Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

LA Angels: What will 2014 Hold for Albert Pujols & Josh Hamilton?

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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Angels know how to win the Hot Stove season. Unfortunately for the Halos, they haven’t turned that into much success on the field, as they haven’t made the playoffs since 2009.

Their pitching certainly hasn’t helped matters over the last two seasons (Click here to see what 2014 holds for Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson), but neither have the performances of basically every hitter not named Mike Trout.

Of course, that means that fantasy owners of these hitters have been let down, too. With Mark Trumbo in the desert, the Angels will rely heavily on Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton for power in 2014.

What will they — and their fantasy owners — get?

 

  • Albert Pujols

It’s simple to look at the fact that Albert Pujols missed the final two months of 2013 and say that that’s why he was a fantasy disappointment in 2013. It’s true that he was likely taken in the first round of your fantasy draft and any time a guy like that misses the last two months of the season, you’re going to be let down.

Let’s have a look at what he did in 2013. But just for fun, let’s see what his numbers would have looked like at the pace he played at all year had he logged 550 at-bats. 

Split
AB
R
HR
RBI
SB
AVG/OBP/SLG
Actual3914917641.258/.330/.437
Projected5506924902.258/.330/.437

At the beginning of the year, if you were drafting Pujols where he was going in the average drafts, would you have taken those 550 at-bat  numbers? They’re not terrible, but certainly well below what he did in his average season from 2001-2012. 

Albert Pujols: 2001-2012 Average Season

AB
R
HR
RBI
SB
AVG/OBP/SLG
577115401208.325/.414/.608

If you’re a fan of Albert Pujols, you probably don’t like the direction I’ve been going here. It certainly would seem like I’m saying that Pujols is a player in decline and while there’s some truth to that, there is reason to be hopeful.

Pujols has failed to hit .300 in each of the last three years, something he did every year of his career through 2010. Still, in 2011 and 2012, he was at least close. In 2013, he wasn’t. Why’s that positive? Well, if he keeps doing what he was doing in 2013, his luck will turn around. 

Albert Pujols Line Drive Percentage: 2009-2013

Season
LD %
AVG
OBP
200915.6.327.443
201017.2.312.414
201117.0.299.366
201218.8.285.343
201319.8.258.330
Source: Fangraphs.

Generally speaking, the more line drives you hit, the higher your average will be. In 2013, Pujols had his highest line drive rate in five years and somehow, his average was his career low — by a wide margin.

That’s not all bad luck. You can see that his OBP has gone down, which will hurt the average. Pitchers don’t fear Pujols like they once did so they make him beat them by swinging the bat, which accounts for some drop in average. But that would explain why he goes from above .300 to the .280-.299 range, not down to .258. If Pujols continues to hit line drives at that rate, he’ll be in the .280-.299 range again.

The days of Albert Pujols being a legitimate Triple Crown threat are over. The days of him being the best hitter in the game who can also steal more than 10 bags per year are also over. Having said that, take a look at the projected numbers from the Angels preview.

Albert Pujols: 2014 Projections

AB
R
HR
RBI
SB
AVG
5157724911.282
His best days may be behind him, but I’m still calling those fairly conservative. Pujols will need one more bad year for me to think that he’s not a valuable fantasy player.

 

  • Josh Hamilton

The case of Josh Hamilton is a little more complex. I don’t ever want to get too far in depth on addiction, because that’s certainly not my area of expertise. Having said that, a few points need to be made.

  1. While Hamilton will only turn 33 in May, it’s hard to tell how old his body thinks he is given the history of substance abuse. Even well after they’ve stopped using, addicts frequently look and feel a lot older than they actually are.
  2. On a more positive note, addicts also tend to do better in more stable situations. It’s not hard to imagine that switching teams in 2013 might have had something to do with why he struggled. Theoretically, now that he’s a little more adapted to the Angels and his teammates, he’ll be more comfortable and in turn, more productive. That theory looks a little stronger when you look at his first and second half production in 2013. 

    Josh Hamilton: 2013 Splits

    Split
    AB
    R
    HR
    RBI
    SB
    AVG/OBP/SLG
    Total5767321794.250/.307/.432
    First Half3394814393.224/.283/.413
    Second Half237257401.287/.341/.460

The second half of 2013 is a good thing when looking ahead to 2014. Yes, his power ratios dropped a little, but that’s actually good, as well. Moving from the Texas Rangers to the Los Angeles Angels, I can guess that Hamilton was in more of a swing for the fences mode early in the year. As a result, his power numbers were reasonable, but the rest of his stats were dismal. In the second half, Hamilton found out that he can be an effective hitter even away from the hitter-friendly Texas, even if he is hitting fewer long balls.

The positives don’t stop there, either. Looking at line drives, the same metric that we looked at with Pujols, we can draw a similar conclusion.

Josh Hamilton Line Drive Percentage: 2009-2013

Season
LD %
AVG
OBP
200721.7.292.368
200821.5.304.371
200921.8.268.315
201022.0.359.411
201121.0.298.346
201221.3.285.354
201322.2.250.307
Source: Fangraphs.

Again, some of that can be attributed to the drop in OBP for all of the reasons that we went over with Pujols, but it’s also pretty fair to say that Hamilton was a little unlucky to only hit .250 in 2013. Still, it makes no sense that he’d produce the lowest batting average of his career in the same year he produced the highest line drive rate of his career. If that continues, the average will increase. With that kind of line drive rate, he should really be somewhere above .280, if not even higher.

So, how does he project for Josh Hamilton?

Josh Hamilton: 2014 Projections

AB
R
HR
RBI
SB
AVG
5407827894.265

That’s what I came up with for the Angels preview. You certainly have to be conservative with Hamilton’s average. He does strike out an awful lot and swing for the fences a little too often, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he exceeded that in 2014.

Now, I don’t think Hamilton will ever approach the 43 homers he hit in 2012 again. Realistically, I wouldn’t project him to hit even 30 with the Angels unless I see him do it at least once. But like Pujols, he’s a good bounce-back candidate in 2014.

 

This isn’t the first time we’ve written about Pujols and Hamilton this off-season. Click here for a different look at Albert Pujols, and here for a different look at Josh Hamilton.

 

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Tags: Albert Pujols Josh Hamilton Los Angeles Angels

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