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.

Billy Hamilton

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 Score 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.”  In addition, 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.

17 Responses

  1. chezpayton

    I’m sure that I’m biased, but he’s still my vote for ROY over Degrom

  2. Doug Gray

    The complete lack of power is what jumped out to me. He went from a .138 IsoP to a .062 IsoP.

    • Nick Kirby

      Yes, that is certainly a crazy jump. Do you think his first half power was a complete fluke, or do you that he could actually have a little power at the MLB level?

      • Doug Gray

        I once said if he hits 10 HR in the big leagues (over a season), that I would be shocked. I stand by that. His first half with 5 HR was a big surprise.

        If he turned into a 35/15/5 guy, that would be a good ceiling for him IMO. His swing would need to be completely reworked for him to have much power. Right now his power zone is low and in. It’s easy to drop the bat head there and carry the bat speed through the zone. He can’t do that anywhere else in the zone. His swing isn’t as fluid anywhere else.

  3. CP

    I agree completely that Billy should be moved down in the order. This may be arguing semantics, but I disagree that the Reds should bring in someone specifically to hit leadoff. The Reds, outside of 2013, are stuck in this fantasy/classic idea of what a leadoff should look like. Just bring in good hitters, and the order will work itself out.

    Billy’s numbers are stunningly close to his AAA numbers. His power has actually slightly increased. I can’t say I’m real optimistic he will improve significantly at the plate, but his defense has been amazing.

    • tct

      “Just bring in good hitters, and the order will work itself out.”

      Bravo, good sir, bravo!

      The rigid stereotypes of spots in the batting order and positions was one of the things that drove me crazy about Dusty. His fastest player had to play centerfield and bat first. The number two guy had to be a low power guy who could bunt. Remember 2012 when Cozart and Stubbs batted 1-2 a ton of the time despite having OBP’s below .300? Let’s not go there again. Just find the best hitter you can get in left and not worry about where he will bat. If you get another power guy you could always bat Votto first with Frazier, Bruce, Meso, and new guy behind him. I’d rather see Joey in the 2 spot, but if the choice is Votto leading off or a sub 300 obp guy leading off, I would take Joey.

    • Nick Kirby

      Yes, I certainly agree with this notion. I am all for just putting the 8 best position players on the field, regardless of who fits what spot in the order. I just said “go get a leadoff hitter” because I don’t think Price/Jocketty would move Hamilton down in the order without getting one. I certainly don’t agree at all with that thinking, but I feel pretty confident that is their thinking. I would actually hit Votto leadoff in 2015 if the Reds didn’t acquire anyone better suited for the leadoff spot.

  4. charlottencredsfan

    Hasn’t a thing to do with luck. Any enterprising RLN participant can go look at video when Billy has been awful: post-ASB and first 2 weeks of the season and they will see the same thing: open stance. It kills his power and messes up his timing. There are two good reasons for an open stance: to see the pitcher’s release point with both eyes and provide a timing mechanism. This extra movement is certainly no help to Billy. I believe it makes his bat slow and interferes with his concentration.

    All one has to do is go MLB.com, watch Hamilton in late June and compare it to his technique since the All-Star Game. Billy’s model needs to be Rod Carew not Eric Davis. Carew is the most underrated hitter in my lifetime, Clemente a very close second. Playing in Minnesota will do that.

    • lwblogger2

      My open stance was great for some things but I was a power hitter. A couple negative things that it did though was it made me somewhat vulnerable to balls on the inside corner and also, if my timing got messed up at all, it was very hard to get it back. I ditched it for a little while but it sapped a lot of my power, especially to the opposite field. It also didn’t improve my contact rate enough to make much of a difference so I switched back. A guy like Hamilton needs to keep his movement to a minimum and be very direct to the ball. An open stance is counterproductive to a extremely compact swing, which we all think Hamilton should develop.

  5. al

    He’s also not improving at stealing bases, which was supposed to be a major strength of his, and now is a borderline weakness.

    He just looks overwhelmed right now. He needs more/better coaching, and someone to help him slow the game down. He needs to wait for his pitch when he’s at the plate, and on base. He just doesn’t look like he has much of an idea what he’s doing yet.

  6. Steve Schoenbaechler

    That’s why I’ve always said, I have been entirely impressed with him this season. However, that impression can be short lived if I see the same numbers next season. He does still need to improve.

  7. VaRedsFan

    Some theories to his 2nd half decline:
    1. Wear and tear of the longer season that he has ever played.
    2. Overall lack of offense of the whole team in the 2nd half. Everybody on the team seems to try to win the game in their AB. Trying too hard if there is such a thing.
    3. CNC made a good comment about his stance.

    Even with his slow 2nd half, he has been the 3rd best offensive player on this year’s team…for the year based on expectations….IMO

  8. The Next Janish

    Any thoughts about whether his drop off has anything to do with Votto disappearing about the sametime his numbers nosedived? I think wear has been a big part as the hamilrun has basically gone extinct.

  9. Shchi Cossack

    During spring training, I was strongly against promoting Billy Hamilton to the 25-man roster without demonstrating major league readiness at AAA. Unfortunately, WJ was set on beginning the Hamilton experiment and starting Hamilton’s major league clock. That’s all water over the proverbial baseball dam now. We will be staring down the throat of the 2015 season in 6 months and Hamilton will certainly once again be designated as the starting CF and leadoff hitter for the 2015 Reds.

    With the Reds’ disaster of a season now concluded, I reviewed Hamilton’s offensive performance through the Reds elimination date. Hamilton’s miserable slash line of .256/.298/.364 and less than optimal 71% success rate when stealing with a league leading 23 CS speaks loudly to his difficulties, but WJ promoted Hamilton to lead of and score runs, so I looked closely at his performance related to scoring runs.

    Hamilton has 72 runs score and is tied for 21st in the 15-team NL. Not all the players scoring more runs than Hamilton are leading off, but to me, that point is irrelevant. Hamilton is not even in the top 15 players in the league in scoring runs and that is his designated job. Hamilton scored 0.122 R/PA in 2014. That ranked Hamilton 40th in the 15-team NL for R/PA. That’s even worse than simply counting runs. Hamilton did not even lead the Reds in runs scored (Frazier/79) or R/PA (Bruce/0.132 & Frazier/0.126).

    The problem with simply counting runs is the team dependency for run production. Unless a player drives himself in (i.e. hits a home run), someone else must provide some assistance and we all know that the Reds were woefully deficient during 2014 in driving in runs. I adjusted Hamilton’s R/PA for team factors and generated an Adjusted R/PA stat (R/PA+). Hamilton had a 0.130 R/PA+, 25th in the NL. This still trailed Bruce (0.141/11th) & Frazier (0.135/18th).

    With the data in front of me, I looked at the benefit of stealing bases in run production. To my unmitigated surprise, I found no significant contribution or correlation between successfully stealing bases and scoring runs, not just for Hamilton, for anyone. Slap me silly but I truly believed that stolen bases had a big impact on scoring runs and I freely criticized Dusty for completely shutting down the running game. My bad. The single biggest contributor to successful run scoring is getting on base and nothing else is even significant enough to be relevant. Speed is a contributing factor in scoring runs, but not as base stealing. Speed enables a base runner to take additional bases and that is where speed kills, not base stealing. That is also where speed has the biggest anecdotal impact in creating havoc.

    So to the off season preparations for the 2015 season…

    Billy Hamilton MUST quit giving up outs on the basepaths. If that means he eliminates, or significantly curtails, his steal attempts, then so be it. Hamilton MUST produce better at bats with significantly better plate discipline. During the last 21 games, Hamilton has a 23.75% SO rate, but he also has a 13.75% BB rate. This is what he should have been working on in AAA this season. Hamilton must significantly reduce his SO rate, but he certainly appears to be more focused on working the pitcher and forcing BB during the last 21 games. Hamilton MUST quit hitting fly balls in favor of line drives and ground balls. Hamilton MUST make offensive adjustments during the off season. The Reds already have 2 players (Phillips and Cozart) who must hit at the bottom of the lineup (7th & 8th) in 2015, so Hamilton simply must improve his offensive performance and that means an effective hitting approach. Unfortunately, he must do that during this off season since he never had the chance to do that in AAA and working on it during the 2015 season at the major league level (again!) is not going to serve the offensive needs of the Reds.

  10. wvredlegs

    Could the Reds possibly move BHam to 2B?? Then move him down in the order, and go get two hitters this winter for CF and LF with one batting leadoff. That is if they can move BP’s contract, too. When BHam was a SS in the minors he made many errors, I know. But they were mostly throwing errors where he was rushing many of his throws. That won’t be the case most of the time at 2B. If he were a terrible fielder, I’d say no, but he isn’t really. The way he plays defense in CF, you would think he’d be a suitable replacement for BP at 2B.

    • Shchi Cossack

      I assumed that Hamilton’s errors at SS were throwing errors since he had very good range and athleticism, but I tracked his errors through most of a season (I don’t remember which season) and more than 80% of his errors were fielding errors, not throwing errors.

      • WVRedlegs

        Rats. That idea won’t hold any water then. I need that guy on TV that can seal up a screen door in the bottom of a row boat. I know I read one season that throwing was a problem. Maybe not so much as the glove. Thanks for checking.