2016 Reds

Liability to Weapon: My Idea for Billy Hamilton

It was nearly 12 years ago in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox made a trade that flew under everyone’s radar; sending Henri Stanley to the Dodgers for utility man and speedster, Dave Roberts.  Part of the reason the trade went nearly unnoticed was because the Red Sox, on that same day traded Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs…but all in all, a small move, that at the time no one could have predicted the ramifications that trade would have on baseball history.  That fall, the Red Sox were down to their final three outs in the 2004 ALCS to their rival Yankees…down three games to nothing…and the greatest closer in history, Mariano Rivera was taking the mound to send the Yankees to the World Series.

Down one run, Kevin Millar led off the 9th inning with a walk and the recently acquired Roberts was inserted as a pinch runner.  The entire world knew Roberts was going to try to steal second base, and after several pickoff attempts, Roberts did exactly that…stealing perhaps the biggest bag in Red Sox history.  Several pitches later, Roberts scored on a single to tie the game, the Red Sox won in extra innings, and would not lose again that post-season.  Winning eight straight games to comeback and beat the Yankees and eventually would go on to sweep the World Series.

I highlight this story because Roberts wasn’t an All-Star Player; he would be a career .256 hitter and play for several teams in his career…but I start with this because Roberts was used in a way that made him a weapon against opposing teams.  He was used in a way that whenever he came into the game, managers and pitchers got tight and distracted and his speed was used as a tool to change games.  Just think if he was as fast as Billy Hamilton…think of the extent of the damage Roberts could have done in his big league career!

For nearly three years we as Reds fans have waited patiently for Billy Hamilton to “figure it out” at the plate; hoping he would perfect his bunting skills, learn to consistently hit the ball on the ground and improve his plate discipline to increase his walk rate.  In 1100 career at-bats, Hamilton’s OBP percentage sits at a sad .288.  In this period of time, Hamilton has still managed to instill fear in opposing teams, swiping 127 bags in only 284 career games while playing Gold Glove caliber defense in center field.  For three years, the Reds have sat back and hoped that Hamilton, still only 25 years old would harness his natural tools to become one of the most dangerous leadoff hitters in baseball, but to this point, that waiting hasn’t produced the results we have all hoped for.  So what to do?  How do the Reds turn this man into the weapon he can be, instead of the liability at the plate he is?

My solution is simple, and luckily for the Reds, the answer is now inside the organization; Jose Peraza.  Acquired this off-season in the three team deal for Todd Frazier, Peraza is currently playing short stop in Triple-A to make sure he gets every day at-bats.  While his current position as a short stop can raise many questions as to the possible future of Cozart within the organization, I would like to see the Reds give this athletic 22 year old a shot at playing center field with the big league club; just like they did with Hamilton three years ago.  Peraza provides similar qualities as Hamilton, with great speed, athleticism and youth, except he gets on base at a clip of .342 in his career, a number that would suit the Reds much better at the top of the lineup.

If the Reds were willing to give Peraza a shot at CF with the big league club, a position he has played in the past, this could dramatically change the composition of the Reds lineup as well as make them a much more feared and complete team late in games.  As we all know, the Reds currently have a thin bench; there is no legitimate power threat, no guy you would trust to lay down a bunt when called on, and no one you would want to be able to insert to steal a base when it is most needed.  This is why I propose taking Hamilton out of the everyday starting lineup and putting him on the bench, to be the weapon he can be, that can affect and change any game at any time.  Imagine having Hamilton always available and at the ready when you need a perfectly placed bunt put down…or when a guy like Mesoraco or Bruce gets on base late in a close game, to have Hamilton to insert on first base to swipe second…or as a late inning defensive substitute to sure up the outfield.  Placing Hamilton on the bench and hitting Peraza leadoff would give the Reds a deeper, more dangerous bench, and allow other Reds starters, like Cozart, to hit in a spot in the order more suitable to his skills.

In a perfect world, Hamilton would already be getting on base at a much higher rate and be the dynamic leadoff man we all want him to be, but as of right now, he is more of a liability with three or four at-bats every game then he is a weapon.  Let Hamilton continue to work on his game, day after day, and in the meantime, give him a role he can accept and flourish in.  There is still plenty of time for Hamilton to round out his game and improve his approach at the plate, but in the meantime, let’s see what Peraza can do for the Reds in the leadoff spot while we turn Hamilton into the weapon he was meant to be.

52 thoughts on “Liability to Weapon: My Idea for Billy Hamilton

  1. I still think it’s a tad too early to completely give up on Hamilton but this good be a decent succession plan if he continues to struggle but the end of this year.

    • This is where I am at on the subject as well. If the Reds were trying to win a pennant this year, then I could get behind it. This year however, we need to find out once and for all if Hamilton will hit enough. He needs the majority of the season to show rather he can or cannot.

  2. I was thinking the same thing after watching today’s game. He would be a great late game defesive replacement or come off the bench to steal a base late in a close game. I also believe that a trip to AAA to make him want to work on things. Sent him down and make him earn his way back up to Mlb.

  3. I like this idea in theory, but you know how it would work in practice:

    1. slow runner singles
    2. Billy replaces him as a pinch runner
    3. next batter sacrifice bunts him to second.

  4. Why wait until late in game? Put him in on the bases after the second or third time through the line up with less than two outs and change the game. Stats say he will score over 60% of the time which has s as close as you get to a sure thing in baseball.

  5. For the last few years the Reds have assumed Billy is the CF of the “future,” or perhaps of “the next good Reds team.” I think it’s time to realize that may not be the case.

    Consider spring training. He was handed the starting job. He didn’t win it. Seems strange for a guy who hasn’t proved himself in the bigs, right?

    As some above have noted, due to the fact that his defense and base running (when he does get on base) make him a 2.5 WAR or so player over a full season, they should keep playing him, but not pen him in as the CF of destiny. They need to look for an improvement… that might be Jose Peraza. It might be someone else. Either way, the days of assuming Billy will be in the lineup for the next Reds playoff team should be over.

    • If Peraza is a true leadoff hitter, leave him at SS! Peraza and Billy are better than Cozart and Peraza, if you Look at the total value. If Peraza is a 1-2 WAR player at SS on defense, and Hamilton is 2.5 WAR on defense then why switch positions? Both are probably 1-2 WAR on offense, but Zach is negative on offense. Cozart should also never bat at the top of the order! I think they know he already is on his way out of here, which is why he is currently batting leadoff.

      • I completely disagree on the Cozart point. He had a very good year last year before getting injured. Was he overachieving, probably, but he his stats rank him as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, and everything so far this year, in a small sample size, suggests he can be at least an average offensive weapon. In my mind, Peraza’s only option to start is another injury or Hamilton loosing his job.

        • Billy’s paltry career OBP is still better than Cozart’s career OBP. Cozart has not business leading off. Neither does Hamilton, but at least with Hamilton you can point to the disruptive speed.

          I like the idea of calling up Peraza to play CF, but only with the caveat that Hamilton goes down to AAA. According to BBref Hamilton came into the year with 2.028 years of service time. If I recall correctly, 172 days makes a full year. If Hamilton is on the roster less than 144 days the Reds could gain another year of control. The justification to send him down would be easy enough, as he needs to work on hitting. If the Reds send him down, call Peraza up, and wait to bring Billy back up at/around the trade deadline (if they can move Cozart or Bruce) I think it would be advantageous for the organization.

      • I’m not talking about “right now,” although if you were going to try and win right now, Peraza would probably play into it just because he’s more likely to break out and have a huge season than Cozart, even if both of them are pretty unlikely to “break out.”

        What I was getting at is that it seem like the Reds FO has already penned (not penciled) Billy’s name in as starting CF for the next 3 years. I’m saying they shouldn’t do that. But they also shouldnt’ give up on him because he’s still a useful player.

  6. Anyone ever think that if he added an extra 20-30 lbs of muscle to his core, chest and arms that Hamilton would drive the ball harder and capitalize on the extra hits that he would gain? What I see now is a young, somewhat weak 160 lb man who’s lucky to hit the ball out of the infield. I think that the added muscle would turn him into a line drive hitter and fixing his OBP. Sounds too simple but sometimes we overlook the simple and obvious solution.

    • Power, in my understanding, comes mainly from the legs. People who can run as fast as Billy are not weak. He has hit homers, so he’s capable of hitting the ball that far. Maybe the problem is with his approach at the plate. I don’t know. But I do know that it’s a mistake to assume that people who are not obviously muscular are weak; I’ve worked in the woods and climbing trees with skinny guys who were very strong.

      • From experience, I am sure Billy’s speed is linked to the fact that he weighs so little. If he gained 20 lbs he would lose a lot of speed.

        • Really skinny, light runners, tend to be distance runners. Sprinters are not light.

        • Come, on. Just because you’re small does not mean you’re fast. Billy is naturally a great athlete, and that’s why he’s so fast. There are a few pitchers who are that short and skinny, and that does not mean they have the same speed as Billy. Hamilton is a great athlete who has speed that cannot be taught, a la Ricky Henderson. I think that if he gained some muscle, he may lose some speed if it was significant, but it would not mean that he would lost a lot of speed. There are plenty of receivers in football who weigh more than Billy, who still maintain a pretty high speed.

      • Like Gaffer alludes to, I think there are two types of speed. Billy’s speed is most likely derived from the fact that he has a very low body weight, good flexibility in his hamstrings and quads, and a lot of fast-twitch muscle (acceleration). Olympic sprinters, for example, are sometimes muscle-bound behemoths (like a Michael Johnson type) and sometimes they are lean and svelt (like Usain Bolt).

        Billy would probably get slower if he gained muscle due to being in the first category. Just an unprofessional guess, though. Also, it might be possible that Billy can’t really get bulkier Some people just can’t carry extra weight like others.

        As far as power goes, there are many ways to generate power. Swing mechanics are probably the most important. What physical strength gives you, in my opinion, is more room for error. Yes, Billy can probably hit the ball 415 feet in perfect situation hitting the ball right on the sweet spot. With more physical strength, I’d bet the “theoretical” sweet spot would be larger, meaning you are more likely to hit the ball far/hard since you don’t need to rely on perfect contact. This is all conjecture, though.

        I think this is a fun topic.

        • It is a fun topic, and your conjecture about room for error makes sense to me. Power hitting probably isn’t a realistic or necessary goal for Billy, but it would be good if he could get on base, wouldn’t it?

      • Yes, he needs to Squat and drink a lot of milk. Stealing bases isn’t only about speed, it’s about timing. And neither matters if he’s not on base. so if he could get on base more by adding strength and size (and the steroid era suggests one can), the he could more than make up for any loss in speed in exchange for the gained strength. That said, those who say speed isn’t a function of weight are correct. A perfect object lesson would have been Bo Jackson, who no one can claim was slow.

        • But a lot of those guys, especially the non-stars, used PEDs because they couldn’t put on the muscle mass naturally.

    • A good slap-hitting singles guy will do Billy, and the Reds, just fine. That’s demands bat control, pitch selection, hand-eye coordination, etc. With all the pressure on him now, though, I’m sure he goes up there not sure what to do.

    • It’s not all about the muscle mass, although it could possibly increase his power if he were able to add the muscle mass. That said, not everyone can really put on weight like that. Maybe Hamilton just doesn’t add muscle mass easily, or perhaps at all.

  7. He’s had plenty of time to prove he is an everyday player. He isn’t. Utility player and pinch runner is this guys future. Time for the Reds to move him out of the everyday lineup and see what else we got.

    • Alternative solution is to introduce him to Barry Bonds strength and conditioning team.

  8. Dan, he’s just past two seasons and less than 25 years old. He’s an elite base runner and fielder. An interesting comparison: Ozzie Smith also had his first full season at age 23 and didn’t even come close to hitting .260 until his age 30 season. but between the age of 25 and 29 he won 5 gold gloves and went to 4 all star games…..mostly based on defense and running.

    Hamilton’s an interesting case of mass potential with a limiting regulator (BA). IMO he already contributes enough to start everyday on this team. The only problem is that many baseball fans are accustomed to certain prototype players and Hamilton doesn’t fit the mold of any of them. At the beginning of 1982 the Cardinal’s traded the Padre’s for Smith (a man who hit .222 0 HR 22 SB 21 RBI 53R in 1981 at age 26) and smith went on to help the Cardinals to 3 World Series and one ring.

    Hamilton isn’t a SS and he may never become Ozzie Smith but he has the potential and the tools to do so and at this current point in his career he offers plenty to a team with the right setup.

    • While I have my moments of being impatient, I agree that Billy is still young, has the plus of being a top defender and thus, I am willing to give him some more time to develop. If he could get up to a .300-.320 OBP he would be a force with his speed.

    • and right about the time he starts to blossom he’ll be helping another team. Sorry but with the way free agency comes and once these kids hit arbitration they break the bank even if they can’t hit for a lick. He very well may be the next Ozzie Smith but he won’t develop in time for us to benefit so might as well trade him or use him as a super utility guy. Keep his at bats and games limited and he just might stay affordable for the penny pinching Reds.

      • We’re benefitting right now. And, absolutely, 5 and 1, tied for first, let’s blow it up.

        • We have other options. Good thing too. His arm is looking like a liability in the outfield as well. Sure he is blazing fast which enables him to cover a lot of ground. But a smart CF and intelligent coaching can certainly help by better fielding placement against each batter. I think with BHam they just let him setup wherever and trust that his speed will make up the difference.
          I was a huge fan of Billy when he first came up. Thought he would be the next Ron Leflore or Vince Coleman. Well that notion is long gone after watching how weak he is. Seems like he can barely hold a bat. Seriously why isn’t this kid hitting the weights and bulking up some? Each season it would appear that the Reds come up with a speed demon that can’t hit but can play some D. Before BHam it was Drew Stubbs. Before Stubbs it was that guy who could play 3B and SS and had good speed. There is always a speedster maybe not as fast as Billy but basically the same mold.

        • Dan: Do you know for a fact that he isn’t hitting the weights or being positioned in the field? Not everybody gets bulky when they lift, and even Billy isn’t fast enough to get to everything that he catches without starting from a reasonable position. No argument that he is not a good hitter, but I doubt that we know why. It’s not a simple discipline.

  9. The Reds have no bullpin, so trade Billy, while he still has some value, for a good releaver, and put Peraza in CF, and as long as our offense stands tall then we will be able to make a run at the playoffs.

    • Why do some of you “fans” keep on insisting on trading away players year in and year out? Let’s trade Phillips; Let’s trade Bruce: Lets Trade Votto; Let’s trade Hamilton…….Peraza has limited time in the MLB with most of his time spent in the minors. How about we let him develop and place him left field and fill in in the infield when he’s ready. As far as trading Phillips to make room for him…..HUGE MISTAKE and the same can be said about trading Hamilton. You’re trading alot of plus side defense for a rookie. You can’t build a good team by trading talent for prospects every time!

      • It works both ways…..trading Bruce at a low point would’ve been a mistake but picking up Suarez for 1 yr of an aging Alfredo Simon is working out ok!!
        As for Hamilton….leave him in the 9 hole and see what happens? Cozart isn’t a good option for a leadoff hitter so if Hamilton continues to struggle then I’d like to see some of a Schebler/Holt platoon in CF/leadoff.

        • I totally agree. Billy has NO trade value, provides good value as a defensive CF batting in the 9 hole, and is still cheap. Since we have a decent hitting C we can afford a hole in the lineup (especially one at the bottom of the order who does not clog bases like Ryan Hannegan did). The problem is SS, we need a top of the order hitter there an we will be fine. Maybe, just maybe Peraza???????????

        • Gaffer, your statement contradicts itself.

          You say he provides good value as a defensive CF (base running also) and is cheap. Right before that you said he has no trade value.

          A cheap 2+ WAR player certainly does have trade value.

        • Trade value is what other teams perceive, or more importantly, what they will pay. Hamilton is a running joke nationally (I watch the out of town broadcasts). My point is not that I don’t think he has real value, but I doubt very much that we could get a 2-4 WAR player in trade for him. Most teams don’t value base running as much as us(or defense to some degree). So, I think we are better served to improve other positions like SS and corner OF before we just get rid of BHam and have no one to replace him (or worse yet put Peraza in CF instead of using him at SS). I would trade BHam in a heartbeat if we got good value.

      • Regarding the reference to “How about we let him (referring to Peraza) develop and place him left field and fill in in the infield when he’s ready,” I have this question:

        Why not let Hamilton develop in AAA also, as has been suggested elsewhere? How long does he have to demonstrate that he can’t hit MLB pitching? Again, if we need his glove/base running to contend, that’s one thing. But why waste Billy’s service time when there is a chance he could become a more complete player for when the Reds really could compete?

  10. I think this makes sense but it might not make sense this year in order to maximize service time. But, before all of that, I think the Reds need to allow Billy to at least try batting from the right hand side. He seems so much more comfortable from the right side. He’s numbers bear this out but reducing his focus might create even more improvement. He’s so fast that if he can get on base on a .300 clip, he can be a heck of a weapon. His speed changes baseball math. I’d like to see analysis of his opportunity to score in the 24 Batting/Out scenarios — my guess is he warps those numbers. So, before pulling him from the everyday line up, I’d at least let him reduce his focus to batting from the right side and see if we can’t get his OBP to .300.

    • Agree, we KNOW Billy cant hit LH so what is the advantage of being a little closer to first base. You have to make contact to run. RH he may still hit .250 but at least it will be putting some pressure on the defense.

  11. While I agree Billy should give up switch hitting, let’s not act like he’s some sort of virtuoso from his natural side.

    Career vs L: .249/.283/.364
    Career vs R: .238/.289/.316

    He picked up 48 points in slugging (a nice boost) and loses 6 points in OBP, which is strange, but is entirely from his 4.3% vs 6.7% walk rate.

    • the most puzzling thing to me about the switch hitting is that he started doing it as a joke during minor league batting practice – then the coaches were like oh wow he has a decent swing lets make him a switch hitter. Comes back to the root of why the reds are where they are as an organization: Coaching/scouting is just not good enough right now. I bet if billy was with the cardinals he’d be an all star already.

  12. In year’s past, I would have completely agreed about the bench having major limitations. For the first time in forever, though I actually think the Reds can have a solid bench. Whoever is not playing between Schebler and Duvall can be counted on for power. Holt can be called upon to steal a base or be a late inning defensive replacement. And, FWIW, I’d be comfortable having either Holt or DeJesus PH to lay down a bunt. I think the bench gets better once Pacheco is no longer there as well.

    This doesn’t mean that Hamilton wouldn’t make the bench stronger, but it may make his contributions more specific, if not limited. He contributes a lot by being a stellar defender in CF for 9 innings.

  13. Put me in the camp of trading either Hamilton or Cozart, as one of their low OBP can be covered in the lineup much easier than 2. I think Hamilton is the obvious choice there, considering age and other options the Reds have at SS. I don’t think selectively sitting him against certain pitchers would hurt either and then inserting him in the lineup mid-late in those games where he certainly can still have a large impact.

  14. I think this post is a little crazy to be honest. If the Reds were in contention it might make some sense. But this team is still expected to be below average, so why would they rush a prospect to play out of position?

    • I agree.

      This year is about determining who can play. If they happen to win a few more games than expected …..great. The dumbest thing they could do right now is to make moves to win some extra games. This is still Step 1….who can actually play.

  15. They asked Tampa Bay Bucs coach John McKay what he thought about his teams execution and he said “I’m in favor of it”! That’s about the same as someone giving me the skinny on Billy Hamilton. His speed is special and he seems like a great kid but I see no reason why he isn’t atleast 170 lbs of muscle right now with modern wieght training and nutrition. MLB tonite was showing yesterday how Story from Colorado has greatly increased his power thru weight gain. He’s so weak now that the corner infielders are almost parallel with the pitcher so bunting is almost impossible? He’s not really a hacker and will take a walk but no reason to nibble until he proves he can hurt you.

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