ARLINGTON, Texas -- Vladimir Guerrero often wears a Superman T-shirt in the Texas Rangers clubhouse. Maybe a shirt bearing the image of teammate Josh Hamilton would be more appropriate.
Hamilton has been that spectacular for the AL West-leading Rangers.
"It's almost like one of those kids you see in Little League that is just a lot better than everybody. ... He's doing it at the big-league level," Rangers reliever Darren Oliver said. "I'd pay to watch him play."
Texas has by far the biggest division lead in baseball, and Hamilton, the former Charleston RiverDogs star, is the top hitter in the majors by a wide margin. His .362 average going into Monday's games was 21 points higher than the next-closest AL player and 40 points better than the NL leader.
And Hamilton is still a slugger with 37 doubles, 26 home runs and 80 RBIs. He has also been exceptional in the outfield with highlight-reel catches and laser throws to get seven assists and keep runners from taking extra bases.
This is what Hamilton always felt he was capable of doing, though he believes he can still be more consistent.
"As far as numbers go, this is something I think I can do on a regular basis," he said, responding to a question with a confidence that didn't come across as cocky.
The former No. 1 overall pick, whose inspiring comeback from cocaine and alcohol addictions has been well documented, is now a definite MVP candidate.
Maybe the leading candidate.
"He's scary," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He does everything. ... We've seen enough of him."
Boston lost two of three over the weekend in Texas, including the series opener when Hamilton led Texas back from a six-run deficit to an 11-inning victory.
Hamilton had four hits and scored four times, including when he raced home from second base on Guerrero's two-out infield hit to tie the game in the eighth inning. He already had a homer and two running, leaping catches in center.
That performance reminded Texas manager Ron Washington of what he used to see when Hall of Fame center fielder Kirby Puckett was his teammate in Minnesota. Washington also lauded how fleet of foot the 6-4, 240-pound Hamilton is.
"Hamilton is a horse. No, he's not a horse, he's a thoroughbred," Washington said. "What you're seeing is a five-tool guy at work. I don't know too many players who do what he does."
Over a 2 1/2-month span from June 1 through Sunday, Hamilton hit .424 (106 of 250) with 24 doubles, 17 homers and 53 RBIs in 64 games. He had a majors-best 23-game hitting streak in that span.
Hamilton helped Texas, which opened a three-game series at Tampa Bay on Monday night, build an 8 1/2-game division lead even with Ian Kinsler on the disabled list (left groin), Guerrero struggling (.213 batting average since start of July) and Nelson Cruz bothered by hamstring issues that put him on the disabled list for the third time this season on Monday.
That is certainly an MVP-worthy performance so far. "It's way too early to talk about it," he said. "Obviously it would be a great honor. It would mean even more if we were in the playoffs and had wins in the postseason."
This season, Hamilton was struggling in mid-May. After a 1-for-13 series with nine strikeouts in Toronto, he was hitting .268 and dropped from third to fifth in the lineup -- where he stayed until Kinsler went on the DL three weeks ago.
That .268 matched his season average last year, when he was limited to 89 games because of injuries and two DL stints. But he has stayed healthy this season. "I was able to figure it out because I was healthy and able to go out there and practice and work at it," he said. "That's a big reason why I'm doing as well as I'm doing."
The only thing hurting now are other AL players' chances of being the MVP.