2014 Reds

Hamilton Is Good

Billy Hamilton is good.

Right now, his batting line is: .264/.301/.382. That equates to an 86 wRC+. Below average, but not drastically so.

According to FanGraphs, thanks to his base running (+4.4 runs) he is now a tick above average (+0.7 runs) as an offensive player. That’s above average. Not above replacement. He has also been an excellent fielder and so, altogether, FanGraphs has him at 2.0 WAR.

That 2.0 WAR pro-rates to 4.8 by the end of the season (assuming he continues to miss time here and there). It also ranks him as the third best centerfielder in the NL (behind McCutcheon and Gomez) and fifth best in baseball.

Baseball Reference is less bullish. It agrees with FanGraphs in broad strokes, but rates Hamilton slightly lower in every category (so, for instance, he’s still a great fielder according to BBref, just not quite as great, etc.), and so he comes in at 1.2 WAR. That prorates to 2.9 WAR by the end of the year.

If I had told any of you at the beginning of the season that Hamilton would be on track for a 3-5 win season in mid-June, you would have clicked your heels in the air and danced a jig. I was as skeptical of Hamilton as anyone. I did not think he was capable of this kind of contribution. I thought his ceiling was around 3 WAR. He is proving me wrong.

Yes, a lot of his value is fielding, but that’s still value. Numbers and eyes agree that he’s great in center.

Yes, because so much of his value is tied to speed, he figures to peak early.

But, who among us thought Hamilton would have four homers this year, much less on June 16? He does have some power. More than I thought he did.

I thought the Reds would be okay with Hamilton in center, but I didn’t think he was a fantastic option. He’s proving me wrong. Billy Hamilton is having a very good season. We can argue about where he should bat, I guess, but that’s not the point (and it hardly matters at all). The point is that he’s been good so far, and while we’re all still hoping the OBP goes up a bit, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s an excellent choice to play every day in center.

101 thoughts on “Hamilton Is Good

    • We knew he’d be good on the basepaths. Finding out that (especially after having been moved from SS to avoid a collision path with Cozart) he is actually a great fielding CF is a gift. He is batting .264; that may be average (though it’s not a liability) but keep in mind that he is a rookie. He still has time to improve his hitting, and I believe he will.

      What really impresses me about Hamilton is the way that even as a rookie he takes leadership seriously. When they interview him he talks a lot more about ‘we’ than about ‘I’ and he’s certainly taken some good and productive swings when the game is on the line. He’s not afraid to be at the plate when there are two outs in the ninth and the tying run is on base, while a lot of hitters, especially the weaker ones, are afraid of that situation and you can see it in how they swing.

  1. I really love how he’s continuing to develop, physically and mentally. I’ve not seen any in-depth interviews about his process, but he really does seem to be a student of the game.

  2. Hamilton has been a big surprise (in a postive way) to me. I was afraid he would struggle offensively and defensively. He has been outstanding defensively, and offensively he has performed better than I expected. I was afraid he might be over matched by major league pitching, but so far he has held his own. I would like to see him be more selective and maybe cut down on the bunt attempts, but he is a rookie.

    • I agree on the bunt attempts. Even when the outcome isn’t a bunt in play, he takes a lot of strikes either missing the bunt attempt or pulling away at the last second. Obviously that results in pitches and strikes that he could otherwise be focusing on timing for swinging or taking for balls. So these “show ‘em bunt” and “missed bunt” attempts directly impact his OBP as obtaining a walk or a selective hit is much harder with one strike than no strikes…as obvious as that statement sounds, it’s certainly unique to Hamilton’s approach.

      • Yeah, that is kind of what I see. I don’t want him to completely eliminate the bunt from his arsenal, but reduce the number of times he attempts to bunt. With Billy, the bunt is certainly not a surprise weapon.

  3. I’d like to see Hamilton’s splits on his non-bunting AB’s vs. his bunting AB’s – i’ll bet that might add about 40-50 points to his average. I only remember about 2 or 3 true bunt hits this year. Typically, he just seems to be bunting it too hard. I’m not saying he should ditch it altogether – just that he is a good enough hitter not to rely on it so much.

  4. I’m glad the stats are bearing this out because my eyes have been telling me that he’s doing well for this stage in his career and development. If you take away that first stretch in the season where he was overmatched, his numbers would look even better.

    I agree that he seems to be a student of the game. He’s made some base running blunders, but his defense has been pretty spot on. I think he takes good routes and he’s been sending the ball where should. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by his arm strength.

  5. We’ll have to put Steve on suicide watch if Hamilton keeps playing well. He’s staked his life savings on Hamilton’s being Willy Taveras.

  6. I don’t understand comments like these. Steve’s argument the entire time has been that Hamilton shouldn’t be batting lead-off, not that he won’t be a good player. A .301 OBP kind of backs up that sentiment if you ask me. He needs to raise that another 20-30 points to be getting the most at bats on the team. I hope he does it, but at the time Steve made all the comments the “pro-Hamilton” group keeps firing these digs about Billy wasn’t even near .300 OBP let alone .330.

    You guys make it sound like Steve is going to eat his RLN hat if Billy becomes a success when it couldn’t be further from the truth. We all want the Reds to do well, regardless of who gets all the credit for them getting there. We all have favorites, we all have players we don’t really believe in. I sincerely hope though that none of us have players on the team we actually dislike to the point where we’d want to root for them (and by extension the Reds) to fail.

    • Too many people get too worked up about the lineup. it doesn’t matter. Purely in terms of offensive contribution, Hamilton is basically tied with Ludwick in terms of runs above average. Bruce, of course, will pass them both when he gets going.

      Hamilton’s talents are such that he is most valuable when batting with no one else on (so there is no one in front of him to slow him down). In that case, it makes the most sense to bat him either first or ninth.

      However, there is also the psychological aspect. If the Reds want Hamilton to be a true leadoff hitter, they may be willing to let him develop there. At most, this is probably going to cost the Reds three or four runs this year. It’s not important enough to worry about.

    • This year, he has been successful in bunting for a hit in 6 out of 26 times bunting. That’s a .231 batting average except that 4 of those went down as sacrifices, which raises him to .273.

      Removing the bunt numbers doesn’t meaningfully impact his OBP. It might be something he needs to do periodically to keep the infielders playing in. I’m not sure. There are a lot of moving parts to Hamilton’s game.

      • I wonder whether he will be able to significantly improve his bunting. If so, it would be a reasonable weapon. If not, it might be best if he mostly quit it.

    • This is a good point but imagine how effective his bunts would be with the infielders back? In my mind, he would be a lock to hit > .300. Parse his bunt attempts wisely is all I want to see. The biggest thing with BHam is “contact”. Before he had 3 Ks yesterday, he went another > 35 PAs without one. Sky is the limit.

  7. Mostly I agree with this posts sentiments. Billy is clearly contributing at a solid level, and as a rookie I expect him to get better. They mentioned yesterday that his K in the second inning was his first in over 30 ABs. That’s clearly improving. Also, he seems like a good teammate.

    The three issues I have are:

    1. Batting order does matter, and he shouldn’t be hitting leadoff. If batting order doesn’t matter, then neither does hustling out a ground ball, taking the extra base on a single, or always hitting the cutoff man. They are all examples of small things that add up over the course of the season to runs scored or prevented, and ultimately wins.

    2. Defensive metrics take a lot longer than half a season to even out, so I’m wary of saying that he’s on a 4+ win pace based almost entirely on his defense. I know his defense has been good. But a couple of misplayed balls in the next two weeks would drop his value considerably.

    3. He leads the league in getting caught stealing, and his success rate is just barely above the line where he would actually be hurting the team. I really want to see him start stealing at a higher success rate, even in that means fewer bags overall.

    • Hamilton’s base stealing attempts have, according to FanGraphs, been worth 1.7 runs. He could certainly be much better. I’ve been really surprised at how often he’s been caught.

      • which mirrors exactly what i said: that his success rate has him just barely above the line where he would actually be hurting the team. fangraphs estimates that he’s added 1.7 runs overall (i don’t know what algorithm they use to determine that, but whatever) and that sounds pretty much like he’s just barely helping the team.

        the guy has made 33 stolen base attempts and the best we can say is that fangraphs thinks he may have helped the reds score two runs? i think i expected his base stealing to be a lot more valuable than that, and i certainly didn’t see him leading the league in getting caught.

        • I wonder about that metric. Does it take into account the effect that BH (or any scary base runner) has on pitchers and infielders? How could it? We’ve seen him seriously fluster other teams this year and, while they may adjust in the future, they haven’t all yet.

        • Yeah. His steals haven’t been as good as we’d hoped. His baserunning as a whole has been pretty good, though.

    • true, but this is also his first year starting full time. His OBP will go up as he has more experience, and i would rather he get the experience in the Batting order at the spot he will bat in the future rather than further down the line. But then I am a firm believe that the approach to how you hit is different for every position in the order.

  8. My experience is that people make the “lineup doesn’t matter” argument when they can’t defend their lineup.

    It’s been estimated that a manager might affect, at most a couple games a year. If the manager can affect one game a year by something as simple as optimizing a lineup, how can anyone be against that?

    How can you mock “only one game difference” when it comes to batting orders but then exalt how great it is that a player has a 4.0 WAR instead of a 3.0 WAR. Does the use of an acronym get in the way of understanding that difference is ONE game? One game matters a lot. Teams pay about $6 million for it.

    How can anyone seriously say it’s important to have fast guys bat where no one is on base ahead of them? Are there really times when a fast runner would actually catch up to a slower runner who starts an entire base ahead of them? Hardly ever.

    More important is the idea of playing speed in front of singles hitters. Stealing second base matters more when the hitter(s) behind you don’t hit for much power. Stealing second when the batter(s) behind you hit doubles or home runs is less worth the risk.

    • Hamilton hitting with no one on is important because Hamilton is a different monster entirely, and you know it. He scores on balls no one else can score on.

      And lineup doesn’t matter. Not nearly as much as you act like it does. Realistically, Hamilton batting first will cost the Reds a few runs, maybe. As I noted in a comment above, there is also a psychological element here that we know nothing about. The Reds may be trying to develop Hamilton and they may believe that it is very important that they show confidence in him early on.

      You are also misconstruing what I said. I said I thought, AT BEST, Hamilton was a 3 WAR player. If you look back at what I wrote before the season, I believe I had him around 2 wins. For an individual player the difference between 2.0 WAR and 4.0 WAR is huge, and you know it.

      We can gripe about lineups until we turn blue. It ain’t changin’ and at some point (a point long past, I think), that dialogue becomes tired and irritating. Do the Reds use ideal lineup construction? No. Does anyone? No. Is there some player psychology involved? Probably. Whatever. It is what it is. Can we stop talking about it already?

      This isn’t a post about the team and it isn’t a post about the lineup. It’s a post about Hamilton and how he’s been quite good to this point, which he has.

      • I just find your tone about lineup tired and irritating.

        You go back and forth between declaring absolutely “lineup doesn’t matterk,” in the face of much statistical evidence that it does, and then to “not nearly as much as you act like it does.” Which suggests that you do understand that it matters, but you’re just trying to use big bold statements to convince people that it doesn’t.

        lame.

        • Just trying to vary my word choice. It matters very little. It doesn’t matter enough to talk about it as much as many people want to. And all the arguments we can make about it have been made.

          And what statistical evidence are you citing? Tango pretty much knocked it out of the park analyzing lineup construction. The difference between a “typical” and “ideal” lineup is 5 to 15 runs. The Reds are a lot closer to ideal than you might think. I’d be very, very surprised if their lineup construction cost 10 runs, total. I’d bet on it being pretty close to the minimum.

      • I specifically didn’t mention Billy Hamilton on purpose, trying to avoid getting dragged into this discussion. I’m generally skeptical of proclamations that a player is “good” based on a stat line that didn’t exist three days before. But, like I said, that wasn’t the point of my comment.

        I was replying to your comment six comments above mine. *You* initiated the discussion about lineup optimization today by disparaging people who pay attention to it. Is that how you figure you’re going to get people to stop talking about it?

        When you repeat the “lineup doesn’t matter” you know that’s imprecise at best and misleading at worst. It’s much fairer to say it probably doesn’t matter more than one win a year. “Doesn’t matter” is hyperbole that would be acceptable if the exact issue at stake was whether it mattered by one game.

        We shouldn’t talk about it because “it isn’t changing.” Is that in contrast to all the things we do talk about that we can change? Interesting take from a writer at a baseball blog – giving people advice to stop talking about certain topics.

        • No, I didn’t initiate it. Hamilton batting leadoff was mentioned in the comment I responded to.

          Steve, don’t talk down to me with the “misleading” stuff. You have written more than one post that was more misleading than my saying the something that matters very little doesn’t matter at all. I think most regular readers (who’ve seen the constant discussions here about the lineup) know it matters a little but that some put a lot more weight on it than it deserves. Your comment ascribes some sort of duplicitous intentions on my part that don’t exist.

        • Is 10-15 runs the difference between an ideal lineup and the stupidest possible lineup? Or between an average lineup and a perfect lineup?

          I’m not sure it matters either way, given how injuries, platoons, and days off get in the way of a manager putting his chosen lineup on the field. But we should at least know what we’re talking about.

        • Chris – It’s between a “typical” lineup (best hitter 3rd, speedy OBP 1st, etc.) and the ideal lineup. Tango’s argument, I believe, is that it’s silly to talk about the worst possible lineup because that causes people to overstate the difference. No one is batting their pitcher 1st, etc.

      • Another reason to hit Hamilton when nobody is on base rather than the bottom of the lineup is he can’t steal 2nd if Ludwick, Pena, or Cozart are on base in front of him.

        I’m not an expert, but his offensive production is about what I had expected, his defense has been impressive, and I expect him to continue to improve. He currently has the 5th best WAR among CFs as a rookie. Until we find a way to quantify how much he ‘disrupts’ the pitchers and defense, I hope we can agree that pitchers seem to change their delivery, their focus, and their pitch selection when he is on base.

        On top of that, he’s fun to watch, and I’m glad he’s on our side.

    • Lineups matter, the issue is when constructing it “the way” you determine it is what matters. To base a lineup just off of numbers crunching isn’t good, nor is setting one up off of a “gut” feeling. You need to know where players are comfortable hitting and what they bring to the table and where they are in their career and what is happening right then. What matters is getting it right, what goes into doing that isn’t simple.

      • Agree with this. It has to be a combination of numbers and personality. It’s very hard to tell what an optimal lineup actually is.

      • what evidence is there that guys are “comfortable” hitting in different places in a lineup. in every interview with a player i’ve ever heard they always say it doesn’t matter where they hit in the order.

        • Of course that is what they are going to say to the press. But I bet if you asked say Brandon..hey what about hitting 6th or 7th it would be a very touchy subject. Some players I bet it doesn’t matter, but others it’s huge. You can’t go by what they say to the press.

        • I never played beyond semi-pro ball and maybe it matters less to an MLB player where he hits, but to me, there were definitely spots in the order where I didn’t like hitting. I didn’t like the 2-hole, or 4-hole for example. They never hit me leadoff much after the knothole days because I ran like a catcher. I didn’t like hitting 8th or 9th that much either because I got pitched around too much hitting down there. So, I liked hitting 5th, 6th, or 7th. I don’t know my numbers hitting in various spots in the order and other than hitting in the 2-hole or 4-hole, I never felt much pressure to change my approach as the situation dictated my approach more often than the spot I was hitting did.That said, there was so much more comfort for me in those 5, 6, and 7 spots… Just one hitter’s point of view.

        • LW -

          That’s good anecdotal evidence for what we’ve been talking about. I’d be surprised if egos/comfort never came into play with MLB players. They are every bit as human as the rest of us and their personalities, I expect, vary just as much.

        • AL -
          I’ve seen players say they aren’t comfortable hitting in certain spots. Leadoff seems to be a place lots of guys don’t like hitting. There are also guys who’ve admitted to trying to hard when hitting 4th, etc.

        • I’ve still never seen any evidence that players perform differently in different spots in the lineup.

          Giving the most ABs to your best hitters is such a simple principle. To me, the burden of proof should be on the people suggesting that a team not do that.

          Person A: We should give the most ABs to our best hitters.

          Person B: We should give more ABs to worse hitter than our best hitters because the the combination of speed and bat handling etc will create runs, in spite of poor hitting.

          For some reason, in baseball, it’s up to person A to provide all the statistical evidence, and person B gets a pass. That’s so weirdly backwards to me.

        • If we think that where people hit in the lineup affects their performance we should be hitting Votto 8th (career 1.300 OPS) and Frazier 9th (career 1.274 OPS).

        • I agree with you. It would take the right team to try it. You’d have to have a bunch of Vottos and Fraziers who’ll hit wherever and not give a rip. But I’m sur ein most clubhouses there are egos and everyone wants to avoid having certain guys ticked off all the time. Or there’s a kid who you’re trying to break in and show confidence in. I have no idea how much that kind of stuff matter, but I bet it matter at least a little bit.

        • @ Al …Brandon Phillips hitting 4th vs hitting 2nd. He admittedly changes his approach. It’s a mentality thing. Saber-guys always discount the mental side of sport.

    • Ask Joey who he wants batting in front of him. Hitting a baseball is more than physical ability, as it is just as much a mind game. If votto doesnt feel comfortable leading how will that affect his hiiting?

      • I don’t think Votto ever meant that Hamilton hitting in front of him makes him more comfortable. He said he thinks he sees more fastballs with Hamilton in front of him.

        Those are two pretty different things. In my opinion, Votto would produce the same regardless of where he hit in the order. I could definitely be wrong, but I that’s my thought.

  9. I can’t tell if that sound outside is thunder or Steve’s head exploding.

    A couple of weeks ago Steve told me that the league with adapt to Billy’s speed and he will no longer be gaining an advantage from it on the basepaths (please correct me if I’m misinterpreting what you said here).

    Do you agree Jason? I tend to disagree because I think, like a Randy Johnson fastball, that Billy’s speed is so out of the norm that there’s just no way to adjust.

    • Said at the time: how well did the NFL adapt to Barry Sanders? A truly unique talent is just that, it’s an outlier.

    • I don’t agree. I don’t know how the league can adapt to that. Also, as noted, Billy has shown the ability to hit the ball with more authority than any of us thought we’d see.

      I would like to see him improve his success rate on steals. There’s a balance there, but he is at least providing a positive value overall from his stolen base attempts.

    • That’s close. Not so much adjusting as just getting used to it. The fact that Buster Posey threw a ball away didn’t mean that every other time Hamilton has bunted since then the catcher (or third baseman or first baseman) didn’t just calmly throw him out at first base. If it’s impossible to adjust to, how do you explain all the times he gets thrown out stealing or bunting or picked off?

      • That makes sense, Steve. I don’t know if I saw the comment Kyle is talking about, but I would agree that the league will stop freaking out about Hamilton in the way we all stop freaking out about something if it happens enough. He will still probably force some errors, though, because teams will always know they have to hurry to get him out. Haste makes waste and all that.

      • The league will adjust, but the league is also dynamic. New players come in either up from the minors or from the AL. Also, east and west coast teams that don’t play the Reds as often as Central Division opponents will not see him as often as say the Pirates and Cards. Until you try and throw out someone that is that fast you don’t really know how difficult it is. The thing is, his speed always puts the pressure on the defense and will always have the potential to produce havoc no matter how many times they have seen him.

        I grew up watching Rose play and he always put the pressure on the defense even though he was not particulary fast. The defense had to always be on the alert and could not relax for a second or Rose would take the extra base. Rose was all about an aggressive mind set and he seemed to be able to judge it as close as anybody I ever saw play on whether he could make it or not (I never saw Jackie Robinson play, but they say he was the best at putting the pressure on the defense).

        Billy’s speed and his willingness to use it works the same way. It gets in their heads. Everytime Billy hits a ground ball, everytime Billy is on base and someone gets a hit (or even a groundout) or there is a pitch in the dirt or even a short fly ball, the pressure is on. Yes these guys are major leaguers and they can make the plays, but they also feel the pressure.

  10. To be clear, I wasn’t saying that the league would adapt to his speed and therefore he wouldn’t be able to steal bases. He’ll be able to keep doing that, for sure. We were talking about how Billy Hamilton was so fast that he made players commit errors – it was at the time of the Giants series when there were two such errors. I said you couldn’t base an offense on that – it was too freakish, that professional baseball playes can field bunts and throw fast players out at first base. Which they have done EVERY single time since that game.

    • The league may well adjust a bit, and over time there could be a few less panic-plays like the Giants had. There isn’t a stat for panic-plays induced, but I’d be surprised if Hamilton isn’t the league leader, with Dee Gordon, who is almost as fast, a close second.

      I think they are bunting him too often. Bunts are often 1-pitch ABs, and teams are over-playing the bunt. On the other hand, he is a decent but not yet great bunter. I wouldn’t mind seeing him lay down some bunts with 2-strike counts on him, because the fielders move back and he has a better chance of beating out a fair ball. And, it would befuddle the defense even more, if he did get some 2-out bunts down.

      Hamilton also has a stronger arm than I had been led to believe. He isn’t Cesar Geronimo, but the arm is good enough. Choo had good arm strength, but it took him way too long to unload, whereas Hamilton plays like a natural centerfielder.

      • This isn’t a Hamilton comment, but an observation about bunting in general. I was at the wing place last night with my son watching the Spurs making LeBron cry. On another screen they were showing some of the College World Series. Ole Miss and UV, I think. Anyway, in the first inning the leadoff runner gets aboard and the two hole hitter squares to sacrifice him over. I had to shake my head. I don’t get the logic of playing for one run with the top of your lineup in the first inning. One would have to presume that the guy you have hitting second can actually hit. One would presume that the three hole hitter can hit a little bit too. One would also presume that making the pitcher throw a few pitches in the first inning is a good thing. It’s also harder to bunt with metal. It is an epidemic. I don’t care if you are ‘old school’ or stats oriented. That’s just silly baseball.

    • I think you’re right, Steve, and I think that Jason is, as well (if we strip the counting of angels on pin heads from the discussion). I understood what you said about BH’s speed–of course the other teams won’t constantly make errors from the sheer horror of dealing with it–but it is still game-changing in some situations. Billy is also a great deal of fun to watch, an important factor for which there is no metric.

  11. I hope I don’t really need to say this, but I’m ecstatic when Billy Hamilton plays well. I’m a REDS fan first and foremost and he plays for the Reds. I spend thousands of dollars a year on tickets and countless (unpaid) hours writing about them. I want them to do well, including all their players. If Billy Hamilton can hit 10 home runs this year (and a bunch of gap-shot doubles), that would tremendously increase his value in my eyes. And thanks to the two this series, he’s all of a sudden on pace to do that. It’s a great development if it continues.

    • If you had told me at the start of the season that Billy Hamilton would have 4 HRs by the middle of June I would have bet that 3 if not all 4 were inside the park HRs. So that aspect of his game has certainly surprised me. The number of caught stealings has surprised me, too. But, it seems like he was caught several times early in the season, and I think his perecentage has been better since (11/16 for 69%, but 14/17 since for 82%).

    • I think overall we tend to “overvalue” the leadoff spot. The Reds won the division with a good leadoff hitter and a bad leadoff hitter. What Hamilton brings to this team out values what little he struggles hitting first in my opinon.

      • I agree with you to a great extent…..a team can succeed without a perfect leadoff hitter so as long as the chemistry of the team works. I look at the Reds lineup and it’s potential from lead off up to the 7th position (sorry Cozart) and I see a team that should be feared when hitting well. Bruce, Votto, Phillips, Hamilton, Mesoraco, Frazier and Ludwick has a great potential if they can find the groove.

  12. I will say this, though it has nothing to do with stats.. Billy has seemed to be the guy having the second or third-most fun on that field every day next to Todd and BP, which does mean a lot to me. I like watching a team with players who are expressive like that, it hypes me up and makes me root that much harder for them. Coming into the season I wasn’t sure if Hamilton would be ground down by the long season and hot days and tons of pressure of being up in the big leagues but much like Todd did a few years ago he has stayed positive and joyful. I love it.

    Same reason I’m glad to have Latos back, because I like seeing how fired up he gets. Heck, I enjoyed Bruce almost getting tossed over that outside pitch he got rung up on. Perhaps I’m just a little too into wanting some drama to go with my baseball, I dunno.

  13. Amidst all this positivity, the greatest stat that reputes Hamilton is that he’s still 23 years old. Let’s take a moment and think about that. Feels nice, doesn’t it?

    • It is nice. I wish he were younger, though. Speed peaks really early. I don’t have it in front of me right now, but I think Hamilton might already be at or past the peak age for speed (again, don’t quote me on that, I’m going from memory). Speed will sustain his value for several years, but he will eventually have to turn himself into an on base guy if he’s going to have a long career.

      • Yeah, you’re right, when you think of the other up and coming players around the league, Hamilton is the old man of the group. But that’s just relative, he’s still very raw and does show flashes of having a good eye, which as you point out is important as speed declines. I still think his focus on 3 options bunt/swing/take does him a disservice to fully establishing is OBP skills. I see flashes of a good eye but too many times he’s behind in the count before he even gets settled into a normal swing/take approach…

        I’d like to see what he could do with his OBP after an entire month of absolutely no bunting.

      • I’m remembering a similar number from a FanGraphs article as well. The point was that calling 27-30yo the “peak time” in a career isn’t a given. For guys who rely on speed, they peak at 22-24 and have a sharp decline between 28-30.

        • I think this is where the Reds need to gradually shift his training methods, adding muscle and power over the next 4 years. Get him prepared to contribute in other fashions like average and power with some speed. Don’t get me wrong I don’t see Hamilton hitting 30 plus hrs but 20-25 Hrs and stealing 40 sb toward the end of his productive years.

      • How old is Usain Bolt? I know that you are right about speed declining with age (speed and everything else), but barring chronic injury, it may not fall off the cliff. Also, I assume that BH’s caught-stealings are a result of his being a work in progress. Give him Joe Morgan’s knowledge and he could be slower and still steal lots and lots of bases.

    • There is still some “little kid” in Hamilton which makes it enjoyable to watch him play. Like he said a couple of weeks ago, “It’s fun to be fast.”

  14. For those curious, I looked it up and as best the numbers will allow, Billy Hamilton’s base running value has him on pace to have about the 35th or 40th best season ever there (bunch of ties).

    Best season ever was 1986 Vince Coleman who was +15.7 runs on base running. He’s followed, rather predictably by Maury Wills and Ricky Henderson. Hamilton’s company, at the moment, includes Jimmy Rollins (2008), Rafael Furcal (2004), and Marquis Grissom (1992).

    Again, this is just looking at base running value.

  15. I’d like to see the 6’0 160lb weight train this winter and add 15lbs of muscle to that frame. With the right training I see a guy who could give the reds a .280 BA 20-25 HR 60 SB in 3-4 years.What a season that would be.

    • I’d like to see him get strong and gain some weight also. That said, I think you might be drugs. :)

      • LOL, nice……I do believe that line is a possibility though. He has 4 years until he hits his full potential. If he’s capable of hitting 8-10 HR’s this year, then an extra 15-20 lbs of muscle plus the extra potential could place him at around 20 hrs at full potential. a .280 average in his prime is far from unreachable and that leaves me to explain the 60 sb. I would expect him to get 50 plus stolen bases for the next 5-8 seasons easily. So yes with the right training I can see Hamilton giving the Reds a .280 20-25 HR 60 SB MVP caliber season.

        Funny Story Rickey Henderson was 5’10 and 180 lbs at his peak. The first 4-5 seasons he stole a ton of bases but hit 10 or less HRs then in 1985 he hit 24 HRs while stealing 80 SBs with a .314 average. He did nearly the same in 86 and 90.

        Tim Raines at 5’8″ and 160 LBs in 1987 at the ripe age of 28 did nearly the same feat with a line of: 18 HR 50 SB and a .330 avg

        Marquis Grissom in 1993 at the age of 26 years old and at 5’11″ and 190 LB hit .298 19 HR and 53 SB

        Is Hamilton comparable to Henderson….probably not but the potential is there for .280 avg 20 HRs and 60 SBs with the right weight training. at 6 foot and 190lbs I know that the 60 swipes are in the bag and the .280 ba is obtainable which leads us to how many HRs can Hamilton hit if he has an extra 15-30 lbs of muscle and 4 more years of experience…..I’d gladly place a bet on these stats.

  16. What does everyone think about Hamilton’s chance to win the ROY this year….He’s on pace to get 10 HRs and 60 SBs…..I think if Hamilton continues to improve over the season, his average might make it near 280 and the SBs will trend upward as well. The only player with a shot might be Gregory Polanco.

    • He has a shot. There is one other guy who I think he may have to beat out besides Polanco, it’s Owings of the Diamondbacks. His stats are very similar to Hamilton’s (except in stolen bases, but Owings does have some speed has shown a little more power than Hamilton.)

      I still think Hamilton wins this race, but with 2/3 of it still to be run, it’s too early and too close to anoint him just yet.

  17. As far as the caught stealing category. Again…he is learning on the job. He is having to learn every pitcher in the league, ON THE FLY. Certainly there are going to be some failures just for being very green at the craft. He will learn and get better at this aspect of the game just like he has at every aspect at every level he has played. He gets better as the season progresses. Is he getting better, or getting worse at his success rate?? You be the judge…(11/16 for 69%, but 14/17 since for 82%). (thanks Mike for the stat…my eyes weren’t lying to me)

    • I think my only real gripe about Hamilton’s base stealing is NOT to worry about stealing third. He’s already gonna score from second on almost any hit to the outfield, and if it rattles the pitcher to have him “dancing” off second base, good, maybe that distraction will work to the hitter’s advantage……

  18. One thing we can all agree on is that we’d be much better off had we given Choo 100 million dollars or signed Grady Sizemore.

    And if we just could have pulled the trigger on that Joe Blanton for Votto and Cueto deal a few years back…

    • The Blanton deal still makes me cringe, I honestly don’t see why the Reds where interested enough to even consider trading some of the names that where thrown around. I was hoping that Choo would have wanted to stay and would sign for a respectful amount of cash instead of this uber deal that he received but in the end we’re better off for it as the Cueto/Latos/Chapman contracts are going to be hard enough to payout and BH’s done a great job compensating for Choo.

      • I can’t remember if any actual talks took place, but Paul Daugherty was certainly beating the drums on that one during one of the fake-good Jerry Narron seasons. Alongside Doc Rodgers making the argument that Chapman was better suited for the 8th inning because “that’s when the meat of the lineup usually hits”, it was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard from a Cincinnati media guy . I reminded him of it multiple times, especially as it became evident that Votto and Cueto were 100 times the players Blanton could ever hope to be, to which he could only reply, “Hindsight is 20/20″. He’s also argued the merits of the BCS and Keystone Light, so definitely no stranger to “couldn’t be more wrong”.

        I really liked Choo last year, but it just wasn’t ever going to work. He played his way out of our price range, although you could make the argument we should’ve given him the money we ultimately gave to Homer. As much he’s struggling for Texas it looks like we made the right call to give Billy a chance to grow into the role…at least for now.

  19. Billy’s ranks 5th in WAR for CFers behind Trout, McCutchen, Gomez & Adam Jones. BHam’s is 2.0 and Choo is 0.6. Interesting.

    • Choo is interesting. I don’t know how accurate defensive stats are over 42% of the season, but I think the switch from CF to LF/DH hurts his value significantly. Choo is listed as the second worst defensive LF in baseball, but I wonder if its due to the positional adjustment of him playing 1/3 of his game at DH? His ankle injury may be partially to blame, but it just doesn’t pass the smell test. I probably don’t understand the way the defensive stats are placed into WAR.

      Great, now I have some homework to do.

  20. not sure what all the debate is about. Billy is clearly a number 4 hitter…..

    based on last week. This has been fun watching him grow up before us.

    I expect a better second half than first and if that is true, we are looking at Rookie of the Year in the NL

  21. Billy has hit really well recently. I don’t think he has shown the improvement that others apparently do, but it’s fun watching someone in the midst of a tear. I try not to judge players based on hot or cold streaks, the truth is always in the middle somewhere.

    Hamilton is still not walking enough, his slugging percentage will very likely decrease. I’ll be surprised if he ends up with an OBP > 0.305.

    I’m not saying he isn’t a good player, because his defense and baserunning is fantastic, just that he isn’t a good hitter and is very likely to regress. I sure hope that it doesn’t happen, because Hamilton is fun to watch when he gets on base consistently, and it really helps Todd & Joey and the rest of the team on base when they come up to hit.

      • Is this really all about a hot steak or maybe more to do with a young fellow maturing and gaining confidence? I would put my money on the latter. Word to the wise: keep an eye on his K-rate, this should tell the whole story. This guy is headed for rarefied air. CP is coming on, a little slower than most but he is getting there.

        Good comment Zach – hope we get to read a lot more of your thoughts at RLN.

      • Like I said, I don’t judge players at the bottom of a slump, nor at the zenith of a hot streak.

        I think the value of judging a player on batting average alone is pretty well documented. Willy Tavares, the player many people fear Billy will ultimately be due to his lack of plate discipline, hit .320 in a year.

        As for Jay Bruce, he has a long track record to fall back on, something that Billy doesn’t. Even hitting .214 Jay’s wRC+ is 86, versus Billy’s 93 wRC+. That’s what Billy’s 60 points in batting average is worth…

        • Wily Tavares has absolutely nothing to do with Billy Hamilton. It’s an incredibly lazy comparison. Let’s see…he was fast….he played for the Reds. Their fates MUST be tied together! Tavares hit .320 at Coors Field during the steroid era. Certainly not the only guy to have an outlier season there in that time period.

          I know Jay has a track record to fall back on, but did you know Hamilton was a .280 hitter in the minors while only recently learning to switch hit? Why are his AAA stats the only sample we draw when determining what kind of player he’s going to be? It’s almost as if the people who hopped on the RLN “Billy Hamilton will destroy this team” bandwagon continue to double down and ignore the real problems like Walt putting together another horrible bench, we still don’t have a cleanup hitter, and Zach Cozart is horrible.

        • You’ve created a nice little strawman, haven’t you?

          Tavares is a pretty good comp for Hamilton, not because they are both fast, but because neither has/had any power, nor walked very much. Whether Hamilton develops on base skills is the ultimate measure of how valuable he’ll be offensively.

          Also, I don’t think any editor of RN has ever said “Billy Hamilton will destroy this team”. I think the harshest writer here said that he will be a below average leadoff hitter, and bringing him up too early will hurt his development. Hamilton, with his 93 wRC+, is by definition a below average hitter.

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