The problem with Josh Hamilton hitting third

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 12: Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers hits a double in the 11th inning of Game Four of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on October 12, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

It has been exactly one month since Josh Hamilton's last home run.  Hamilton homered on September 23, off M's sacrificial lamb Anthony Vasquez, in a 5-3 win against Seattle.  He hasn't homered since.

That's not necessarily surprising, given that we've learned that Hamilton has been dealing with either a groin injury or a sports hernia for the past couple of months, with Hamilton himself saying he's at 50%, and reports indicating that he'd be on the disabled list if this were the regular season.

Nevertheless, this is October, and Hamilton is gutting it out.  Given that Craig Gentry doesn't hit much, Mitch Moreland stopped hitting around the time of the summer solstice, and Endy Chavez is Endy Chavez, it doesn't make a lot of sense to just bench Hamilton.  But you do have to wonder if it makes sense to continue to have him hitting third in the Rangers' lineup.

Hamilton is hitting .245/.259/.340, including 1 for 12 against the Cardinals in the World Series.  I'm not normally a fan of juggling lineups because someone is slumping or hot, but we aren't talking about a slump...we're talking about someone who physically isn't right right now.  Hamilton has acknowledged he's not healthy, and watching him, he looks like a shell of his normal self at the plate.

This isn't a matter of Hamilton needing to get hot or snap out of a slump.  It is a matter of Hamilton not being able to physically perform at the level he has historically, and not being able to get healthy until after the season.  Hamilton isn't suddenly going to become 100% again over the next four games.

So, given all that, why isn't Hamilton being moved down in the lineup?  Why not drop him down in the order, bump everyone else up, let Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli, who have been hammering the ball, slide up a spot apiece and get some more at bats?

I don't have an answer.  I suspect that Ron Washington would say that it is because Josh Hamilton is the team's #3 hitter, and if he's in the lineup, that's where he's going to hit.  Hamilton has spoken before about how he's not comfortable hitting anywhere else in the lineup, and it may be that there's a sense that the damage it would do to Hamilton's "mental state" would be greater than the gain you'd get from re-ordering the lineup.  And as we've discussed before, the specific ordering of the lineup doesn't really matter that much.

But it does matter a little.  And if Hamilton continues to struggle, and the Rangers lose a close game that ends up being the difference in the series, the decision to keep him parked in the #3 spot may end up getting more closely examined.

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