The Texas Rangers boast the best record (13-3) and run differential (+52) in the majors, and there's no bigger reason than Josh Hamilton. The 31-year-old outfielder, eligible for free agency next winter, has started his walk year by swinging at -- and crushing -- everything in sight. Hamilton has a .418/.438/.776 line and an American League-best 213 OPS+ in 73 plate appearances.
Hamilton has long been a free swinger, but he has taken his hacking to another level so far in 2012. Check out his swing rate on pitches in the strike zone, his chase rate on pitches off the plate, and his overall swing percentage over the past two years:
|Year||In-Zone Swing Pct.||Chase Pct.||Overall Swing Rate|
|MLB Avg, 2011-12||63.6||28.2||45.1|
No batter in the game this year has swung at a higher percentage of pitches than Hamilton. His extra cuts are coming on low-and-away stuff. Hamilton has swung at 56% of low-and-away pitches so far this season, compared to 44% last year:
Hamilton hit .179 on out-of-zone pitches in 2011. This season, he's 8-for-24 (.333). He's certainly putting a charge into the ball, as evidenced by his AL-best seven home runs, but he won't keep getting hits on balls put in play at a .420 clip. It remains to be seen whether Hamilton can keep on raking with such a wide strike zone. One thing's clear, though: Hamilton isn't waiting for walks during his walk year.