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Is it time to give up on Josh Hamilton?

By Jesse Pantuosco, Fantasy Sports Writer

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton had a typical day at the plate Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels. Well, typical for the post-All-Star break version of Hamilton. He went 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts.

Early on in the season, you could light an entire city with the power Hamilton's bat was generating (.368, 21 HR, 57 RBI in April and May). Now his bat couldn't light a match.

Since June 1, the five-time All-Star has hit .196 with just eight homers and 27 RBIs including a pitiful .164 mark since the All-Star break.

Remember when Hamilton swatted four round-trippers in one game against the Baltimore Orioles back in mid-May? That's how many home runs the 2010 AL MVP has hit in his last 21 games.

This is like "Space Jam" without the hilarious Bill Murray cameo. Maybe the "Monstars" have sucked the talent away from Hamilton the way they did to Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing in the movie.

Hamilton has endured the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde season in 2012. He went from awesome to terrible almost overnight. It's inexplicable.

Well, almost inexplicable. If you look hard enough, you can start to see why things have gone so horribly wrong for a player we all thought was sure to be the league's most valuable player two months ago.

Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan called out Hamilton for his lack of discipline at the plate and certainly that's been part of the problem for the 31-year-old.

During the season's first two months, Hamilton whiffed in 21.4 percent of his at-bats. Since June, Hamilton has struck out in 32.6 percent of his at-bats.

Hamilton's strikeout totals don't exactly scream "patience," but let's not pin this all on Hamilton's penchant for free-swinging. Experts will be quick to point out that Hamilton saw only 3.43 pitches per plate appearance during his miserable July. But that's actually a higher number than the 3.28 PPA he saw in May, his best month of the season (.344, 12 HR, 32 RBI).

It's also worth noting that despite the increased strikeouts, Hamilton's walk total has remained virtually the same during his prolonged cold streak. He has walked in 9.9 percent of his plate appearances since June 1 compared to 9.2 percent before that date.

So if Hamilton's plate discipline isn't the issue, what is? It probably hasn't helped that the rest of the team has struggled almost as badly as Hamilton has over the past month. Elvis Andrus had his worst month of the season in July (.225, 1 HR, 8 RBI) and Adrian Beltre, who hits behind Hamilton, hasn't looked particularly sharp over the past month, either (.258, 4 HR, 9 RBI in July).

Trying to figure out whose struggles led to whose is like the chicken and the egg argument, but either way it's been a tough month for the Texas lineup. The Rangers finished July with a .243 team batting average (34 points below their season average) and a league-worst 81 runs scored.

I think some of Hamilton's failures can be attributed just to plain old bad luck. His .175 batting average on balls in play last month was his worst of the season. When things were going well for Hamilton in April and May, his batting averages on balls in play were .403 and .323, respectively.

Hamilton's lack of success on balls in play could be a result of teams using the shift against him more than they did earlier in the season. Or perhaps it's as simple as him just not getting the lucky bounces like he did in April and May.

No one factor has contributed entirely to Hamilton's huge dropoff in fantasy production. But I can assure you that the disappearing act won't last forever. Albert Pujols went through a similar slump earlier in the season (.217, 0 HR, 4 RBI in April) and he eventually snapped out of it (.304, 22 HR, 67 RBI since). So there's still hope for Hamilton.

A couple of favorable matchups coming up against the Kansas City Royals (4.50 team ERA, .271 BAA) and Boston Red Sox (4.28, .256) should help Hamilton as well.

Even if Hamilton's struggles carry over into August, at least he'll have next month to look forward to. September has historically been Hamilton's most productive month (.333 career average in September/October compared to .302 the rest of the year).

I also think manager Ron Washington could have been on to something when he moved the scuffling Hamilton down to fifth in the batting order Monday against Los Angeles. Texas got smoked, 15-8, but Hamilton enjoyed his first three-hit game since mid-May as he finished a triple shy of the cycle. Hamilton's 0-for-5 effort Wednesday night came back in the No. 3 spot, where he has spent most of this season. It's not ideal, but maybe fifth in the lineup is where Hamilton needs to be right now.

Remember, the baseball season is full of peaks and valleys. Hamilton is going through a tough stretch right now, but he'll find his groove soon enough. Feel free to send someone in your league a trade proposal for him if you think you can get Hamilton on the cheap. And if the Rangers slugger is on your team, don't give him up unless you're getting something darn good in return. In the end, Hamilton will be worth it.

08/02 15:43:18 ET


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