As you might imagine, my interest was piqued when I saw this tweet:

So, of course, I clicked on the link (I’m a sucker like that). I wasn’t disappointed:

As we did with home runs and throws, we’re going to use Statcast™ to take a look at 2016’s most interesting moments on the basepaths. Why wouldn’t we? Now that we can measure lead distances and run times in ways we’ve never been able to before, the stories start to write themselves.

Immediately, however, there’s a complication: Billy Hamilton. In much the same way that you can’t write about pitch velocity without being overwhelmed by Aroldis Chapman data, this article could very easily be “20 ways in which Hamilton is the fastest man you’ve ever seen play baseball.” Hamilton’s speed is such that he has the fastest tracked times on…

• Home to first (non-bunt), 3.61 seconds
• Home to second, 7.28 seconds
• Home to third, 10.45 seconds
• First to third, 5.24 seconds
• First to home, 8.23 seconds

… plus probably about 10 other things, not to mention that he held the record for the fastest home-to-home on an over-the-wall home run, until Adam Rosales took that in the final week of the season, and he made what very possibly was the best catch of the year due to his blazing speed. So let’s just agree to agree that Hamilton is the baddest runner around, and do our best to find some non-Hamilton running feats. There are other players, you know.

Go look at the rest of it. Petriello didn’t ignore Hamilton the rest of the way, and there’s some really fun video embedded in the piece.

You know what struck me, however? Who are the three players mentioned in that intro? Billy Hamilton. Aroldis Chapman. Adam Rosales. What do those three have in common?

Blame Chad for creating this mess.

Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

You can email Chad at

Join the conversation! 78 Comments

  1. One of my favorite Red’s players….my heart rate always ticks up a few notches every time BHam gets to first base.And those catches he makes in CF are just eye popping,this Org really did catch lightening in a bottle when they moved him from SS to CF the proverbial round peg into the round hole.Get this guy on base and keep him off DL and suddenly Reds are an entirely different team…and batting him back to back with Reds other SB threat Jose Peraza and suddenly Bryan Price has umteen options with guys on base.Never has been and never will be anything wrong with the “get ’em on get ’em over get ’em in” style of baseball and (IMHO) this is the offense strategy Reds are going to with this roster….

    • I loved Eric Davis but Hamilton is something else out in CF.

      • I believe Billy is as good center fielder as I have ever seen play and that includes Eric Davis. Love to watch him play center field but I cringe every time he dives for a ball or runs full bore into that CF wall…he’s gotta play smarter than that or he won’t have a very long MLB career.And that would be a real shame….

  2. Billy’s going to break the bank if you don’t sign him soon.

    • This doesn’t make any sense to me. The guys hasn’t even been able to get on base let alone hit. All the talk of preserving the team budget, and some want to give a long contract to a defensive specialist / bench player.(to this point in his career) I understand his value is tremendous on the bases and defensively. You win games by scoring runs and preventing runs. He does one and not the other. You can find those type of players making small contracts across MLB or a fast youngster who hasn’t developed a hit tool. Billy is unique and his potential is awe inspiring, but spending money on potential is exactly how the Reds continue to be this poor for several more years. The guy needs to show he can be counted on before he gets signed long term.

      • BH has potential to be the most valuable position player on this team and he showed big improvements in his OBP in 2016 over 2015 which may be significant (thanks in part to Joey Votto if you believe what you read) .But for some reason he can’t keep from banging into CF wall….that’s on top of being a base stealer which carries it’s own risk of ending up on DL.A long term contract would be risky…guess it would depend on the amount of $$$ Billy would need and the term.I know one thing for certain…if Red’s let BH get away and another team made him into the next Vince Coleman…fans would howl…

        • You don’t build a club on potential. The guys with potential on the resume are rookies and in the minor leagues. Why not trade for the guys with the most potential around MLB. Then you would have a team of BH’s. Hey let’s sign Robert Stephenson to a long term deal before he gets expensive too! Billy hasn’t done anything that can’t be easily replaced in terms of total production. We need a leadoff hitter. This year and next year is to show if he can be the player we hope or the player we fear. Signing him now is foolish at worst and an extreme gamble at best.

      • Your argument discounts his stats for the 2nd half of the season. Maybe those were an anomaly, or maybe they reflect growth and a change in his approach.

        • And when you are rebuilding, as the Reds are, guys with potential are precisely the guys to sign.

        • Exactly…you sign guys like Billy Hamilton because you can’t afford to sign guys like Dexter Fowler.Only other alternative I see here is Scott Schebler can play CF and Reds are looking for a spot for Jesse Winker so there’s that.Some of the “Big Inning” baseball guys here might see that as an upgrade but not sure I do….

  3. ….long term…soon

  4. The Braves and Phillies have given their young CF’s contract extensions. Time for GM (and new POBO) to quit twiddling his thumbs and get an appropriate offer to BHam. Lock him up for next 5 years.

    • Huge difference in players. Herrera and Inciarte have shown they can hit and play defense. Hamilton has only demonstrated one of those. Billy Hamilton is not a snowflake. It’s not that hard to imagine the Reds finding a suitable replacement – a good fielding CF who can also hit – over the next few years.

      Opportunity for me to be wrong: Hamilton raises his OBP to .350 this year.

      • Now a .350 OBP from BHam, that would be nice. But then his price goes up when that happens. I would think. Unfortunately, I don’t see a CF in the Reds minor league system worthy of mentioning as a BHam replacement until you get down to Taylor Trammell and TJ Friedl, rookie ball. Ervin cannot hit minor league pitching, so there isn’t any sense projecting that he’ll ever hit ML pitching.
        Buy low now, and sell high if a replacement materializes down the road.
        The bad thing with BHam, is his great defense affects his offense. With all those nagging injuries he gets from diving for the baseball in the outfield, it has to have had some negative affect on his hitting.
        If Hamilton and Peraza are both able to get on-base at a .350 clip in front of Votto, things will get interesting. Fingers and toes are crossed.

      • I’d consider locking him up for sure – but not at the value established by those two deals. I fear playing copycat is how you get longterm deals that don’t work out.

        I agree with the sentiment that Billy’s speed is jaw dropping, but less valuable than it appears. If we were building a 4×200 relay team, I’d be super excited BHam was on our team. Speed only wins you games when it scores runs, or prevents them, otherwise in baseball it’s a wasted superpower, like X-ray vision.

        • Billy is one of the best in baseball at preventing runs. As for scoring runs: when he got on base last year, he scored about 45 % of the time. League average was around 29%. So for every 100 times on base, Billy is scoring about 16 more runs than an average player. He had a league average on base rate last year. Elite baserunning, average on base potential, and well below average power made for an exactly league average offensive player last year. For an elite defender at an up the middle position, that is very valuable.

          So I dont get how his speed is wasted.

          • … when he got on base …

            I’d score a bunch of runs hitting in front of Joey Votto.

        • Really, Steve? Alright, I will bite.

          First off, league average OBP for Billy so its not like he wasn’t getting on base.

          Second, he had a .357 OBP when he hit leadoff. So when he actually hit at the top of the lineup, he was getting on plenty.

          Third, Votto is one hitter in the lineup. The only well above average hitter in the lineup. Overall the Reds lineup was bad. When Votto is criticized for not getting enough ribbies, the retort, and rightfully so, is that the rest of the lineup is bad so he doesn’t get the chances. But when it comes to Hamilton scoring runs, its because there is one elite hitter in the lineup? How many runs could Billy have scored in the Cubs lineup?

          Fourth, no you wouldn’t score a bunch of runs hitting in front of Votto. You have an obvious bias when it comes to Hamilton and for all your talk about analytics, you throw them out the window when the data doesn’t fit your preconceived notions or biases.

          • What you call “obvious bias” is just disagreement with you. Not everyone who disagrees is biased. Bias – to me – means the person has a reason not to tell the truth that is more powerful than norms for telling truth. Example: A mother who lies and says her daughter didn’t commit a murder is biased by her love of her daughter. The tobacco lobbyist who says cigarettes aren’t harmful is biased by his/her paycheck. A fan who says Player X is amazing might be biased by his/her fan-status. What exactly is my motivation to be biased against Billy Hamilton? Just because I’m not part of the OMG! Billy Hamilton Choir doesn’t make me biased.

            Again, is the fact that I’m against a 5-year guaranteed contract for a player who hasn’t proven he can play an injury-free season out of three, or who has a career wRC+ 28 percent below league average, mean that I’m throwing analytics and data out the window to be “detractor.”

            Good grief, I just have a different assessment than you do about Hamilton. But I’m a “detractor” and have “obvious bias.” Can’t someone just disagree without the name-calling?

        • Who is name calling? Certainly not me. All I said was that you had a bias. That is not name calling. That is my opinion and i stand by it. I think you are biased against players who derive most of their value from athleticism, speed in particular, in general, and against Hamilton in particular. Why? Beats me. But I can’t otherwise explain how a seemingly rational person acts so irrational against one player.

          You dont want the Reds to give Hamilton an extension? Fine. Perfectly valid opinion. There is real risk there and considering that the skills Hamilton has haven’t historically been rewarded extravagantly in arbitration, the upside might not be worth the risk. I think the reward is worth the risk, but reasonable minds can differ on that.

          What I have a problem with is your constant derision of anything, or anyone, that suggests Hamilton is a valuable ballplayer. I have provided numbers and facts to back up my argument. You haven’t. You have resorted to implications that Hamilton has not been nearly as good as Inciarte, which is false, and that anyone could score runs at a high rate hitting in front of Votto, also false.

          I am not just making this up and not doing this for kicks. Furthermore, I am not the only one who has noticed it. There is real condescension in your tone towards Hamilton and everyone who supports him.

          • I suppose “irrational” is another example of not name-calling. You’ve accused me of being “obviously biased” and “irrational” oh, and condescending. My 9th grade English teacher would have called that irony. Evaluating tone online is a pretty flimsy business. Dude, stick to defending your own opinions. Please don’t characterize me or my opinions (“your constant derision of anything, or anyone, that suggest Hamilton is a valuable player”) in a personal way. Yes, I make fun of Chad and others in the OMG Billy Hamilton group. I guess Chad knows me well enough to know it’s playful ribbing. You don’t know me at all. Again, quit talking about me here. Stick to talking about the Reds.

            I have a long record of skepticism about no-power centerfielders who hit for decent average, were speedy, but have no walk skills. I was down on Willy Taveras. And Ben Revere. If that’s a bias, big deal. But it’s not against Billy Hamilton “in particular”. It’s against that type of player.

            I’m pretty sure the last time we went through this, you said “see, see, Billy Hamilton led the majors with 8.1 runs added from stolen bases, it’s at FanGraphs” and I said, yeah that’s right and 8.1 runs above average doesn’t even add up to one win. You said “Billy would have caught other players if he’d played more” and I listed a handful of CF who would have caught Billy in WAR if they had played more. And you went silent. Remember that? So I thought we were done with the statistics part of the argument.

        • You just made up a fake argument. You never had that argument with me, man. I never said those things. Maybe you had it with someone else, I dont know. If making up arguments and attributing them to someone who is simply disagreeing with you isn’t irrational, then what is?

        • What I actually said is nothing like the way you represented it. And I dont really get what you are trying to argue. There was no opinion in what I said, just facts and numbers. As far as I can remember, Billy has been the most valuable baserunner in baseball the past two years. What are you arguing about?

      • Inciarte has put up 9.5 wins in 381 games. Hamilton has 9.3 wins in 398. Inciarte hits a little better. Hamilton has more value on the bases. With baserunning factored in, they were both essentially league average offensive players last year.

        Inciarte has never put up a wRC over 100. Hamilton, Herrera, and Inciarte are all 3-4 win center fielders right now.

        • What you present here brings up something I’ve been wondering about, do teams pay less for WAR earned defensively than they do for WAR earned offensively? I have no data to back it up, but I’ve always felt like players get paid for their offensive stats, not their defensive stats, at least not to the same degree. This has always been my assumption as to why the Reds have prioritized defense over hitting when evaluating players, because 1 WAR is 1 WAR whether it comes from defense or offense and if you can accumulate WAR defensively for say $4 million per WAR rather than $8 million per WAR offensively, then as a small to mid market team that’s a way to accumulate more WAR for less money. And I’m thinking less about the cost of free agents here, and more about what players earn in arbitration. If you know your players will earn less during their arbitration years, but provide you the same overall value because their value is being derived more from defense, then you’ve found a market inefficiency to exploit.

          • This is an important question. There have been a few contracts lately where it seems teams were paying for defense. Jason Heyward is one example. Alex Gordon might be another.

            Do Federal arbitrators value dWAR the same as oWAR?

        • MLB Trade Rumors has this on their website explaining how they project arbitration salaries. Based on that, it sounds like defensive WAR is completely undervalued in the arbitration process, and as a result it makes sense to get as much war that way from your players during the cost controlled years.

          “Another quirk to the arbitration process is that it usually only factors in “baseball card statistics” rather than more sophisticated metrics. While teams signing free agents are typically up to speed on sabermetrics, the arbitration process does not account for them. Counting stats are important, as is playing time in general. Since labor lawyers typically sit on arbitration panels, the concept of “making it to work every day” is something that holds value.”

          “Hitters are typically evaluated using batting average, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases and plate appearances. There are some positional adjustments, but typically the added defensive value of a shortstop relative to a first baseman is not as important in arbitration hearings as it is on the free agent market.”

      • I think the counterpoint here, is if you can sign Hamilton to an extension based on what he’s been over the last three years, then you’re paying for what you know you’re going to get, great defense with limited offense. You avoid the hassles of arbitration and provide cost certainty over the next 3-4 years. It’s very unlikely he performs at a level worse than what he’s done over the last three years, but there is some potential for him to become better offensively (see 2nd half of 2016). So, very little risk with potential for some reward from a front office perspective. Now, if Hamilton only wants an extension if he’s going to be paid as though he’s the offensive player from the second half of last year, then I want him to prove it to me, and I don’t sign him until I see that for at least a full season.

        I do disagree with the assertion that it’s not that hard to imagine the Reds finding a good fielding CF who can also hit. Choo could hit, but was the worst defensive CF in the league. Hamilton, Stubbs, Taveras, Patterson couldn’t hit. The last player that might fit that description would have been Josh Hamilton in 2007, and that depends on how you feel about his defense in CF. In 2007 his dWar is 0.1 per baseball-reference, and that includes time at the corner outfield positions, although most of his games were in center, and he only played about half a season. His dWar is negative after that except 2010, and by that time he was mostly a corner outfielder. So, I wouldn’t consider him a “good” fielding CF. Junior was in center before Hamilton, but his dWar is also negative until you go back to 2000 for his only positive dWar as a Red at 1.3. Granted he was awesome defensively with Seattle, just wasn’t that player any longer by the time he got to the Reds. I didn’t bother to check UZR or other defensive metrics to see if there was something else that said any of these guys were “good” fielding CF. I’m assuming a guy with a less than average defensive rating isn’t a “good” fielding CF, maybe you feel differently about this. But I look it as they’ve gone over 15 years without a good fielding CF who could hit. If it were that easy to get one, they’d have had one in the last 15 years.

      • Billy Hamilton is not the best CF in baseball. He is not even an elite player yet, although all it would take is a full healthy season and a little good fortune from the BABIP gods to push him into the 4-5 win range which could be considered elite.

        But I object to the whole “Billy Hamilton is not a snowflake” thing. In the literal sense, no, he is in fact not a snowflake. He is a fast human being. But in the figurative sense? The whole thing with snowflakes is that they are unique, right? Hamilton is completely unique and he can do things that nobody else in baseball can do. In that sense, he is a snowflake.

        Billy was the second best player on the team by WAR last year. There is nobody in the entire organization who would be expected to produce more value in center than Billy. There is no one, outside of possibly Fowler, in the free agent market who should be expected to produce more value in center than Billy, not to mention the difference in costs between Billy and a free agent.

        3-4 win center fielders do not grow on trees. Hamilton is not completely irreplaceable. But outside of Trout, who is? The Reds are getting great value for their money in Billy, so why all the angst? Production out of CF is not the issue with this team. They have far greater worries.

        • No angst. Not like I’m for cutting him. He’s under team control for three more years with or without an extension. The arbitration process isn’t that big of a deal financially relative to a negotiated extension. Given the uncertainty involving Hamilton’s recurring health problems and not having proven his ability to be an average major league hitter, I’m against the Reds offering him a guaranteed contract for 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. Hamilton didn’t even hit as well last year as he did in 2014.

          I wish someone who is in favor of giving Hamilton a contract extension would be specific about the terms they’d like to see. And then compare that to what Hamilton could make in arbitration for the first three years of that deal. I doubt there’s much difference.

          • Are any of the people who are complaining about the Phillips, Votto, Mesoraco and Bailey contracts the same people who are in favor of giving Billy Hamilton a 5-year deal?

        • I don’t know what the terms of the extension would be, but I’m saying there is possible benefit to extending him through his arb years if you can agree on numbers that are basically what he would get in arbitration based on his performance over the last three years. I don’t know what that is, 3 years for a $15 million total? I see 2.3 million is his projection for this year. I don’t know if there’s anything that provides projects for years out in the future. I’m just assuming he’d get another decent bump the year after and the year after that. $15 million might be high. It’s low risk, because that’s probably his floor; so, you should feel good about not getting burned by it. It gives you cost certainty to plan for extensions to other players over the next 3+ years. And the second half of last year gives you hope that there is offensive upside to his game still, if he can duplicate it.

          Now, he might not want to sign that extension and bet that he duplicates the last half of 2016 for all of 2017, thereby earning himself more money. Or he might want to guarantee that at the least he gets the kind of money that sets him for the rest of his life in the event he should suffer a catastrophic injury or flame out in the next year or two.

          I’m just saying I’d extend him through his arb years if I could reach an agreement with him that had the potential to be beneficial, without taking on the large risk of a 5 or 6 year contract with dollars in the $30+ million range that could be an albatross in the later years.

          I don’t know that I would be willing to buy out any free agent years, unless I had reason to believe the second half of last year was real growth out of him and not just a small sample size aberration. I’m not a scout or talent evaluator, but I’d expect the front office would have coaches and scouts with an educated opinion on that. That’s what would sway me as to whether I buy out any free agent years. If the Reds were confident that his offensive numbers in the future should mirror something close to a .350 OBP, then I’d buy out a free agent year. I don’t think I’d go over 4 years total though. He’d be 30 at that point, and he should see that as young enough to sign another lucrative contract, but I’d want the next center fielder to be ready for the major leagues by then. Not to mention concerns that his speed will decline drastically by then, and his defense and base running may no longer be providing the value you need it to.

        • Dollars for BHam, spitballing:
          ’17: $1.0M with a $1.0M signing bonus.
          ’18: $3.0M
          ’19: $5.5M
          ’20: $7.5M
          ’21: $10M
          That is 5 years and $28M. And if Taylor Trammell progresses well, then BHam might be very tradable in ’20 or ’21. The ’17-19 seasons might be comparable to arbitration possibly or might come in a little lower, a savings for the Reds. The 2 Free Agent years might see some real savings too, with the rate ML salaries are escalating.

        • You could always make that a 4 year deal at $18M and make that 5th year a $10M team option, if that were to soothe the palate a little.

        • Those are interesting numbers, but he’s projected for 2.3 million in 2017. I don’t think he’d take less than that for the upcoming year. Like I say below, I’d front-load contracts when I have spending room, so offer him $4 million for 2017, explain that you’re paying him an extra 1.7 million up front, which is worth roughly 2.2 million in year 4 (assuming a 7% return, which is probably conservative) and remove that from whatever you think he’s worth in year 4. A 5th year option is possible, but if the going rate for WAR is going to be over 10 million at that point, and you’re talking about a player you expect to be worth at least 2 WAR, I think you’re way undervaluing the free agent years. I think the Reds and his agent both have a good idea what his arbitration numbers are likely to be over the next three years. It’s buying out the free agent years that would be expensive, and why I wouldn’t buy more than one year without seeing better offensive production for a longer period of time. That’s too much risk for me.

          • I think the numbers being used here by WVRedlegs and TonyCbus are about right. Players do agree to less money in the guaranteed contract than they would project to make with arbitration and free agency. They buy security. So it’s possible Hamilton might take less than $2.3 million in 2017. Homer Bailey agreed to $1 million less in the first year of his extension than he was projected to make if he had instead gone to A3.

        • Steve, I think I’ll try and take a (belated) bite at this:

          Given the vicissitudes of arbitration and the spiraling increase in $/WAR for proven players, a case can be made for a limited duration extension (4 years?). This, as you point out, is counterbalanced by his performance history to date and, probably much more importantly, availability due to injury concerns and raw speed being a wasting asset a few years down the line.

          So offer a two-tier contract.

          A rational, but not excessive, baseline salary, probably trading absolute dollars for security.

          Tiered with more performance incentives than you can shake a stick at: starting with games/innings played, moving through on-base statistics, then through raw hitting, and maybe a Gold Glove bonus.

          At least it manages risk to an extent and it shouldn’t detract from value in the event a trade is necessary or desirable.

          Of course, Billy’s agent may -also- demand that the Reds sign one Joey Votto as batting instructor for life………….

          And, last but not lest, a happy new year to all, preferably one with MORE WINS.

        • This is not a gang up – but I happen to agree with Steve on this one.

          1) BHam was the 2nd best player in WAR on a team last year that lost 100 games. It was an injured AAA+ team, not even that actually.

          2) You say BHam is a 3-4 WAR CF. Actually more like 2-3 WAR, and has numbers that look very, very similar (qualitatively) to Ryan Freel’s 1st two years in the league (I used Baseball Reference). Nearly identical WAR Off/Def splits and totals. It isn’t recency bias or any other kind of bias to look at BHam and see Ryan Freel. He is actually the perfect comp coming from the angle of skills, top end speed (BHam is faster I know but hang in there), total value, and injury history.

          3) One reason you give 1Bs 7 year deals is because they generate value by standing over there, getting enough to eat, and swatting balls to the fence every couple of innings. You can do this into your 30s, with a low chance of major injury. You are correct, Billy is a snowflake. He is as fragile as one and plays a game that requires durability. To be a 3-4 WAR CF you actually have to get out to the pitch 140-150 games per year.

          4) I’m not saying do not sign him to an extension. But it has to be for a value that is consistent with his potential AND risk in the aggregate. He could learn how to get on base (rare this late, but ok) and be a great value. He could also get 5 concussions, some broken bones, and spend the majority of the next 5 years on DL or ineffective, like Ryan Freel.

        • Steamer—>

          Not clear who you’re directing at (not all that uncommon on the ‘net – chuckle – no foul)

          That’s why I promote tiered contract of medium, not long, duration. Base (security) tier below average comp, but certain. Incentives that pull it significantly above -if- and -only- if, durability and performance metrics are set and exceeded. One can get even more complicated and add optionality for any free agency period within the contract.

          It’s the only negotiable formula that I can see that respects both club and player and it reinforces the concept of individual pay for individual performance.

          4 years, low but certain base, really high performance incentives and optionality.

        • I love the tiered, incentive/performance based contract idea and think it is absolutely beautiful relative to the professional sports environment (with some safety net for injuries etc). Yet, almost no contracts, I’d say less than 1% of all contracts signed, are built this way.

          I would absolutely sign BHam to a contract designed in such a way, like tomorrow. Good luck convincing his agent to buy in. Or maybe front offices don’t want these contracts. I dunno.

        • First, the number of contracts with incentive clauses has to be higher than 1%….doesn’t it? (I bow to those with better access to data). Just this time, I’m proposing a higher-than-usual split between base and bonus.

          Second, yes, it’s probably going to be resisted by any agent worth their commission. A little inelegant bit of game theory suggests that anyone representing Hamilton (for example) will gain leverage over time – partly the dynamics of salary inflation in MLB, partly a bigger body-of-work as long as their client doesn’t absolutely regress in metrics. Improvement only increases the potential leverage.

          That’s why the front office probably -should- offer now, even in the knowledge that they will likely be rebuffed. It sets a foundation for the following year and at least limits the amount of leverage acquired by the agent (depending on Billy’s performance – if he has an all-star year and/or the Reds go playoff, then waitin a year is definitely a losing bet).

          The wild card is whether Billy is aware of his fragility and would relish the insurance of a stable multi-year deal.

  5. Agree Chad, most exciting player on the team. Plenty of time to sign him to a friendly extension if he can stay healthy and play offensively as he did in second half of last year. IF…he does that he becomes a huge asset not replaced easily.

  6. I agree with much of what has been said here. Hamilton presents a conundrum; if he really has grown into the player that he was in the second half of last year, and there are reasons to believe that he has, then the window is closing on signing him to a discounted extension. If the second half of last year was an aberration, however, then we would be extending Willy Taveras. If we can extend him for something close to what he is currently worth (versus his projected worth), then I think we should. The eye test, as well as many of the peripheral statistics and the anecdotal Joey Votto mentoring, tell me that the improvements are for real. Isn’t a .350 OBP, injury free Billy Hamilton in the discussion for MVP?

    • Was Ender Inciarte in discussion for MVP last year?

      • LOL. Steve, now you’re trolling. Although, I’m not sure 44REDS was really being all that serious with that question (hard to tell, but I’m a sarcastic guy, so I tend to read it how I would have meant it, which would have been totally sarcastic)

        I agree with Steve, though. BHam with a .350 OBP is not an MVP candidate. Too many sluggers with at least that good of an OBP for him to be considered when he has no power. If he had the power for 20 HR, with his stolen bases and defense, maybe he’d be in the discussion, but without at least that much power, I don’t see how he enters the MVP discussion. It’d have to be a down year for other guys, and BHam would have to do something extraordinary, like set the single season record for steals. Something that was notable where people were voting for him because of that accomplishment, and not really so much based on his WAR or wRC. The voters for MVP seem to be using the SABR stats as more of a benchmark, and without the power his offensive WAR/wRC won’t approach the sluggers’ WAR/wRC.

        • Kevin Kiermaier and 5.4 WAR in 2015 is proof positive that this type of player will get no MVP consideration.

      • Perhaps I overstated things, but if he gets on base at a .350 clip and stays healthy (the biggest “if” in my opinion), isn’t he stealing around 100 bases? That makes him WAY more valuable than Inciarte.

  7. Trade Billy and Bob Steve this offseason for a top young proven controllable pitcher.Billy will not get to .350 obp and I would not be surprised if he doesn’t regress back to the .300 mark. More concerning is his durability…He looks to be a 120 game player. He should be at his peak age yet is coming off back to back seasons of 119 and 114 games. He’s played more than 150 games once in his career. I can’t see a scenario where he plays 158 games and has an obp of .350.

  8. If Joey Votto is indeed helping BHam with his pitch recognition, his pitch selection, and overall hitting perspective, I can’t see that as anything but a positive. If BHam’s second half is an indication of a better hitting approach on just short term tutoring, then giving the tutorial more time over this off-season might see even better results in the coming years. If Castellini is as business savvy as most say, then this is something to invest in. There are risks as always with all players getting injured, but the rewards will outweigh the risks ten fold if you believe in both BHam and Votto. The other risk is if BHam does have a very productive 2017, then what would have been a guesstimate deal of 5 years and $27-30MM this year might take 5 years and $40-45MM to get an agreement this time next year.
    Ah, the decisions a GM and owner have to make.

    • Which is why if that is the case you do not sign him until you see if there is regression. To me these decisions aren’t that complicated. You do not sign someone who lacks a successful track record for an extra few years and many millions of dollars just for the fun of it. You already have three more years which should be his peak anyway. Speed does not age well.

      • BHam will be entering his age 26 season. A 5 year deal takes up his age 26, 27, 28, 29 and age 30 seasons. His peak seasons. Two of those years would be free agent years. Very much value in locking that up early as opposed to later.

    • Hamilton’s extension would have to be less than Inciarte’s. Inciarte was projected to get 2.8 million in arbitration this year as a super 2, 2.157 service time. Hamilton is projected to get 2.3 million as a true third year player. That .5 million this year becomes more next year and more in the third year. I don’t have any good idea how much that would total up to, but I’d guess it’s at least $3 million total. So, the top end of a 5 year extension would probably be $27 million.

      Of course now that I think about it further, I guess that means the Braves are only buying out one year of Inciarte’s free agency, as opposed to the two years the Reds would be buying out for Hamilton. They should send Hamilton down to the minors for a month and a half to gain an extra year of control. Just kidding. This is why I think you only buy out one free agency year max, and only if you feel confident his 2nd half of 2016 is indicative of a real change in his batting profile that will continue. Hamilton and his agent should feel confident that at age 30 he could still sign a lucrative deal because he’d still be fairly young, and the Reds wouldn’t hang a millstone around their neck in the event the 2nd half of 2016 was a fluke.

      Also, the Reds should have money to spare this year. The mantra has been we’re saving money now to spend it later and/or to invest in infrastructure. I think what they should be doing is extending young guys they are confident about, buying a couple free agent years, and front-loading the contract a little, rather than back-loading it. Then you have some financial wiggle room when you expect to be good to sign a free agent or two to put you over the top because you’ve managed your financial spending better. You should be able to reduce the total of the contract as well, because getting paid a million dollars today is worth more than a million dollars in five years.

  9. The Hamilton detractors keep moving the goal posts. Last year it was ” well if he could get to a league average OBP, then we could talk. But he can’t even do that.” Except he did do that. If I would have said before the year that Billy would put up a league average OBP and put up over 3 wins despite missing almost 50 games, everybody would have taken it. Some might have called me crazy.

    But he did just that. But now its “well, if he puts up a .350 OBP, then maybe we will have something. ”

    The Hamilton detractors are just as blind as the Votto detractors. If WAR is really worth 8 million then consider this:

    Votto: 40 million in production, 20 million in salary in 2016. Surplus value: 20 million

    Hamilton: 24.5 million in production, 0.5 million in salary. Surplus of 24 million.

    Votto is clearly the better player. But using the same method that many of the Hamilton detractors use to defend Votto, Hamilton was actually more valuable last year.

    Either way, Votto and Hamilton were clearly the best 2 players on the team last year. These guys aren’t the problem. It makes no sense to defend Votto using WAR but then throw it out the window when dissing Hamilton.

    • Who is throwing WAR out the window when talking about Hamilton?

      Are any of the people who support giving Billy Hamilton a 5-year guaranteed contract based on WAR the same people who question the worth of defensive metrics as part of WAR?

    • What exactly makes a person a “Hamilton detractor”? Seems like you’re saying anyone opposed to giving him a 5-year guaranteed contract is a detractor. That can’t possibly be the standard for a “detractor” can it?

      • I have made multiple comments in this thread and haven’t mentioned an extension once. I think those comments speak for themselves, but I will clarify since you asked.

        Hamilton detractors are those who treat Billy like a sideshow, a bench player at best, instead of the above average major league centerfielder he has been in 2 of his first 3 years.

        Hamilton detractors are those that dismiss baserunning and defensive values, stating that the metrics have too much noise in them, never acknowledging that hitting metrics have noise and subjectivity too. Not as much, but its there all the same.

        Hamilton detractors are those that take every opportunity to try and devalue production that Billy has given the Reds thus far, suggesting that said production would be easily replaced. And it quite clearly cannot. Not cheaply, anyway.

        • Hamilton was the worst hitter in baseball in 2014. He was one of the worst in 2015 and only played 114 games due to injury….In 2016, for 3 months, he played at a very high level and seemed to have made genuine improvement….then got injured(again) and missed 40 + games. His speed is breathtaking and some of his plays…Scoring from second on passed balls, are absurd. His outfield defense is gold glove and makes his corner partners better. But…I don’t see him staying healthy….162 game grind….Skinny frame….And head first.diving.crashing into walls style. I’m not sold on his lead off skills either. Let’s see his slash line in mid may and if he stays healthy.

        • Please point to one reference where a person who expressed the view that Billy Hamilton is “a bench player at best.”

          Please point to one reference where a person has dismissed base running values because they have too much noise in them.

          Enough straw here to build … well, something big made of straw.

        • It’s odd that you’d say your comments have nothing to do with an extension. Since the thread you replied to was me talking about whether to give Hamilton an extension. I said Hamilton wasn’t as proven as Herrera and Inciarte and you said he was.

          So are you saying the Reds shouldn’t give Hamilton an extension? If so, does that make you a Detractor, too?

        • 2015 season was worse than 2014.

          2015 .226/.274/.289 with wRC+ 53
          2014 250/.292/.355 and wRC + 79

          Drew Stubbs was a great base-runner and defensive player who hit 22 home runs in 2010 and in 2009 had a WAR of 3.4 with wRC 105.

          Players who get drafted high and ascend to the majors rapidly because of a freakish athletic skill ….are at risk of failing and deserve a healthy dose of skepticism, not a huge contract.

        • I feel like I am being very clear here.

          You said Billy Hamilton was not a snowflake, implying he wasn’t unique, and that the Reds could easily replace his production.

          I objected to that. I think it is quite clearly wrong.

          You implied that Inciarte was clearly a better player.

          I objected to that. Also, clearly wrong IMO.

          You have implied, many times, that WAR overrates Hamilton.

          I objected. Not because I am convinced that its false- it could be true, but I doubt it. But because you have nothing to back it up. Just ” ah, well defensive metrics…blah, blah” despite the fact that we have 3 years of defensive metrics. And the fact that a big chunk of his value comes from base running metrics which are much more objective.

          None of these objections had anything to do with a contract extension.

          • Please find when I have ever said anything like WAR overrates Hamilton. Or where I’ve disparaged his defensive metrics. You’re just making stuff up now.

          • Hamilton is projected by one source to produce 1.6 WAR next year. It’s not that hard to find a CF that can produce 1.6 WAR. 28 CF did last year, some in as few as 250 plate appearances.

      • Totally agree. Like Billy and hopeful he will continue to take steps forward. Just not willing to give a five year contract just yet.

    • I don’t put much stock into WAR. Billy Hamilton has put up a league average or better OBP in 4 of his 16 months as a major leaguer and it was 2 of 13 before last June. He will be well on his way to winning me over that his late season progress is for real if he can put up at least another 2 months of league average OBP in the first three months next season. Until then, we have 3 years of evidence saying that his .360 OBP last August that propped his entire 2016 season was a fluke. I would not entertain the thought of offering him any kind of guaranteed contract until then.

  10. I have a question/thought. Would Billy perform better offensively is he weren’t a switch hitter? Is it too late in his career to stop batting from the left side? Just some thoughts. It’s kind of like the Chapman shoulda, woulda, coulda. I wonder how much better his offensive numbers would be had he been honing his skills from the right side only.

    • Many folks, myself included, have wanted Billy to stop switch-hitting. At this point, I have think it must be his best version of himself, otherwise why would he keep doing it?

      • The Reds, it is my understanding, wouldn’t let him abandon switch-hitting. Even if Hamilton doesn’t think it’s true, the Reds must believe he’s more effective as a switch-hitter.

  11. After reading all of the comments, I think this article’s title was mostly apt. 😛

  12. I’m sorry I missed the bulk of this thread yesterday. I love Billy Hamilton as a fan – he’s great fun to watch, does things no one else in the game can do, and adds a level of excitement that I enjoy from an entertainment perspective. And even though I want the Reds to win more – more games, more playoff series (some playoff series?), more rings, I also derive pleasure from the beauty and subtlety and athleticism and drama and excitement of individual players and games. If not I’d have stopped watching the Reds the last couple of years. So in that regard BHam is a star. But from a business perspective or a Reds winning perspective, this thread seems to me to have over complicated things. BHam is a Red for three more years. No decision needed there. He hasn’t yet shown that he’s worth extending past those arb years. He’s shown that he MAY be, but that’s different. So let him play this year. See if he stays healthy. See if his OBP ticks up. Assess his production and health and decide at the end of 2017 to offer him an extension that buys out a year or two of free agency. If, because he’s played well and stayed healthy, those extra years are a little more expensive (or even a lot), then isn’t there also more value in knowing what you’re buying that makes the extra cost worth it? There is zero need for a contract that doesn’t buy out free agency years – BHam is already locked in for three years. And to me the great risk of extending him into free agency is not production but his health and durability. No one is upset by the Bailey and Mesoraco deals because they play badly, but because they can’t play at all. If at the end of the year there’s a chance to extend a healthy, productive and improving Hamilton two years into free agency then I say don’t hesitate. Take that risk. But it’s too soon now to make that leap, and the Reds have time to decide. Until then, Run (and hit and catch) Billy Run. I’ll be watching.

    • Nailed it!!!

    • I’ll add one thing from a team perspective that is a benefit to the team that they do not get with a guaranteed contract. It happens to be the one thing that I think makes the arb process worthwhile for teams, even if it does tend to get more expensive in the 2nd and especially 3rd years. What the team gets though is an out. The team, can always non-tender a player who is eligible for arbitration. Sometimes, the same team can even resign that player to a 1-year deal at a lower rate than he may have gotten in arbitration, depending on circumstances. It is for that reason that I feel that a contract that doesn’t buy out free-agent years doesn’t benefit the team enough to take on the risk of injury or non-performance.

  13. Seen this idea floated before and I think it’s worth mentioning…if BHam proves to be too fragile to be an everyday player keep him as a super sub,sorta like Dusty Baker used him in his late season call up in 2013.Billy can play a little SS,any outfield position and sub him later in game either as a defensive player to help hold a lead or as a pinch runner in a close game.A specialist along the line of a Closer but from other side of the plate…

  14. I am not sure that Dusty used any player correctly

    I love TCT’s posts, as well as Steve’s. I just got a glass wine and enjoyed a great thread. I read every post from both of you guys and really appreciate them. I also can appreciate a good food fight. Thanks for that as well (the food you both threw was good for thought)

    I was for extending Cueto when he was hurt. No reward without risk, but he never should have had to put on another uniform.

    I wanted Super Todd extended, and Jay Bruce. I was a Drew Stubbs fan. I like Zach and hope he is with us all year.

    I would rather watch Billy Hamilton than Aroldis Chapman. I would have extended Chapman early if possible. I would lock up Raisel or Disco today for the future.

    Extend Billy Hamilton? No brainer

    We have the ability to do 3-4 of these types of contracts. You are playing the futures market with these kids, but remember one stat that has proven out over the past 30 years:

    No premium free agent will ever choose Cincy

    We have to grow our own and run the risk of signing them early. Some of those we will keep and build around, some of them we will trade.

    And we may miss on some for various reasons but these types of $25-30 million risks are cheap enough for the Reds to roll the dice on

  15. I don’t see the rush to extend him. I’d pay more later knowing I had a better view of what he can provide.

    Side note: MLB Channel had its so-called 50 Plays of the Year. No clue who the judges were. While most of the plays were defense, a handful were offense…….Billy Hamilton’s catches were 13th, 34th and 46th on the list. Just amazing. He’s a joy to watch, but I’m not convinced he can play a full season of going all out like that, plus all the pounding from sliding and diving into bases, etc.

    • Ha, I found this amusing. Apparently when I was watching the Plays of the Year on the MLB Channel last weel, I only saw the second part of the show. It was actually the Top 100 Plays of the Year, decided upon by God-knows-who, but in looking at the top 100 plays, including some hitting but mostly defense, catches by Billy Hamilton were ranked as 13th, 34th, 46th, 65th, 87th and 88th.

      I don’t know how long he can keep it up, but just amazing. Maybe Chad’s right and Billy really is a superhero.

  16. I am going to have to agree with Steve. Finding a CF with better career numbers is safer than risking the money on Hamiltons potential. Certainly not a wise option for a small market team.

    But we must remember, baseball is entertainment. Billy is a draw. The Reds promote him via giant roadside billboards. So I look for the Reds to throw a contract his way.

Comments are closed.

About Chad Dotson

Blame Chad for creating this mess. Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, "The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds" is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad's musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine. You can email Chad at


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