If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll want to read this interesting piece by Jerry Crasnick over at ESPN. It’s about Billy Hamilton, if you haven’t figured that out yet:
Hamilton is tied for 11th in the majors with 40 runs even though he ranks 127th among 171 qualifying hitters with a .305 on-base percentage. If he continues at his current pace, he’ll finish the season with about 109 runs. Since the start of the live ball era in 1920, only two players (Tony Armas of the 1984 Boston Red Sox and Hughie Critz of the 1930 Reds and New York Giants) have scored 105 runs in a season in which they logged an OBP of .305 or worse.
Any conversation with Hamilton’s teammates invariably strays to mad dashes around the bases or frantic sprints in the outfield that test the limits of StatCast. Reds catcher Tucker Barnhardt recalls a California League game in 2012 in which Hamilton tagged up and scored on a pop fly to the second baseman in shallow right field. Reds coach Freddie Benavides, similarly, remembers the day in spring training when Hamilton raced out from shortstop and caught a ball at the warning track.
I know, I’m becoming a caricature when it comes to the topic of Billy Hamilton. He’s just the most unique player I’ve ever seen. As long as his legs are healthy, we’re liable to see something spectacular at any time.
Still, despite the fact that I can’t be trusted on the topic of Billy, I encourage you to read the entire piece. Crasnick takes a look at some particular things — between-games preparation, specifically — that Hamilton is trying to improve his hitting and base-running.
I know opinions are divided among Reds fans as to whether Hamilton will ever get on base at a reasonable clip. I don’t know whether he will, or whether the current Billy is the best we can hope for. But — stay tuned for the common refrain whenever this guy is the topic — if Hamilton can get on base at a league-average clip for a full season, watch out. You’re right, he hasn’t been able to sustain that kind of production over the long haul thus far in his career.
But he’s still a kid! And there are signs of improvement (look at that line drive rate, and the fact that’s he seeing far more pitches per AB than he ever has). So I choose to be optimistic about Billy. Not that I really have a choice; I’m way too far out on this particular limb to go back now.