While Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton had to leave Tuesday’s game against the Seattle Mariners with a thumb injury, the 32 year-old is off to an outstanding start. Through the Angels first eight games, he’s hit an astounding .444/.545/.741. Sure it’s only eight games into the season, but Hamilton has already amassed 0.7 fWAR, which is as much as he produced in the first half of last season.
What is perhaps more significant than the ridiculous slash line is that Hamilton has already drawn five unintentional walks in his first 33 plate appearances. Hamilton has long been one of baseball’s freest swingers. From 2008-13, Hamilton has a chase rate of 39.2 percent, which puts him in the top 3-4 percent of hitters with regards to swinging at pitches outside of the zone. In that time his chase rate ranged from 36-43 percent, and his swinging strike rate fell between 13 to 16 percent.
Hamilton has had very productive seasons as a free swinger, but such hitters tend to see their skills depreciate with age at a quicker rate than their more disciplined counterparts. With four years and approximately $100 million left on his contract, the Angels certainly hope he can stave off the aging process.
In the early goings of the 2014 season, Hamilton’s chase rate ranges between 28-31 percent, depending on whether the data comes from Pitch f/x or Baseball Info Solutions. Either way, that’s right around the major league average, and a far cry from his career rates. Plate discipline and swing rates stabilize quickly, so even in such a limited sample, this information has some value.
Sure, it’s very early into the season, and Hamilton won’t be slugging .741 for much longer. Neither will he draw walks in 18 percent of his plate appearances. But, if he can continue to lay off pitches outside the strike zone, he should have a significantly better season than his 2013 campaign.