The other night, I tweeted this:

Two things:

1. Why aren’t you following me on Twitter? I’m clearly the coolest kid over there.

2. I think Billy Hamilton may actually be my favorite player. And I really didn’t see that coming.

Let’s begin here: no, I don’t think Hamilton is a perfect player. I’m not sure he’s even an average player yet, though I think you could make the argument that he’s above average for a big league centerfielder.

But you can’t ignore that he’s just hitting .256/.283/.350 after slumping over the last couple of weeks. That wOBA of .276 is particularly brutal. He has improved over his 2015 numbers in pretty much every respect, but he still trails his nice little rookie season performance. If I’m going to be honest with you — and I always try — it wouldn’t be difficult to make the argument against Billy Hamilton.

So I’m not saying that Hamilton is the best Reds player. I’m just saying he’s my favorite. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, for reasons I discussed here a couple of weeks ago, I really believe he’s on the upswing:

1. Billy Hamilton is already one of the greatest defensive center fielders on planet earth;
2. He’s also the best baserunner in the game;
3. He’s still very young, and won’t hit his peak for at least a couple more years; and
4. I think we’re seeing real improvement in Hamilton’s approach and production at the plate.

But if you want to know the real reason that Hamilton may have just become my favorite player over the last couple of months? This:

[mlbvideo id=”897288283″ width=”400″ height=”224″ /]

and this:

[mlbvideo id=”910282783″ width=”400″ height=”224″ /]

and this:

[mlbvideo id=”593045883″ width=”400″ height=”224″ /]

(You may have to click on the MLB logo to watch the videos. acts screwy when you try to embed their videos sometimes.)

Those videos are perfect examples of why Hamilton is growing on me. No, he’s not perfect. He has a number of flaws, imperfections which are easy to see both on the field and on the stat sheet. But he’s fun.

He’s just plain fun, that’s all.

I’m not sure I’ve seen a more electric, more exciting player in a Cincinnati Reds uniform in my lifetime. Baseball is supposed to be fun, right?

Listen, I know it has been difficult to watch the Reds this season. The good guys are 32-57, on pace to lose 104 games. The first half of the season has been a long, hard slog through the muck. And it’s often difficult to watch Hamilton, when he’s scuffling at the plate.

But baseball is my escape. And even when they lose, I watch the Cincinnati Reds every night. So I’m always on the lookout for things that are exciting, things that made you sit up and smile. Joey Votto provides those things often. Jay Bruce has given us plenty of excitement. Zack Cozart and Adam Duvall have made us sit up and take notice.

But Billy Hamilton provides more edge-of-the-seat excitement than any player on the roster. More than any player in baseball, maybe. He’s the only guy that can make your jaw drop, be it with his antics on the basepaths or with the glove. He’s the only guy who makes you pay attention, who keeps you from looking away when he’s on first base.

Billy Hamilton is just fun. He’s a comic book superhero, and my favorite player.

(And yes, if he could just get on base more often, he’d be even more fun.)

20 Responses

  1. Charlie Thomas

    I don’t believe in getting rid of Phillips, no one better to play there! Not Peraza.

    • mdhabel

      Phillips will only continue getting worse and Peraza will only continue to get better, if he is given the opportunity

    • Patrick Jeter

      To be honest, given the playing time, Peraza would probably be more productive than Phillips right now.

  2. I-71_Exile

    What Billy does well, he does better than anyone else. That’s worth a lot.

  3. mdhabel

    I didn’t realize how much he has made the extraordinary seem commonplace until Lance posted a listener email on his blog about the most exciting Cincinnati athlete he has ever seen (60+ year old man, so he has seen some of the best).

    Re-watching the videos with that context made Billy seem so much more impressive. I was upset at myself for taking it for granted as much as I have, partially because he is still far from a consistent, well-rounded player.

  4. Patrick Jeter

    The most amazing Billy stat, in my opinion, and perhaps the most amazing stat of all baseball is this…

    Inside Edge Fielding classifies certain plays as having a “remote” chance of being made. In percent terms, they classify these as 1-10% chance of being made.

    Billy has made 6 of those plays this year. Every other CF in baseball combined have made 5. (As of Thursday when I looked it up…)

      • Patrick Jeter

        Yeah, he’s the definition of an outlier.

        Here are all the categories, with Billy’s career %:

        Remote (1-10%): 28.9%
        Unlikely (10-40%): 68.2%
        Even (40-60%): 58.8%
        Likely (60-90%): 90.9%
        Routine: (90-100%): 99.9%

        On the routine bucket, that is 726 out of 727 plays made. Amazing.

        Honestly, I don’t think UZR or DRS captures his true level of skill. That doesn’t mean I don’t somewhat trust what those numbers tells u, but this phenomenon is a common problem with many, many models… they have problems accurately characterizing things at extremes.

  5. cfd3000

    For various reasons I have to watch most Red games on TiVo recorded then fast forwarding. The only portions I always watch at real speed are at bats by Votto and Hamilton, and any time that Hamilton is on base. And Billy is good for a rewind and re watch of some amazing defensive play at least twice a week. Run Billy Run. He’s a lot of fun.

  6. Scott Carter

    I agree, Billy is amazing to watch, I think even more so in the field than, on the bases. It is like watching an amazing tomahawk dunk. He is plain exciting. I am rooting for him to learn how to hit.

    • Remdog

      Tomahawk dunk. I love that analogy! The only other Red I’ve seen in 40 years of watching them that even come close to speed/glove comparison is Eric Davis. The guy could do anything in the field AND used to routinely steal bases standing up! But, of course, unlike Billy, he could almost literally knock the cover off the ball. The most amazingly naturally talented player I’ve ever seen. Sadly, he also like Billy, was very injury prone due to his hell-bent playing style.

      But the fastest guy I ever saw? Deion Sanders. Hands down. Seeing him steal second base one game when I was sitting on the first base line was a revelation for me. I remember he was half way to the bag and then…..he was just THERE. I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes!

      And THAT was the moment I fully realized why he is likely the greatest cornerback in NFL history – CLOSING SPEED. And that’s what Davis had and Hamilton now has. You’re right Chad, along with a Votto at bat, or BP on defense, Billy is really what keeps me watching the Reds whether on offense or defense this year.

      Let’s just pray that the kid can somehow learn to get on base! HE is what makes baseball more than just an athletic chess game. Billy makes it ELECTRIC!

      • Patrick Jeter

        If Billy and Peraza somehow both turned into average-ish hitters, this could be a very fun team to watch into the future. Peraza is nearly as fast as Billy.

      • Jack

        + 10 . You picked the same 3 thst I did. Davis and sanders were fun to watch.

      • Fish

        I was very young when Eric Davis played (in his prime), and I remember him running like Billy, but hitting like Jay Bruce. It is ridiculous to think about.

  7. Brian

    I believe Billy is my favorite player as well. Now that Bruce will be gone soon. Last place team not a great hitter. Probably means he won’t win the gold glove. If he doesn’t win it it will be a crime. He should have won 1 or 2 by now.

  8. Carl Sayre

    I have followed MLB the Reds as my team but I am a baseball fan period. I have been following it for 50 years and because my grandfather was excellent at explaining the game I have understood it that long. I am sure that in that time I am sure I have seen a baserunner score from second on a passed ball but I don’t rememeber if I did. That is speed but mostly that is excitement that is what Hamilton brings. I mean who even tries that? I would love for a better understanding of hitting but GO BILLY THE KID.

  9. Grover Jones

    Best part of that third video is hearing Mike Shannon get it wrong . . .

    Boy does that guy make me grateful for the Reds’ announcers.

  10. lwblogger2

    I’ll add that Hamilton is also an easy guy to root for. I mean, he seems very upbeat and likeable. I’m betting his teammates love him. I have never met him personally but I’d guess he’s a pretty likeable guy.

  11. Redsfan28

    I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve said oh (insert word here) that’s a double and then to follow it up with oh (insert other word) there’s Billy with the grab. He makes so many plays in the outfield look easy. We will really miss his defense if the front office ever give up and cut ties, more so than we probably realize in present moment. Baseball gods don’t grow guys like Billy on trees everyday. I think the kid has so much potential upside that you can’t give up on him. If(big if I know) he ever even hallways figures things out at the plate I think one could argue he could impacts a team close to the likes of a Harper or Trout. What Billy is always going to lack in his home run and doubles power he is going to make up in his base running and defense ability at least for a few years until age catches up with him. Easily the most electrifying Reds player i can actually remember playing (I’m 24). Lots of big if’s in my statement but I’d like to give Billy a couple more years to see if he can figure it out. At worst we have a fringe avg mlb center fielder, at best we have a franchise player. In a present state in which we don’t have a great chance to win the central its a risk we take. And I’m glad because as you Billy is probably my favorite Red to watch also.

  12. dan

    My favorite player is Brandon Phillips because he seems to irritate so many Reds fans. He is the hot sauce to my taco. Just like Votto who get’s the benefit of the doubt as he is unlucky when thing go bad for him, well Votto is my sour cream.