Pop Quiz: Which L.A. outfielder is batting .389 with 4 HR and 8 RBI over the last five games?
If your answer is Matt Kemp, you’re wrong. And you might be on the wrong site.
In case you couldn’t tell by the title of this article, I’m referring to none other than nine-time Gold Glove winner and captain of your Los Angeles Angels, Torii Hunter.
In a time when the Angels offense has struggled to score runs, Hunter has stepped up and almost single-handedly carried the squad on his back. Despite the team’s worst start in franchise history, the speedy outfielder known lovingly as Spider-Man has continuously provided the spark needed to turn this season around for the Halos.
Through the first 24 games of the regular season, Hunter leads the team in hits (27), RBI, (14) AVG (.310), and OBP (.375). He is also tied for the team lead in runs scored (11; Wells), HR (4; Wells), and walks (8; Iannetta, Izturis).
In addition to being the on-field catalyst, Torii has also showed his leadership skills in the clubhouse.
The captain met privately with Angels skipper Mike Scioscia prior to the Thursday, April 19 game against Oakland. While Hunter was hesitant to disclose the exact details of the conversation, he did bring up the possibility of playing more games at DH this season: a move that he claims resulted from his desire to rest his aging legs and allow more playing time for young players, like Mark Trumbo.
Hunter was vocal again following a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, April 25. In the midst of a three-game losing streak and questionable coaching decisions by Scioscia, Torii had this to say to the press:
"You have to dig deep. We can't get down in the first two innings and say, 'Here we go again.' We have to fight a little harder. I don't think we believe we're trying that hard. We're just going through the motions. We have to do what we're capable of doing. That's everybody; not just the players." (LA Times)
It was clear that Torii had had enough. If the coaching staff wasn’t going to inspire this team to succeed, Spider-Man was going to have to do it himself.
The Angels hitters held a closed-door meeting this past Monday before the game against Minnesota. While most of the talk coming out of the meeting had to do with the kerfuffle between Albert Pujols and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, the real focus should have been on Torii and his recent offensive explosion at the plate.
Hunter has gone 4-for-6 with 2 HR, 5 RBI, and 2 walks in the two games following the hitters-only meeting. He has hit homeruns in back-to-back nights for the second time in five games and raised his AVG by .016.
In fact, Torii’s terror can be traced all the way back to his meeting with Sciosica on April 19. In the 12 games since his discussion with the skipper, Hunter has hit .341 with 4 HR and 10 RBI. He has gone from a .279 AVG with 0 HR to being the most productive hitter on the team.
Hunter has taken it upon himself to set an example and lead the charge. His impact is being felt on the field and off, with his bat, his glove, and his unquestioned ability to inspire those around him. And that’s really what this team needs right now: just a little inspiration, the slightest spark to get them going.
Who better to light that spark than Torii Hunter? Dude’s en fuego right now!