There are 101 MLB players with 200 or more plate appearances since the all-star break. Derek Jeter’s 40 wRC+ is the worst among them. The player with the second worst is Billy Hamilton, and his 50 wRC+.
Below is just how far Billy Hamilton’s offensive season has fallen off the cliff in 2014.
The first thing that drastically stands out is BABIP (batting average on balls in play). Hamilton’s BABIP has dropped by a ridiculous 70 points in the second half. Hamilton’s BABIP at AAA in 123 games in 2013 was .310.
Some of Hamilton’s drastic drop in BABIP is just bad luck (and good luck that he had in the first half). However, some of this is certainly attributed to not making good contact. Hamilton’s line-drive rate is down from 23.6% in the first half to 17.9% in the second half (MLB average in 2014 is 20.7%). While our friends at Beyond the Box ScoreÃ‚Â point out that line-drive rates aren’t a perfect science in evaluating good contact, they tell us that “a line drive produces 1.26 runs per out while a fly ball produces 0.13 runs per out and a ground ball produces just 0.05 runs per out.”Ã‚Â Ã‚Â In addition,Ã‚Â Hamilton had 12 bunt hits in the first half, and he has just 5 in the second half.
Then there are the balls that aren’t put in play. Hamilton’s strike out rate has gone up from 18.1% in the first half to 20.7% in the second half (MLB average in 2014 is 20.3%). The one positive from Hamilton in the second half is that his walk rate has actually increased from 4.7% in the first half to 6.9% in the second half. That is certainly a good step forward for a guy who is supposed to be the Reds leadoff hitter for the unforeseen future. Hamilton still has a ways to go in that regard though, as the MLB average walk rate in 2014 is 7.7%.
More likely than not, Hamilton has just come back down to the planet Earth in the second half. After all, it was fairly insane that a player who posted a .660 OPS at AAA in 2013 was able to put up a .743 OPS by the all-star break in the big leagues.
Hamilton is still a valuable player at the major league level, even if he is still a below average hitter. Hamilton has put up a 3.5 fWAR, good for 11th best among MLB CF. Most of that value comes from Hamilton’s great defense in a crucial defensive position. Hamilton has 9 Defensive Runs Saved (tied for the 5th most among MLB CF), and a 19.6 UZR/150 (3rd most among MLB CF).
The future is still very bright for Billy Hamilton. However, the Reds should give serious consideration to bringing in someone to hit leadoff, and moving Hamilton down in the order in 2015. Hamilton’s defensive value certainly makes him the Reds everyday CF in 2015, but he is a below average offensive player at this point in his career. The Reds shouldn’t allow a below average offensive player to get the most plate appearances in 2015.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs (include games played through 9/16/14). For more information on the wRC+ statistic and others, visit Fangraphs website.