Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hunter Having Another Fine Year

At 39, Torii Hunter continues to rake (
Every year for the last three or fours years I think to myself "this is the year that Torii Hunter's going to fall apart." I thought it was going to happen for sure after 2011, when a 35 year-old Hunter batted .262/.336/.429, producing a .765 OPS over 100 points lower than his .873 OPS in 2009. Age, injuries, and a lifetime in center field seemed to be getting the best of him. So I stayed away from him in fantasy drafts, avoiding the veteran outfielder in favor of younger, safer investments like Nick Markakis and Austin Jackson.

And every year, without fail, Torii Hunter proves me wrong. Like David Ortiz he keeps plugging along. Now 39, he's still hitting like he's 29. He can't run like he used to, can't play Gold Glove defense in center field like he used to, but the man can still mash. As contemporaries like Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Bobby Abreu, Ichiro Suzuki, and Raul Ibanez have slowed or stop producing altogether, Hunter continues to put up good numbers. Moving to right field and occasionally DH'ing has helped his bat, consistently better than average for more than a decade now, remain dangerous.

But for awhile this year, it did seem like Hunter was close to done. He suddenly looked old and banged-up, not fully recovered from his heart-stopping wall-flip into the Boston bullpen last October, and his numbers reflected that. Through July 1st, he was hitting just .249/.274/.409, a far cry from last year's numbers as well as his career norms. He had only one home run since May 29th, and with his 39th birthday rapidly approaching the end of Hunter as an everyday player seemed near.

Then the calendar flipped to July and Hunter snapped out of it. He started to hit and hasn't stopped, having just completed a month where he batted .364/.406/.648 with six home runs and 24 RBI. His fiery four weeks raised his batting line to .281/.311/.474 at the end of July, hiking his OPS 102 points from the first of the month to the last. With ten multi-hit performances, Hunter raised his batting average more than 30 points. He boosted his on-base percentage on the right side of .300. And his slugging, barely above .400 at the dawn of the month, is now one more hot week or a handful of long balls away from .500.

Hunter's back, and based on how he's hit these last few years, probably for the rest of the summer. I was wrong to think otherwise. I always am.

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