Detroit Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter enters Thursday’s action leading the Major Leagues with 26 hits. Not surprisingly, he also leads the bigs with his .413 batting average. At 37 and in his 17th season, can Hunter continue to produce like a player in his prime?
Obviously I don’t think Hunter will become the first baseball player since 1941, when Ted Williams hit .406 for the Boston Red Sox, to hit .400, but it is possible that he can hit .300 for the second straight season. It’s impressive because he had not hit .300 in his first 15 seasons.
Hunter is currently sporting a 1.026 OPS, which is far and away a career high. He has never even reached the .900 mark. He only has one home run in 14 games, which extrapolates to 11.6 in a full season. Hunter has six doubles and a triple, which, coupled with his high average, explains the lofty OPS.
Hunter is struggling against left-handed pitching to the tune of a .214 batting average. He has destroyed right-handed pitching with a .469 clip. Last year he hit .340 against southpaws and .303 against righties. His career numbers are .288 and .274 respectively. The law of averages suggest his success against right-handed pitching will fade, but that will be offset some by improved hitting against lefties.
Hunter got off to a slow start last year, hitting .270 before the All-Star Break and .350 after. For his career he has hit .273 before the break and .284 after. This should also offset some of the regression.
The Tigers are off to an impressive start, averaging 5.4 runs per game. Austin Jackson (.368), Prince Fielder (.340) and Miguel Cabrera (.328) join Hunter in the top 20 in batting average. Jackson (19), Cabrera (13) and Hunter (11) all rank in the top ten in runs scored. Fielder (19), Cabrera (17) and Hunter (9) are among the top 25 in RBI.
Torii Hunter will go through some slumps. That happens with everybody. Given the offense he’s in and his familiarity with the division from his Minnesota Twins days, Hunter should continue to produce as long as he’s healthy.
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