Who Will Struggle More to Adjust to New Team, Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke?
Across town, the Dodgers made their own headlines with the free agency signing of pitcher Zack Greinke. According to MLB.com, Greinke's six-year deal is worth $147 million, qualifying as the largest contract in history for a right-handed pitcher.
With both teams investing in top-tier talent in the offseason, expectations are high in Southern California.
But with high expectations oftentimes comes dramatic failure.
Which player, Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke, is more likely to struggle to adjust to his new team?
How Hamilton Will Fit in the Angels' Offense
Josh Hamilton figures to be integral piece of the Angels' offense this season. The left-handed slugger is slated to bat clean-up behind Mike Trout, Erick Aybar and Albert Pujols. Mark Trumbo, who is expected to bat fifth, will offer protection.
Hamilton belted 43 home runs and had 128 RBI last season for the Texas Rangers before signing with the Angels in the offseason. The addition of Hamilton to an offense that already features Trout and Pujols will debatably make it the best in all of baseball.
Trout, Pujols and Hamilton together account for an impressive 15 All-Star game selections, 10 Silver Slugger awards, four MVP awards, two Rookie of the Year honors and two batting titles.
With Hamilton off to a fast start in spring training, the Angels and their fans hope base-clearing home runs like the one below become a common occurrence.
— Jaime Maggio (@jaimemaggio) March 1, 2013
Per my 2013 projections, Josh Hamilton should hit north of 30 home runs and 95 RBI this season for the Halos. Expect Hamilton to clear the bases with regularity when given the opportunity.
Concerns Facing Hamilton This Season
With Josh Hamilton, his on-the-field production is hardly ever a concern. However, the 31-year-old slugger did end the 2012 season in a horrible slump.
According to ESPN split stats, Hamilton hit only .259 in September and .154 in October. Being the streaky hitter that he has always been known to be, Hamilton can certainly endure hot and cold streaks from month to month. In April and May of last year, he hit .395 and .344, respectively.
The Angels hope Hamilton can get off to a similar hot start this season and avoid doing what Pujols did in April (.217 BA with four RBI). If Hamilton does struggle, however, it will be the Angels, as a team, that suffer.
With Zack Greinke gone in free agency and a less-than-stellar bullpen coming into the season, the Angels pitching staff cannot be counted on to right the ship should the bats go cold. The team's success will primarily hinge on the offense. If the offense is not there, don't expect to see the Angels in the postseason this year.
Off-the-field concerns always creep their way into the conversation as well when discussing Josh Hamilton. Drug and alcohol issues will continue to threaten his availability and playing time. Hamilton missed the entire 2003, 2004 and 2005 seasons and was fined by Major League Baseball for multiple violations of its drug policy. More recently, Hamilton has had two publicly known alcohol-related relapses since 2009.
A setback in L.A. could destroy the hopes of a World Series run for the Angels.
Per ESPN, Hamilton discussed transitioning to a new team and the temptations he may face in a new city like Los Angeles:
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.
How Greinke Will Fit on the Dodgers' Pitching Staff
The Dodgers' front office has made a commitment to winning.
Since purchasing the team in 2012 for $2.15 billion, the Guggenheim Baseball Management team has invested heavily in bringing talent and depth to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The days of scrambling to plug holes with modest signings are over.
Part-owner Magic Johnson echoed the sentiment to MLB.com:
When we lost and we knew we were out of playoff contention last season, we all looked at each other ... and we didn't like the feeling. The one thing we talked about was making sure our pitching staff got better. And we knew Zack was going to be a free agent, and that was our main target. That was the one we wanted.
So, with clear targets and seemingly unlimited money coffers, general manager Ned Colletti entered the offseason on a mission to stockpile talent. The signings of 2009 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke and South Korean left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu have subsequently given the team unprecedented starting pitching depth.
Greinke and Ryu will join Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett. Starting pitchers Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly are also still on the roster and will most likely be dangled as trade bait.
Greinke will find his place in the rotation behind Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. The right-hander will take to the mound in 2013 with six pitches: a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a cutter, a slider, a curveball and a changeup. Of the six pitches, Greinke's slider is perhaps his best. Batters have a combined average of only .154 against the pitch.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Greinke sported an ERA of 3.53 in 13 starts for the Angels last season. If he can continue to produce good strikeout-to-walk ratios (3.5 to 1 career average) going forward, he will be a more-than-solid No. 2 pitcher in the rotation. If he stays healthy, look for Greinke to win 16-20 games this year.
Concerns Facing Greinke This Season
Zack Greinke has not looked stellar in his two spring training starts this year. Then again, it shouldn't really matter.
Reading too much into Greinke's spring training performances would be a grave mistake. In eight spring training appearances in 2009, Greinke posted a miserable 9.21 ERA/1.98 WHIP. He went on to have the best regular season of his career, winning the Cy Young award and posting the lowest ERA in baseball at 2.19.
Greinke's ability to stay healthy has been paramount in his success. According to Baseball-Reference.com, he has pitched an average of 207 innings per year over the course of the last five seasons.
With a high-volume workload, the biggest concern for Greinke this season will be arm fatigue. If he can avoid losing action and miles per hour on his pitches in the second half of the season, Greinke will be in line for a big season with the Dodgers.
Who Will Struggle More to Adjust?
Josh Hamilton will struggle more than Zack Greinke to adjust to his new L.A. team.
Keep in mind that Hamilton is moving from the launching pad of a ballpark in Arlington to the pitcher-friendly confines of Angel Stadium. According to ESPN MLB Park Factors, Angel Stadium was the sixth-worst stadium to hit home runs in last year. Conversely, the Ranger's Ballpark in Arlington was the seventh-best out of 30.
It would not be surprising if Hamilton's hitting numbers came down across the board. In addition to a new ballpark, Hamilton will also have to deal with the pressure of living up to his lucrative contract—something that Albert Pujols himself found difficult last season.
On the other side of the coin, Greinke's transition from Angel Stadium to Dodger Stadium should be a smooth one. Although he, too, has a large contract to live up to, he at least moves from one pitcher's ballpark to another. A move from the American League to the National League should also help, as he will have plenty of easy outs to gather when pitchers step into the batting box.