When it comes to hitting, it's been night and day for Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton this season -- and the reigning American League MVP has a theory as to why.
He has blue eyes.
Under the sun, Hamilton's numbers are dim. He is batting .122 (6-for-49) with no home runs, four RBIs and eight walks. He also has 17 strikeouts and a .429 OPS.
At night, it's a different story. Hamilton is hitting .374 (41-for-109) with six home runs, 28 RBIs, seven walks and a 1.076 OPS. And he only has 14 strikeouts while playing under the lights.
"I ask guys all the time," Hamilton told ESPN 103.3 FM's Bryan Dolgin when asked if he had any theories to his drastic splits. "Guys with blue eyes, brown eyes, whatever ... and guys with blue eyes have a tough time."Oh. Okay. You talked to some guys. That's good scientific analysis, Josh. And congratulations, ESPN, for publishing this one as a headline without doing a modicum of background research on it.
Now, it's not easy to look back at all of the blue-eyed ballplayers in history to do a scientific test of Josh's theory (of all the millions of baseball statistics we have available for even minor league players, eye color doesn't happen to be one of those that we track), but we can at least take a look at a couple of obvious examples to see if it holds any water.
So let's start with the first two guys who came to my mind--Derek Jeter and Cal Ripken. Using OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage)--the same category where Hamilton has an eye-popping (pun intended) 647-point discrepancy in his day-night splits--we see that Jeter has, for his career, posted an .850 during day games and an .822 during night games. Better during the day. Ripken, meanwhile, posted an .800 during the day versus a .783 at night. Also better during the day.
Hall of Fame shortstops aren't your thing? Fine, let's take a look at J.D. Drew, a left-handed outfielder (like Hamilton) who's had a nice long career in the game. Drew, over 14 seasons with 4 different teams, has posted a .908 during the day, .864 at night. Once again, better during the day.
Let's keep this going. Jason Giambi, another veteran left-handed power hitter? .938 during the day, .924 at night. Jason Varitek, a switch-hitting catcher? .787 during the day, .772 at night.
Those five guys are literally the first five blue-eyed baseball players I could think of (not including Hamilton, who, incidentally, has sucked during the day throughout his entire career so far), and not a single one of them had trouble hitting during day games. In fact, if anything, they were better. Who, exactly, are these blue-eyed "guys" you've been talking to, Josh?
Clearly, there has to be something more going on here than just eye color. Is my study of blue-eyed ballplayers exhaustive or at all scientific? No, of course not--I just spent 10 minutes wandering around a stats website (journalism is easy, right?). But it's something, and that's way more than Hamilton or the hacks over at ESPN felt like doing for this piece. Nice work, guys.