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The key to a series is rarely the lack of offense provided by the seventh hitter in the lineup; given the narrow margins of each game between the Royals and Angels thus far, you could say that in this series it has been, or you could say that in this series any of 5,000 other details (Mike Trout’s hitlessness; Fernando Salas’ lost velocity; the Angels’ shallow bench; almost literally every pitch thrown to every batter) has been the key. But whether or not Josh Hamilton’s inability to hit has been the most important part of the series—his win probability added is -.483, as in, he has done more to cost the Angels than anybody in the series other than Hosmer; more than Kevin Jepsen (-.418) or Mike Trout (-.275) or Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland combined (.470)—it has been the most aesthetically shocking.

Thus far, the Royals have thrown Josh Hamilton 32 pitches. None of those pitches has produced offense. Hamilton took the first one for a strike, and hasn’t taken another strike since, swinging at every in the zone, close to the zone, or (in many cases) far from the zone. We’ve seen already in this postseason how much hay the Royals can make out of a scouting report, stealing seven bags against the A’s, shutting down Mike Trout, a .776 defensive efficiency in their first three games, etc. So we should look at the scouting report they apparently have on Josh Hamilton, and how it is evolving. We’ll ignore takes, and just look at his swings. Note: I missed one. I don't know where it is. But anytime I refer to a count of swings, add one. The one I missed.

1. Fastball, low/inside corner, 0-1 count

Old scouting report: In the past three seasons, has seen five four-seam fastballs thrown by lefties to the same location. He has swung three times, and put two balls in play: A fly ball and a line drive, reaching once on a double. Be careful with this location! Teams probably avoid pitching him here for a reason.

Royals’ new scouting report: This seems safe.

2. Fastball, up and out of the zone, 0-2 count

Old scouting report: In the past three seasons, he has seen 13 four-seam fastballs thrown by lefties to the same location. He has swung eight times, whiffing twice, putting two balls in play, both of them line drives. He reached once, on a groundball single. This seems like a safe place to pitch him.

Royals' new scouting report: This seems safe.

3. Changeup, down and away and out of the zone, 1-0 count

Old scouting report: He has seen five off-speed pitches from lefties in this location, laying off every time. There’s little point throwing it here, unless you want to fall further behind in the count.

Royals’ new scouting report: This seems safe.

4. Fastball, inside off the plate, lowest part of the zone, 1-1 count

Old scouting report: Lefties have thrown him six four-seamers in this location. He has taken three of them for balls, fouled one off, and doubled on the last two, a line drive and a fly ball. Beware this location! No good comes of it!

Royals' new scouting report: Lol broke his bat.

5. Two-seamer, outer part of the plate, 1-0 count

Old scouting report: Lefties have thrown him a two-seamer here nine times; he has swung at seven without whiffing, putting five in play, but mostly grounders. He has one single. This pitch should work to get a groundout.

Royals' new scouting report: This seems safe.

6. Changeup, top/outer part of the zone, 1-0 count

Old scouting report: In the past three years no lefty has ever thrown a pitch in this location to Josh Hamilton. Why would you want to? A high changeup, to a same-handed batter? Everything we know about pitching argues against this pitch in this location. You might as well put it on a tee.

Royals’ new scouting report: You know, we might as well put it on a tee.

7. Fastball, inside part of the plate, out of the zone high, 1-1 count

Old scouting report: Lefties have thrown Hamilton 14 fastballs to this location. He will chase. He has swung 10 times and put only two in play. He doubled. This is probably a good place to pitch him.

Royals’ new scouting report: Use caution with this pitch. If you miss location by just a bit, he is likely to let the pitch hit him square in the face.

8. Changeup, top/outer part of the zone, 1-2 count

Old scouting report: The only time a lefty has thrown this pitch to Hamilton in the past three years was Tim Collins, 75 seconds ago. It was a terrible pitch, and Hamilton missed it by literally three feet or so.

Royals’ new scouting report: If throwing this pitch, remember to pat Hamilton on the shoulder afterward and say “don’t worry buddy you’ll probably get me next time.” Note: Don’t sound sarcastic.

9. Fastball, middle of the plate away, 1-0 count

Old scouting report: Right-handers have thrown Hamilton 113 fastballs to this location. He has swung 93 percent of the time, so be ready to move. On the 36 balls he has put in play, he has hit .417, slugged .861, hit three home runs. Some 40 percent of the balls he hits from here have been line drives. Avoid this location.

Royals’ new scouting report: This seems safe.

10. Changeup, lower part of the zone, middle of the plate, 1-0 count

Old scouting report: A good place to get Hamilton to swing and miss, but he can also do damage. Right-handers have thrown Hamilton 43 off-speed pitches in this location; he has whiffed on nearly half of them. Of the 11 he has put in play, two have gone for home runs, along with three singles. So pitch him carefully here, preferably on two strikes.

Royals’ new scouting report: This seems safe.

11. Fastball, way high, out of the zone, 1-1 count

Old scouting report: He’ll chase. Of the 46 fastballs in this location from right-handers, Hamilton has swung at 56 percent, and whiffed on nearly two-thirds of those. He has hit one single on all those swings; no line drives.

Royals’ new scouting report: He’ll chase. Of the 47 fastballs in this location from right-handers, Hamilton has swung at 57 percent, and whiffed on two-thirds of those. He has hit one single on all those swings; no line drives.

12. Changeup, up and in the middle of the zone, 2-2 pitch

Old scouting report: Very dangerous. Five pitches like this thrown to Hamilton. That he hasn’t done damage yet (just one groundball put in play) doesn’t mean he won’t if you try it again.

Royals’ new scouting report: This seems safe.

13. Fastball, in the dirt, inside corner, 0-0 count

Old scouting report: He’ll chase in this general location, though not nearly so much as some other out-of-zone locations; in the 50 or so fastballs thrown here by right-handers, Hamilton has swung about 35 percent of the time, hit a couple line drives, reached out a couple singles and a double. Probably not the best pitch or the worst.

Royals' new scouting report: Very unsafe; might kill Sal Perez.

14. Changeup, inside, 0-1 count

Old scouting report: Only five off-speed pitches thrown here; three takes, a whiff, a foul. Hard to know how Hamilton will do with a pitch like this, though not generally a smart location.

Royals’ new scouting report: This seems safe.

15. Fastball, high out of the zone, 0-0 count

Old scouting report: He’ll chase. Of the 47 fastballs in this location from right-handers, Hamilton has swung at 57 percent, and whiffed on about two-thirds of those. He has hit one single on all those swings; no line drives.

Royals’ new scouting report: He’ll chase. Of the 48 fastballs in this location from right-handers, Hamilton has swung at 58 percent, and whiffed on more than two-thirds of those. He has hit one single on all those swings; no line drives.

16. Curveball, low and out of the zone, 0-1 count

Old scouting report: There have been 60 curves thrown by right-handers to this location, and he has swung and missed on nearly half. When he has connected he has slugged .294. All day, every day.

Royals’ new scouting report: This seems safe.

17. Fastball, low and inside, 3-2 count

Old scouting report: Same location as swing 13, but not as far out of the zone. See report on swing 13.

Royals’ new scouting report: This seems safe.

18. Fastball, up and in, on 0-0 count

Old scouting report: 14 pitches like this; he has swung at five; put one in play; for an out.

Royals’ new scouting report: This seems safe.

19. Slider, low part of the strike zone, center of the plate, 0-1 count

Old scouting report: A good swing-and-miss pitch—he has 23 whiffs out of 53 similar pitches thrown in this location. But 6-for-10 when he puts it in play, with a home run and three line drives.

Royals' new scouting report: This seems safe.

20. Fastball, inside, 2-2 count

Old scouting report: Thirty like pitches thrown here; usually swings, but only one whiff; nine balls put in play, four hits, all singles. He’ll almost certainly foul it off or ground out.

Royals' new scouting report: This seems safe.

***

So that's 32 pitches, 20 swings, and 10 whiffs. You've made it this far, and you deserve a brief conversation about why this is happening. There are probably three possibilities, and from the Angels' perspective one is good, one is terrible, and one is hrmmmm.

The "good" hypothesis: He's rusty. As we mentioned in the series preview, Mike Ferrin and Dan Turkenkopf did some research two postseasons ago showing that hitters who miss lots of time come back rusty. Not just a little, either, but nearly 20 points of True Average, which is roughly the difference between Tino Martinez and Mark Teahen. If he's just rusty, then he just needs time. Maybe he's had enough time already. Maybe his next at-bat will be the best of his life.

The "hrm" hypothesis: He's just had two bad games, with no real cause. This would presumably be good, except practically every person in the game believes in things like cold streaks and slumps. Nobody on the Angels wants Hamilton to be in a slump.

The "bad" hypothesis: He's actually still hurt. Remember when Alcides Escobar doubled in the first plate appearance of this series?

Did you have a moment where you wondered whether Hamilton hadn't fully extended for that ball because he was so nervous about running into the wall, that he was favoring his rib cage? It's quite possibly reading more into a GIF than there is to be read, and it's quite possibly nothing to do with Hamilton's struggles. The best evidence that it's not his rib cage or anything physical is that he reportedly took 20 extra minutes of batting practice before the game Friday, which one might not do if he was most worried about getting out of pain. But as we're all finding out, Hamilton is not himself right now. Lingering injury makes as much sense as "suddenly forgot how to play baseball" does.

Stats all via Brooks Baseball, of course.

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lipitorkid
10/04
I have never felt such an urge to drop an F-bomb in the comment section. I knew we were a regular season team just waiting to get exposed. Just win one. Just one.
geer08
10/05
I think Josh Hamilton has been introduced to Memo Paris.
fawcettb
10/05
You were kind of having too much fun with that. What struck me is that Hamilton wasn't getting near most of those pitches.