After last night's 0-for-4 showing in Game One of the World Series, Josh Hamilton has a tepid .267 batting average, a .286 OBP and a .378 slugging percentage during the 2011 playoffs. That's a far cry from the reigning AL MVP's .298/.346/.536 regular season triple-slash, and Hamilton admitted a few days ago that a lingering left groin injury is hindering him:
"I’m about 50 percent," Hamilton told Ben Rogers in an interview on ESPN 103.3 FM. "I’m going to give you 100 percent of my 50 percent."
"We got a lot of power on the team, so I’m definitely not concerning myself with hitting home runs and producing that way," Hamilton said. "Whatever the game asked me to do -- whether get a guy over, or make a catch in the outfield -- I'm trying to do it. I told Kins after our first at-bat [Saturday], 'Let's not try to do too much.' "
Hamilton may well be 50 percent, but you wouldn't know it judging by the distance of his fly balls hit during the postseason. The lefty slugger's fly balls have traveled an average of 318 feet in October, compared to 292 feet during the regular season. Of course, you could argue that some of Hamilton's deep fly ball outs to left and center field (dark blue on the spray chart below) would be round-trippers if he were healthier:
Hamilton has also expanded his already-large strike zone during the playoffs. He has gone after 44 percent of pitches out of the zone, above his 38 percent average during the regular season. In particular, he's trying to poke pitches well off the outside corner of the plate:
Those swings on outer-third offerings probably aren't a good thing. Hamilton murderizes pitches thrown inside, but he doesn't inflict a whole lot of pain on outside pitches. Check out his in-play slugging percentage by pitch location in 2011 (including the playoffs):
Pitchers seem well aware of Hamilton's issues with outside pitches. They're throwing lots of pitches low and away, many of them out of the zone but close enough that Hamilton still pulls the trigger. Take a look at opponents' pitch location to Hamilton during the playoffs:
It's hard to ascribe Hamilton's postseason woes to one factor. Maybe it's his groin, turning would-be homers into warning track shots. Maybe it's his plate approach, as he's going after more outside pitches that give him problems. Or maybe it's just plain old bad luck: we're talking about 49 plate appearances, after all. If a couple of those long fly ball outs cleared the fence, Hamilton's playoff line is suddenly .311/.327/.556, and we're surely not having this discussion. Whatever the reason, the Rangers need vintage Josh Hamilton if they're going to top the Cardinals.