The impact of Josh Hamilton missing 6-8 weeks

Among position players in MLB, only Royals catcher Salvador Perez (+0.8 fWAR) and Cubs IF/OF Emilio Bonifacio (+0.8 fWAR) have generated more Wins Above Replacement than Josh Hamilton (+0.7 fWAR). So, news on Wednesday that Hamilton will miss 6-8 weeks with a torn ligament in his thumb is especially unfortunate for the Angels, more so given how Hamilton hurt his thumb — by sliding into first base — which is probably the most Josh Hamilton Injury, ever.

Replacing Josh in the outfield for the Angels, presumably, will be recent call-up J.B. Shuck, or they could decide on giving some playing time to Collin Cowgill. Shuck performed pretty well for the Angels last year, given his paltry offensive profile, sporting a .293/.331/.396 (96 wRC+) triple slash line at the plate, and Cowgill — once considered a decent prospect with the Diamondbacks and Athletics — hasn’t yet found his legs at the big league level. In just under 400 major league plate appearances, he sports a .236/.288/.330 (71 wRC+) line.

Regardless of who replaces Josh Hamilton, he will be a league-average filler for one of Anaheim’s few impact players. Mike Trout can do a lot… he’ll probably be the best player in baseball again in 2014… but aside Trout, you have players like 1B Albert Pujols (who’s declining), 3B David Freese (who isn’t very good), a highly questionable starting rotation, and a bullpen still in flux. (They rank dead last in MLB with -0.5 fWAR from their bullpen, allowing a hitter-friendly 6.14 ERA in 22.0 innings so far this year.)

Just as the Rangers are, LAA is 4-5 to open the season. So, just as with the Rangers, I’m not going to sit here and pretend like the ceiling is collapsing… we’re more in wait-and-see mode.

Because statistics are pretty worthless through 10 games. Wins and losses do matter in April, but so many major league rosters — Angels, Rangers included — will look markedly different by the time July and August roll around than they do at this exact moment.

From a depth standpoint, the Rangers are a bit better equipped to handle a month-long DL stint from, say, Adrian Beltre, than the Angels are without Josh Hamilton. It’s not necessarily a depth issue, rather the overall talent of the starting lineup.

Clearly Mike Trout is amazing, but, behind him, the Halos lack quality starting talent. Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick are combined worth about +5.0 wins (which isn’t bad), but behind them you’re looking at a roster comprised of mostly +1.0 to +2.0 win assets. This includes Pujols, Freese, and Chris Iannetta.

Hamilton, for all his shortcomings, is still a marvelously gifted baseball player. It wouldn’t have shocked me to see him hit enough this season to justify the $25 million he will be making. He’s the type of player the Angels were banking on to be Mike Trout’s tag-team partner. But so it is.

Without him, it puts more stress on a pitching staff that already has a hard enough time. Jered Weaver looks almost nothing like his former self — his fastball has been clocked in the mid-80’s so far — and I’m not very keen on C.J. Wilson and Tyler Skaggs doing enough to supplement for the back-end of the rotation.

Anyway, it’s baseball.

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