In his second year as an Angel, Torii Hunter arguably had his best year as a pro. Now the clear leader of the Angel clubhouse, can Hunter continue to find such great success on the field despite his advanced age?
2009 Stats: 451 AB, .299 AVG, 74 R, 22 HR, 90 RBI, 18 SB, .873 OPS
2010 Bill James Projections: 556 AB, .272 AVG, 82 R, 24 HR, 92 RBI, 16 SB, .799 OPS
2010 Chone Projections: 492 AB, .272 AVG, 74 R, 22 HR, 80 RBI, 12 SB, .797 OPS
2010 Marcel Projections: 465 AB, .277 AVG, 70 R, 20 HR, 75 RBI, 15 SB, .814 OPS
2010 Monkey Projections*: 520 AB, .280 AVG, 85 R, 25 HR, 100 RBI, 15 SB, .820 OPS
*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs.com except the Monkey Projections which are strictly based on my own knowledge, logic and intuition.
2009 Review: If not for some trouble with an abdominal/groin injury, Torii Hunter could very well have made a real play for AL MVP with the way he started the year for the Halos. Hunter just seemed more comfortable at the plate than he did the year before when it was pretty obvious that Torii was trying a little too hard to impress his new teammates. His emergence came just in time too because he provided a reliable middle of the order bat to replace the decaying Vladimir Guerrero. Perhaps Torii’s biggest contribution though was taking over as the unquestioned locker room leader for a very young team that very much needed a veteran to guide them through the an emotionally turbulent season.
3 Questions for 2010:
- Can Torii do it again at age 35? Hunter is clearly in excellent shape and has no serious injury history, but 35 is still 35. At some point age is going to catch up with him and it could catch up real quick. Nagging injuries like the one he suffered last year are the real enemy for aging players as they are just minor enough to let him keep playing but just serious enough to hurt his productivity.
- When will everyone acknowledge that Torii isn’t as amazing in the field as his reputation suggests? I hate to rain on the parade, but Torii has posted negative UZRs four straight years now. He can definitely make the highlight reel catch, but Hunter’s defense just isn’t that much of an asset anymore and could actually prove to be a detractor when everyone realizes he can’t cover up for Bobby Abreu’s even greater deficiencies in the field or the fact that Juan Rivera probably overachieved as a fielder last year.
- Is it possible for Hunter to be more beloved? I would honestly love to see if any Angel fan has a negative opinion of Torii. Every Halo fan I know doesn’t just like him, they freaking love him. He could probably drown a sack of puppies and then throw it into a wood chipper and everyone would probably still think he is a great guy. My point in all this is now that Vlad Guerrero is gone, get prepared to get a heavy dose of Hunter marketing as he is clearly the new face of the franchise.
2010 Preview: Torii has to come back to earth a little bit, regression to the mean demands it. Hunter’s BABIP last season was a whopping .330 but his career BABIP is just .301, so the odds are that Torii just isn’t going to be as lucky as he was the year before. That aside, Hunter is in a good place right now from what I can see. Age is a concern, but Hunter is in exceptional condition, so he should hold up much better than most guys his age, and I think his hernia problems last season have been a wake up call for him in terms of taking care of himself during the season (less running into walls is a good start). Ultimately, Hunter’s success will depend on the success of the guys hitting behind him, especially Kendry Morales who figures hit clean-up behind Hunter batting third. Torii has never been a guy opposing teams have feared, but Morales potentially could be, thus affording Hunter the protection he needs to continue putting up strong numbers.