(This post was edited to fix some mistakes. Sorry about that.)
Acquired in Free Agency in 2008, Torii Hunter was a defensive star and a big splash made by Mr. Del Taco himself, Tony Reagins. He had already won 7 Gold Gloves and was mostly known for robbing home runs like the one vs Barry Bonds in the 2002 All Star Game. He was welcomed, but there was some cause for concern. After all, Gary Mathews Jr was also known for robbing home runs and he didn’t do so well. Hunter had the longer track record, but was also 32. There really wasn’t any room for improvement and keeping things up as a CF would be difficult at his age.
Torii Hunter didn’t decline though, in fact, he got better. His top 3 seasons offensively were as an Angel. Hunter fulfilled the Big Splash expectations and even surpassed them. In 5 seasons, Torii Hunter bridged the gap from the 2000’s golden age to Mike Trout. And in every season he brought his A game.
It didn’t take long in 2008 for the Angels to see how good he was. As on April 7th Torii Hunter hit a walk off Grand Slam. It was an indication on how the season would go for him. 21 home runs and 37 doubles for an OPS of .810 and an OPS+ of 111. Beyond just being a solid CF though, Hunter brought joy and energy to the team. While the team fell to Boston in the ALDS, Hunter won another Gold Glove, and his BWAR of 3.5 was 4th best on the team.
2009 was even better for Hunter. With a 128 OPS+ and career best .873 OPS, Hunter was motivated. In part due to what happened early in the season as Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver. The incident really impacted him. Hunter made the All Star roster in 2009, won the Gold Glove again, and got his first Silver Slugger, He was certainly a slugger now, with a Slugging of .508 and a three home run night.
With a BWAR of 5.3, second best on the team, and a promise to make Nick proud, it was the Angels vs. the Red Sox yet again in the ALDS. It was the third straight season of Angels vs. Red Sox, and everyone was ready to be let down again. But Hunter said not this time! With Torii fired up, everyone else played their part and the Angels made it to the ALCS. But then the MFY, with Teixeira came into town – and the most stacked team the Angels had isn recent memory, lost.
Hunter was impressive in 2010 as well, making the All Star Game for the Angels in Anaheim. He also had an OPS+ of 126 with 23 home runs and 36 doubles. Sure it was only worth 3 BWAR as his OPS dipped but with Vlad gone, he was the team’s slugger. Age was getting to him and the rigors of CF were taking a toll. He still made great plays but he was pushed more to RF as younger, speedier guys were on the roster. He still played mostly in CF but it was for the last time.
Now as the starting RF for the Angels, Hunter adapted quickly, and his 2011 numbers were amazing per usual. 3.6 BWAR, 116 OPS+, hitting 23 home runs again and having fun. The team was stacked, yet couldn’t win enough games to get into the playoffs. This was the year of peak Weaver, peak Bourjos, peak Angels Haren, and peak Aybar. It was also the year Trout got his first games in, but it was not enough.
Saving the best for last, in a contract year, Torii Hunter gave it his all. Comfy in RF, Hunter has a career best 129 OPS+ and a beastly 5.4 BWAR. It was a year where he just had his eye on the ball, hitting .313 on the season even as his strikeouts went up. He was second to Trout that season and they really enjoyed each other. Unfortunately, no playoffs again, and it was time for Free Agency.
Conflict with the Angels
Things did not go smoothly with the Angels and Hunter off the field. Earlier in 2012, Hunter had a gun pulled on him by police in his own home. The Angels told him to keep quiet about it.
Later, when in free agency, he wasn’t kept by the team and it was apparent that Arte Moreno wasn’t being forthcoming with the plans when in discussions with Hunter. Arte claimed that money was tight, and unable to afford Hunter so he left for Detroit and Arte before signed Josh Hamilton to a big deal. Hunter was mad and at being lied to and went on to still be great in Detroit. Fans didn’t like to see it go down that way, but hey, Josh Hamilton was a big bat, it would be fine… /s
Torii Hunter was one of the best FA signings in Angels history. He is 20th all time in BWAR for the Angels, 13th best position player, has the 11th best batting average, 11th best OPS, 18th most home runs, and the 9th best OPS+. A consistant, excellent player who in five seasons had 258 extra base hits, more than Spiez Head, Kendrys, and Napoli. Despite playing in only the 31st most games in Angels history, he has the 12th most offensive BWAR. He is on 35 top 50 lists, and if you were to rank just OF, Hunter has the 5th best OPS, 7th most Home Runs, 6th most hits, 7th most extra base hits and 7th best OPS+.
But it was beyond just numbers where Torii Hunter had an impact. Mike Trout looked up to him and Hunter really rubbed off on Trout. Hunter was a 9 time Gold Glove winning CF. Trout listened when he had something to say. Vets helping the young players get better is a part of their job, but some do not do so well of it. To see Hunter’s impact this far in the future, he certainly belongs up there as one of the greatest Angels in franchise history.