Jerome Manson is a sports enthusiast who enjoys both watching games and studying various teams’ successes and failures. When he isn’t analyzing the X’s and O’s, Jerome is blogging about the NY Giants for selectaticket.com.
The Los Angeles Angels recently struck gold by signing high-profile MLB player Josh Hamilton, previously a member of the Texas Rangers. Hamilton joins Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo and Rookie of the Year Mike Trout in a loaded batting order. In fact, the Angels may have one of the greatest lineups in history, at least on paper. They didn’t just get lucky and bump into Hamilton or Pujols on the street though. Each of these players is an established big leaguer, and cost a pretty penny to acquire. Are these guys worth the price it takes to keep them under contract? Let’s find out.
Pujols signed a lucrative deal worth $250 million over 10 years in late 2011. But was it worth it for the Angels to pay so much for a player who may very well be past his prime?
Pujols is one of the greatest hitters to ever grace major league diamonds, and he continues to dominate for the Angels just like he did for so many years in St. Louis. His statistics have declined since 2008, but living up to the .357 average he had during that season could be difficult for any player to do. In 2012, his averaged dropped to .285 compared to his .299 mark in his final year with the Cardinals. His slow start in 2012 proved difficult to overcome, but if his second half of the year is any indicator, Pujols is ready to take another run at the MVP next season.
Pujols has never been a significant injury risk, but he has had a few notable injuries which sidelined him throughout his career. Most recently, he broke his forearm before signing with the Angels in June 2011, but remarkably only missed 13 games (he was supposed to be sidelined for four-to-six weeks). In 2008, the first baseman missed 13 games with a pulled calf muscle and missed 15 games in 2006 because of an injured oblique. Even considering the semi-serious injury in 2011, Pujols has shown quick recovery and a resistance to missing much game time. But considering he had arthroscopic knee surgery immediately following the 2012 season, this causes room for concern to Pujols’s durability in the future. As with any older player, injuries pile up as the years pile onto each athlete’s respective careers.
Outlook: Pujols started very slow in 2012, but exploded through the finish line for the Angels. While they didn’t make the playoffs, they have a great shot to next year. Pujols is sure to be motivated to have a career year, and it’s difficult to bet against the perennial All-Star slugger.
Hamilton is the most recent superstar to sign with the Angels, inking a five-year $125 million deal in December 2012. Will the star’s recent struggles at the plate and documented injury history derail the Angel train in 2013?
No one can question Hamilton’s value as a hitter. In 2010 he batted .359 with 32 homers and 100 RBI. He followed that up batting .298 with 25 homers and 94 RBI in 2011. Hamilton is an absolute beast at the plate and hits for both average and power. He is currently 31 years old, which by baseball standards is still not very old, so expect age not to be a factor negating Hamilton’s effectiveness. It may, however, lead to more injury problems.
Hamilton came out of the gates swinging in 2012, batting .308 with 27 homers and 75 RBI in first half of season. He abruptly fell off in the second half of the season, finishing with a .285 average, 43 homers and 128 RBI. This would still be considered a great season had one not taken a look at how dominant Hamilton proved to be in the early half of the season. If he continues to struggle to begin the 2013 MLB season, look for the pressure to be building upon the Angels’ front office, and a little restlessness to set in among Angels’ fans.
Even more disconcerting than Hamilton’s recent struggles at the plate is his propensity to injury. Hamilton missed 29 games in 2010 due to broken ribs suffered when he slammed into the outfield wall while making a catch. He has also landed on the 15-day DL numerous times in the past few years, including twice in 2007 (gastroenteritis and sprained wrist), twice in 2009 (trunk strain and sports hernia), and a humerus fracture in 2011.
Outlook: It appears doubtful that Hamilton will completely avoid being injured in 2013, but hopefully for the Angels’ sake it doesn’t require too much missed action or happens at a critical time in the season. If the Angels’ can get lucky and have both Pujols and Hamilton stay relatively healthy and return to the seasons each is capable of having, it won’t just be “look out AL West,” it’ll sound more like, “watch out MLB.”
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