Josh Hamilton talk: Plate Production

Editor's Note: This is the third of a five-part series looking at the issues surrounding Josh Hamilton and free agency as it pertains to the Texas Rangers.

Today's topic: Hamilton at the plate

We've talked about what kind of offer the Rangers might consider for Hamilton and what all that entails and we've discussed his injury history. Now, let's focus in on just what he does in the batter's box in terms of production.

When the Rangers made the decision to trade for Hamilton, it wasn't an easy one. The club didn't have a ton of pitching prospects following the 2007 season and obtaining Hamilton meant shipping Edinson Volquez to the Cincinnati Reds. But there were scouts in the room as general manager Jon Daniels discussed it with his group that insisted Hamilton had MVP talent. And 2010 was proof they were right.

When talking about Hamilton's production, you have to look at what he's done to at least provide a guide as to what he might do in the future. So a brief history. Hamilton didn't waste any time making an impact in Texas. In 2008, his first full year in the big leagues, he played in 156 games, still a career-high, and hit .304 with 32 home runs and 130 RBIs, also tops in his career. He introduced himself to a nation with an incredible display at old Yankee Stadium in the 2008 Home Run Derby and got a chance to tell his remarkable story of overcoming drug and alcohol addiction to become a star in the big leagues.

Injuries dominated his 2009 season, allowing him to play in just 89 games. But he still managed 10 homers and 54 RBIs to go along with a .264 batting average. It was his worst statistical year thanks in large part to lengthy time on the DL. In 2010, Hamilton returned ready and hungry to show what he could do. And it all came together for him in an MVP year. He was so good -- .359 batting average, which led the league, 32 home runs and 100 RBIs -- that when he fractured his ribs and missed all of September, he still earned the MVP award.

Hamilton became a truly feared hitter in 2010. Just ask New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who either intentionally walked him or had his pitchers try to pitch around him. Hamilton was named MVP of that ALCS, going 7-for-20 with four homers, a double, seven RBIs and eight walks, five of them intentionally in six games. He set an ALCS record for intentional walks, tying the most in LCS history.

In 2011, Hamilton and the Rangers started the season off hot, but then the slugger tried to tag up on a foul ball down the third-base line in Detroit and had a nondisplaced fracture in his right humerus bone that sidelined him nearly six weeks. Still, Hamilton produced when healthy the rest of the year. He batted .298 with 25 homers 94 RBIs. He played part of the end of the regular season and the playoffs with a sports hernia (not to mention torn adductors) and hit .271 with seven doubles, a homer and 13 RBIs in 17 playoff games.

This season, Hamilton was up and down. And when he was up, he was way up. He was AL player of the month for April and May. He joined Matt Kemp as the seventh and eight players since 1921 to have at least nine homers, 25 RBIs, 20 runs and 34 hits in an April. He was just the third player in Rangers history with at least 12 homers and 32 RBIs in May. But while the highs were high, the lows were low too. He hit just .223 in June and .177 in July, hitting just 11 homers and driving in 39 runs in the two months combined. That coincided with the Rangers' offensive woes as well. As a team, the club had the fewest number of runs in July of any AL team.

Hamilton came back with a good August, hitting .310 and driving in 28 runs. The Rangers scored the most runs of any AL team that month. Is all of that a coincidence?

Hamilton finished 2012 with a 2-for-13 showing in a huge three-game series in Oakland and he missed most of a crucial road trip because of vision issues. It was not the ending he wanted has he went 0-for-4 and faced eight pitches in the Rangers' 5-1 loss to Baltimore in the AL wild-card game.

But put it all together and you're talking about a player who has produced when healthy. If you go purely by the numbers, there have been few players to show as much power and ability to drive in runs the last three seasons than Hamilton. At 31, he's one of the top middle-of-the-order bats in the lineup.

So any talk about what to offer Hamilton starts with the idea that he's the best hitter on the market. And if he can stay healthy, history says he'll be a producer. Of course, that's not the entire package that is Hamilton (and we've already talked about some of that and will discuss more tomorrow), but teams will be paying Hamilton to give them big offensive numbers in the middle of the order. His brief history says he will do that. What teams don't know is for how long.