"I didn't know what to do, man," Hamilton told MLB Network's Harold Reynolds and Matt Vasgersian when asked about his prolonged slumps Tuesday on MLB Hot Stove. That is, until he discovered something while reviewing video of his swing from previous seasons.
"My hips were really exploding and driving through the ball ... I had a couple of surgeries here and there and when you have surgeries, things turn off and you start compensating," said Hamilton, who thinks the problem was physical and not mechanical.
Hamilton entered the 2013 season 20 pounds lighter than his playing weight from the previous season, notes MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez, and dropped 10 more pounds as the season progressed. That may or may not have had anything to do with his career-worst .739 OPS, but the five-time All-Star has gained a renewed focus on getting into playing shape anyway.
"I've never lifted heavy, heavy weight before, so that's what doing this offseason -- just trying to put muscle on," Hamilton said in the interview. The 2010 AL MVP, who also mentioned switching to a gluten-free diet to improve the feeling in his joints, has put on 18 pounds as a result of his new regimen, per Gonzalez. As for the problem with his swing?
"I've worked with a functional movement coach on getting things turned back on," Hamilton said, while also discussing the sports hernia surgery he underwent after the 2011 season.
At full strength, Hamilton hit .285/.354/.577 for the Texas Rangers in 2012. Of course, those numbers were heavily inflated by a strong first half; Hamilton wore down after the All-Star break, possibly due in part to appearing in more games that year (148) than he did in any season since 2008.
If he can stay healthy, Hamilton should improve upon his poor debut with the Angels, but just how much more production can be expected from him? Age isn't on his side, and he went from one of the best hitting environments in the game to one of the worst. Those two things won't change, which is part of the reason why Hamilton isn't projected to see much improvement in 2014.
The Angels still owe Hamilton $110 million over the next four seasons. The chances of him producing enough to live up to that amount of money seem slim, but making the necessary adjustments and staying strong enough to navigate his way through full seasons could go a long way towards averting the disastrous direction in which the contract appears to be headed.