Hamilton dropped to fifth in the order …
Asked about potentially moving Josh Hamilton in the lineup on Sunday, after a game in which Albert Pujols was intentionally walked twice in front of him (making that total five for the season), Angels manager Mike Scioscia said: “There’s a lot of things we’re talking about. We’re going to absorb this one and see where we’re at tomorrow.”
The prevailing thought was that perhaps, if anything, Hamilton would be moved ahead of Pujols to perhaps give him better pitches to hit.
Instead, Hamilton was moved to the No. 5 spot for Monday’s series opener against his ex-Rangers, with Mark Trumbo the cleanup hitter and Pujols — starting his fifth straight game at designated hitter — in his customary No. 3 spot.
Hamilton comes in batting .176/.247/.324 in 17 games this season, with 23 strikeouts in 68 at-bats. He’s started 71 career games in the No. 5 spot (compared to 518 batting third and 64 batting fourth), posting a .399/.443/.694 line in the process. Three of those starts came last season.
This could just be a one-day thing because the Rangers have lefty Derek Holland starting. If it’s more long-term, here’s my hunch on Scioscia’s thinking …
1. Having Pujols hit behind Hamilton isn’t going to necessarily change how Hamilton is pitched (why would you throw him a strike regardless?).
2. Trumbo is swinging a hot bat. He has a hit in 15 of 17 games, just hit a walk-off homer and has a .329/.373/.500 slash line so far. At this point, you want him protecting Pujols and you want him up with guys on base. Not Hamilton.
Hamilton lined out twice on Sunday but also struck out twice with the winning run on base. He’s swinging at 45.1 percent of pitches out of the strike zone (slightly down from last year’s gaudy 45.4 rate) but he’s seeing 4.05 pitches per plate appearance (up from last year’s 3.69).
“I feel good, man,” Hamilton said Sunday. “I’ve felt good for a while. I don’t know. The only way I can describe it is baseball — baseball is baseball. It just proves to you you can barrel it up and do everything right and feel good, and hit it right at people, and then you can work the worst at-bat of your life and roll one through the hole. I mean, it’s nothing I’m doing different. We’ve looked at video, doing drills and things like that. There’s nothing different than the first two months of last season. Everything’s the same.”