categories will reveal one to be decidedly more valuable.
*Numbers are taken from my 2013 projected stats.
Number of Games Played
In his six-year career, Josh Hamilton has never played more than 156 games. In three of those years, he played under 122 games. The left-handed slugger has had some minor injuries throughout his career, but off-the-field drug and alcohol issues continue to be a greater threat to his playing time than anything else.
Hamilton missed the entire 2003, 2004 and 2005 seasons and was fined by Major League Baseball for multiple violations of its drug policy. Since 2009, Hamilton has had two publicly known alcohol-related relapses.
Fans of Hamilton and the Angels alike hope the star can get through his first season in Southern California without any major setbacks. Per ESPN, Hamilton discussed transitioning to a new team and the temptations he may face in a new city:
It's anywhere. It all comes down to choices you make. If you want to get into trouble, you'll get into trouble. Support system is big ... everybody concerned about it being a difficult situation or a unique situation. Well, it's not. My support system is God, my family and Shayne Kelley (Hamilton's accountability partner)—and all those guys are here with me."
On the other side of the coin, Albert Pujols has never played fewer than 143 games in his illustrious 12-year-career (154.9 games played per year average). Baring any major injuries in 2013, Pujols can reliably be penciled in for 150-165 games.
In the offseason, the three-time MVP had a clean-up procedure on his right knee. Pujols will rehab the injury throughout spring training but is confident he will be healthy to start the regular season.
Josh Hamilton's batting averages have had a tendency to show great variance from year to year. For example, in 2008, the left-hander hit .304. He followed that up in 2009 with a .268 average only to bounce back the next year with an AL-best .359. His career average stands at a respectable .304.
In 2012, Hamilton batted .285 in 148 games for the Rangers. Look for his average to dip slightly in 2013 as he adjusts to a new ballpark and a new organization.
When it comes to the batting average statistic, there is hardly a player more consistent in baseball than the 2003 NL batting champion Albert Pujols. Over the course of his Hall of Fame career, Pujols has batted better than .325 an astounding eight times.
Although his numbers have declined steadily the last four season, Pujols appears primed for a comeback in the batting average department. Not only was he unfamiliar with American League pitching last year, but Pujols also admitted to pressing early in the season in order to live up to his big contract: "I spread the strike zone a little bit, tried to hit a two-run homer with nobody on base" (via the OC Register).
Entering his second season with the Halos, Pujols will look to put last year's slow start behind him. Expect him to bat around .300 this year in the No. 3 spot.
Runs Batted In
Despite coming off one of his worst batting seasons since entering the big leagues in 2001, Albert Pujols still managed to drive in 105 RBI for the Halos last season. As his familiarity with American League pitching increases, so too will his production at the plate.
Look for Pujols to get back on track in the RBI department in 2013 with speedsters Mike Trout and Erick Aybar batting ahead of him. With a career average of 119.5 RBI per year, it would not be too bold to predict that he will end in the 120-125 range this year.
Although Josh Hamilton will have a productive season at the plate for the Angels, his RBI numbers should fall short of Pujols'. My 2013 projections have Hamilton slated to play in only 136 games—a number that will keep his at-bats tally in the low 500s. Simple logic tells us that fewer at-bats equals less production.
According to ESPN's MLB Park Factors, Angel Stadium was the 25th worst stadium (out of 30) for players to hit home runs in throughout the 2012 season. Only Marlins Park in Miami, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Petco Park in San Diego, Safeco Field in Seattle and AT&T Park in San Francisco were worse.
The spacious confines of Angel Stadium certainly affected Pujols' first campaign and will likely do so to Hamilton this year as well.
Pujols hit his first home run as an Angel in his 28th game last year. Don't expect that to happen again. Pujols should hit 35 or more home runs in his second go-around with the club.
Hamilton, on the other hand, may experience some growing pains as he transitions from a hitter-friendly ballpark in Arlington to a pitcher-friendly ballpark in Anaheim.
Hamilton's streaky hitting is also likely to bring down his home run tally in 2013. He ended last season in an awful slump, hitting just .259 in September and .154 in October. Spells like these in Anaheim could reduce his home run count drastically.
In 2012, Hamilton hit 43 homers. Look for him to hit the low to mid 30s this season.
After comparing projected statistics for Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton across a variety of key offensive categories, it becomes abundantly clear that Pujols will be the more valuable player for the Angels in 2013.
Barring major injury, Pujols can be relied upon to play in 150-165 games. With Hamilton, it isn't so simple. Off-the-field issues will always threaten his availability.
From a statistical standpoint, my 2013 projections indicate that Hamilton may struggle in his first year with the Angels, much like Pujols did last year. His offensive production appears likely to come down across the board.
On the other hand, I fully expect Albert Pujols to have a rebound year. His production on offense in the three hole will likely determine how the Angels do as a team. If he approaches his current career averages of 39.6 home runs and 119.5 RBI, look for the Angels to secure another AL West title and be serious contenders for a second World Series crown.
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