2018 Reds

Random Thoughts on the Cincinnati Reds

I find myself continually conflicted at the whole Billy Hamilton as leadoff hitter thing. I get good and comfortable with it being a bad idea, but then friend of the Nation Joel Luckhaupt publishes this piece with The Athletic. It is subscription only (you should really subscribe to The Athletic if you haven’t). The crux is that while the true value of these things is very hard to suss out, Hamilton’s baserunning is so good that he scores a lot more often when he gets on base than the average player and given that, he’s probably not nearly as bad a choice to leadoff as his OBP would make it seem.

I don’t know how I feel about it and I think the point, really, is that we don’t know the answer. I would still prefer Winker batting first and Hamilton batting ninth but I also have to acknowledge that Hamilton’s incredibly special baserunning tool makes up for a lot of the OBP he’s missing. I think, perhaps, we’ve gotten so used to Billy that we forget that he is almost unique in his ability to score once he’s on base.


And speaking of people we’ve gotten a little too used to, I am always poking around for interesting Joey Votto numbers. The other day, I stumbled over this. It’s a list of all hitters in MLB history sorted by wRC+ for their age 31-33 seasons. Votto is 16th. The first page shows you the top-30. I don’t want to give too much away, just go look at it and marvel at the company he’s in. Joey Votto is one of the very best hitters in MLB history.

68 thoughts on “Random Thoughts on the Cincinnati Reds

  1. Imagine if Hamilton had an above average OBP…or heck, even average OBP! So much fun to watch when he gets on. And, in center field – wow.

  2. Let’s say we simplified the debate/analysis of Billy hitting leadoff to a bigger picture debate/analysis of say…..Is the Reds offense good enough to win a central division in the next couple seasons ?
    Of course that answer depends on how great the pitching is. So for sake of argument, let’s say over the next few seasons the Reds pitching is very similar to the Cubs, Cardinals or perhaps the Brewers.
    In that case, in 2019 or 2020 is the Reds offense as good or better than the Cubs, let’s ask. I don’t think so without a couple changes/upgrades. It seems when you look at the Reds offense, one of the easiest if not easiest places to accomplish this is in CF and with Hamilton not hitting leadoff.
    We could always hope the Reds pitching ends up the best in the central and therefore the offense is good enough as currently constructed/projected to win big, however the best course of action for the Reds is to try to get better at both because that’s likely what is needed anyway.

    Maybe Hamilton playing almost every day and hitting leadoff isn’t as terrible as it seems. That could be true, but that is a different question than the question of, is it good enough ?

    • Yeah. This is the question, and it’s complicated. Because it isn’t simply a matter of offense and pitching. Defense can make pitching look much better or much worse. It’s also the area in which the publicly available measurements are the least reliable. I also know that teams have proprietary metrics that go significantly beyond what’s publicly available.

      So, as to Hamilton, I have no real doubt that he’s at least a major league average player in terms of the overall value he provides. The question is more to do with how good his baserunning is and if it is so good it supersedes his poor OBP. And I don’t really know the answer. I’m not sure anyone does. We all have feelings about it, but that’s not the same as knowing.

      • You also have to consider his defensive value to wins and losses, him tracking down those deep drives into the gaps that other guys don’t have a chance at saves runs and pitchers and can be the difference in wins ands loses

    • A product of the times. As amazing as he was, he’d not be able to do that today in the era of reliever specialization.

  3. I haven’t read the article, but I hope Joel at least mentions the concept that players hit better when a man is on base.

    I completely agree that Billy’s elite “runs scored per time on base” is a valid argument, but you also have to account for the fact that hitters 2-3 are not batting with as many men on base, which leads to a slightly worse performance for them, and therefore, the team.

    To me it comes down to the “low hanging fruit” argument that has been made by many folks on RLN over the years. Is Billy the best option for leading off? If the answer is “no,” which it is, then why not change it? It’s easy

    • One giant problem with Luckhaupt’s post is he doesn’t attempt to quantify the impact that batting in front of *both* Zack Cozart and Joey Votto had on Hamilton’s run scoring. Both of those players had MVP seasons at the plate. They hit 60 home runs, 58 doubles and walked 196 times.

      The #2 and #3 spots in the Reds lineup hit 72 homers last year compared to 40 the year before. They drew 208 walks compared to 149 the year before. Those are certainly bigger factors in Hamilton scoring more runs.

      • The best example we have for comparison is probably when Choo was leading off in 2013. He scored 35% of the time he was on base, which is still not as often as the 40% of the time that Hamilton scored. I’m not really making the argument that Hamilton should lead off (I think he should bat 9th) but the gap probably isn’t as wide as we think it is. My feeling is that given his base running, Hamilton is probably as good a choice to lead off as an average baserunner with average OBP (something about which – let’s be honest – most people would not lose their minds). Which is neither great nor a disaster.

        • In 2013, the #2 and #3 spot hit a combined 38 home runs (with Choo leading off). Last year, #2 and #3 hit 72 home runs. That’s a big explanation for why Hamilton scored a higher percentage of runs than Choo.

          The #2 spot behind Choo was a black hole compared to last year:

          2013: .228/.281/.350
          2017: .267/.344/.476

          • Valid numbers. Again, I don’t really think Billy should lead off (as I say above), but I do think the baserunning makes up for some of the OBP issues. Joel’s article isn’t the first one that’s pointed this out. Billy is unique (though not great) player and unique players are hard to figure out.

          • I agree wholeheartedly about the black hole in the #2 spot is 2013. That was one of the biggest unforgivable mistakes of the Walt Jocketty era.
            However, there was no “juiced” baseball in 2013 like there has been since the 2015 all-star break. HR’s are hit more often now than in the steroid era. Cozart 2.0 in 2017 benefited as much as any player in MLB last year with the “juiced” ball. That should be taken into account. Also a resurgent Scooter batted 2nd many times too, who also benefited greatly from the “juiced” ball.
            This “juiced” ball era is going to need an asterisk just like the steroid era

          • That’s a good point. Whatever caused the #2 spot to be worse in 2013, it was still much worse and explains a bunch of the % gap between Choo and Hamilton in scoring.

            Also, the new higher run scoring environment, whatever the cause, puts more value on Hamilton’s defense and even less on his skill stealing bases. With all the home runs being hit now, it’s even dumber than before to attempt most SB.

    • I made this point in the original column, but even if we concede that Billy scores more than the average player when he gets on base (which seems to at least make logical sense) wouldn’t that be a reason to bat him 8th instead of 1st?

      Basically, every home run/double with Billy on base is basically a waste Billy’s best skill (scoring more often than the average base runner). If you bat Billy 7/8, in front of low slugging hitters, you can effectively steal runs that you otherwise would not get, while limiting the total number of outs Billy makes by reducing his PAs.

      • He should never bat 8th in front of the pitcher, who could bunt a normal player into scoring position. Better off putting him 9th. Let Winker lead off, since he is OK taking pitches and allowing Billy to get into scoring position.

        • Bunts, even with pitchers, are nothing more than wasted at bats. Maybe slightly less wasted with a pitcher, but you’re giving up an out nonetheless. If Billy gets on base you can let him steal 2nd and take your chances that a pitcher manages to bloop something into the outfield.

          Personally, I agree, I’d rather see him hit 9th than 8th. My point was even if we are going to assume he scores more often than the average player does, the rest of his skill set makes him most valuable lower in the order.

          • The pitcher bunt is as much about reducing risk of a double play as it is runner advancement. Thus while you’re giving up an out, you’re also reducing the risk of creating two outs, at the expense of a slugging outcome (an outcome that is very low for most pitchers pre-test).

  4. In FanGraphs WAR projections for 2018 (includes offense, defense and base running), Hamilton is projected for a 1.5 WAR season. It assumes he has 560 plate appearances. That WAR projection is the 26th highest in the major leagues for a CF. That ranking doesn’t include players who trail him in WAR projection only because they are expected to get fewer plate appearances.

    Billy Hamilton is not a major league average centerfielder in the value he provides. Nowhere close to it.

    • In terms of the production he has provided over his career, in approximately 3.5 full seasons of PAs, he has produced 10.6 WAR, which is above average.

      Your use of projections (which are heavily weighting last season, which was his worst and which regress his baserunning heavily because, as with Joey’s OBP, they don’t know how to handle it) is ignoring the rather important component of actual production he has provided. You have nowhere near enough evidence to assert that he is nowhere close to a major league average player.

      • Combining his four seasons plus a September into 3.5 is a sleight of hand that glosses over his record of not staying healthy for an entire season. He’s declined overall since his first year, so it’s reasonable for projections to show a downward trend. The idea of weighting last year is the consensus method of people who do it for a living. The regression of his base running may or may not be fair, but it’s only 3 runs for the season, which is about a third of a win.

        • We can argue the semantics here, I suppose, but I tend to judge how good a player is on a pro-rated scale. Certainly, injuries mater and they’ve kept Hamilton off the field. However, except for last year, there are no seasons in which Hamilton has been below average when he’s been on the field. Also, on a WAR/600 PA (or whatever, pick your PA number), last year was the only year of appreciable decline.

          Also, I understand how projections work Steve. Just like you understand that they are deeply, deeply flawed and have enormous error bars.

          As to that third of a win. The projection you cited has him at 1.5 WAR playing in only 133 games. Make it 1.8 and, for 133 games that’s pretty nearly the definition of average.

          Now, you MIGHT go to the well and pull total CF WAR or something like that from last year. CF is loaded right now in much the way 3B is loaded. WAR exists almost entirely to let us compare players across positions and eras. So, as an MLB players, I say again, Hamilton is probably at least average.

          • This argument would be winnable if his unique skills were offense, skills where we have become very adept at defining value.

            As baserunning and defense are the least well defined, the margin for error on any total WAR number for Billy is too wide to be of use. For example, his real WAR would be like 10.6 +/- 4.5 where as someone like Adam Dunn’s would have a much narrower +/-

  5. I agree 100% but its just dumb not to have two guys hitting in front of Joey with OBP above league average.I mean Joey is Joey and why wouldn’t you put guys in front of him that get on base?As for Billy he is what he is and when he gets on base he can basically get to second and third by himself and then all you need is to put the ball in play for him to score.He can do that my hitting 8th or 9th.Under no circumstances should Billy lead off and get the most at bats on the team in a game,Those at bats need to go to players that get on base or can hit it out of the park or both.Of course we have no data to say I am right or wrong because well Billy always leads off.This of course is the real issue along with after 4 years of the same discussion we are still discussing it.

  6. I think he should bat 9th also. Here is some interesting information that many have discussed on here before:

    Hamilton in 17′ against RHP ops .673, OBP .322, WRC+ 78

    17′ Against LHP OPS .601, OBP .267, WRC+ “an unimaginable” +36


    1. Hamilton should never leadoff against LHP.

    Based on the very poor stats against LHP, He needs to be used as a late inning defensive/pinch runner in a game with a LHP. He also should probably be pinch hit for when a LHP is put in to face him, depending on the situation.

    I was hoping there was a sabr stat that includes WRC+ and baserunning and apparently there isn’t a single number: Per fangraphs: If you want to get a full measure of how many runs a player contributes on offense — both through hitting and base running — now you simply need to add together wRAA, wSB, wGDP, and UBR

    • Yes Scotty…It shouldn’t be hard for Price to only play Billy and Scooter vs. righties. But somehow it is.

      • I think he and the staff are doing a decent job with our young pitchers and Don Long deserves some credit with the hitters. However, that one point is enough for me to jump on the bandwagon of moving on from Price asap.

    • The “imagine what Billy Hamilton would look like with just a league average on-base-percentage” comment has been around for a while. A player with his skills on the base paths, on base in front of Votto and Suarez is an exciting possibility.
      In 2016 the league average OBP was .322 and in 2017 it was .324.
      Billy Hamilton’s OBP against right-handed pitching in 2016 and 2017? .340 and .322. (wRC+ of 88 and 78)
      The problem is against left-handed pitching those numbers drop to .267 and .241. (wRC+ of 52 and 36)
      The argument, I think, could still be made either way on whether Hamilton should be leading off or not against right handed pitching but he should not be anywhere in the lineup against lefties.

  7. This is a good rationalization before lunch. Everybody needs one.

    There are a couple of immutable facts about Billy Hamilton and his offensive abilities.

    1) he still hasn’t learned to bunt
    2) his OPS compared to the rest of the starters for this team is the lowest
    3) his ISO power is miniscule
    4) his OBP is not very good….for a lead off hitter or anything else.

    Sure, you can say he scores more often when he is on base…because of his speed or because of Joey Votto, etc batting behind him?

    Billy is a great guy and an asset defensively, but his offensive contribution is actually very small. This seems like a hard thing for some people to honestly accept. Baseball fans are used to accepting this sort of thing from a SS or catcher if they are really good, but it is harder to accept it from a Center fielder. Catchers and SS are involved in a much higher percentage of defensive plays, and their value as defensive players is much higher to a team, meaning you sometimes HAVE to sometimes accept lower offensive output in exchange for their defensive value. A catcher who can hit but constantly has passed balls and a plethora of stolen bases allowed, is not much of an asset.

  8. If the Reds have exceptional pitching the next couple years then the present offense would be okay to win the division.
    If our pitching is much improved and only very good but our offense is exceptional then same opinion.
    I fear that neither will be true of our team.
    Here’s hoping they prove me wrong.

  9. With Billy Hamilton, you have to peel back the layers to get a good look. His overall stats are what they are. But if Hamilton is going to bat leadoff, I think you have to weigh what his stats are when batting on his first trip to the plate when he bats leadoff. Batting 8th or 9th as opposed to leadoff has a difference of 1 less AB per game normally. And that 1 AB difference would be his leading off AB, more or less. So moving him to 8th or 9th, does that make him a better hitter? Or does Hamilton succeed more in that first AB you would be eliminating, to where moving him down would actually hurt the offense more?
    I am not going to get my shorts in a wad over Hamilton batting leadoff this early in spring. But if he hasn’t turned the corner by St. Patrick’s Day, Price needs to start initiating an alternative to get ready for the season. I’d like to see Hamilton stay in CF, but he doesn’t have to hit leadoff to stay there. The upgrades I would pursue would be one over Schebler and one over Gennett, especially if Senzel is going to play SS instead of 2B.

  10. I’ve inquired about this on other threads but will ask again here. How does Hamilton stack up as a leadoff hitter looking primarily at OBP and % Scoring once on base if you include only his stats from the left side. I don’t want to see BHam leading off, but if he only did so against right handed pitchers do his stats show that’s actually a reasonable choice?

    • .309 OBP vs RHP (Hamilton as a left handed batter) vs .267 OBP vs LHP (Hamilton as a Right handed batter)

      WeightedRunsCreated+ (WRC+) vs RHP = +78 vs +36 vs LHP

      This data is for all places in the lineup that Hamilton hit, almost all was leadoff in 17′.

      My opinion is that it is not a completely unreasonable choice as a left handed batter. But it is an unreasonable choice as a Right handed batter.

  11. Hamilton’s “defensive runs saved above average” has this trend: (games played in parentheses)

    2014: 22 (152)
    2015: 16.2 (114)
    2016: 14.9 (119)
    2017: 9.6 (139)

    So I don’t think a projection for him of 12.1 (133) in 2018 is unreasonable. One could say it’s generous.

    Players can always surprise (see Scooter Gennett) but at age 27 and four years of track record, I’m pretty comfortable feeling Hamilton isn’t going to increase his offensive production much this year, if at all.

    The issue isn’t his overall value anyhow, it’s whether he should be leading off.

    • Would I be correct in thinking that defensive runs saved, as a stat, is affected by, in the case of a center fielder, the range and abilities of the corner outfielders?

      • I think that’s right. I’ve always suspected that Hamilton’s tremendous range hurts the defensive stats of the corner outfielders by making him most of the plays in the gap. I don’t think it was a coincidence that Jay Bruce’s best defensive-stat year was 2013 when the CF was Shin-Soo Choo. But I’ve never seen anyone discuss this, or have forgotten if I did. I haven’t read a lot about defensive stat methods lately, but I don’t know how they could avoid one OF stealing opportunity from others.

  12. I have no problem with Hamilton on the team or even playing regularly. My problem is with him leading off. In no way, shape or form should your worst hitter be batting leadoff no matter how fast he is. Now saying that, I know many espouse that he should be batting ninth, but I would be satisfied with him in the 8 spot. There you can have the pitcher bunt him to second. This is said knowing that in most cases with a runner on first the pitcher is going to try to bunt the runner over, whether the pitcher is batting 8 or 9. Wouldn’t it be better for the pitcher if he is bunting, (and I detest the sac. bunt in most cases) to be bunting with Hamilton on base in front of him rater than Barnhart/Mesaraco? Now I know there are still issues there, if Barnhart is on in front of Billy then Billy can,steal. But how many times has that happened anyway with Barnhart batting 8 and Billy leading off? Just a thought.
    I looked up that list of batters in 31-33 year age seasons, and that is amazing company. And actually he is tied for 14’th on that list and there are three players above him that were possibly steroid enhanced. But the great thing is to look at the players just below him. Killebrew, Mantle, Kaline, and Musial. That is lofty company.

  13. Billy is getting more and more expensive for what he provides. Obviously Schebler is not a CF, but he’s got tremendous bat speed/power and he’s right in his prime at 27 yrs old! Winker obviously needs to play as well. The Cubs won the WS with Dexter Fowler in CF and he’s pretty bad defensively. If Billy non-hits like he usually does then why don’t they shake things up and try something different? If he’s on the bench then he can always pinch-run in a tight game. In theory…the pitching will greatly improve and they’ll be in a lot more 2-2 or 3-2 games in the 7th inning where Billy can steal a key run. What do they have to lose? There is some debate whether Einstein came up with the definition of insanity or not, but Reds fans see it year after year after year?

    • Fowler is far superior in CF to Schebler. Choo is probably a better comp and Schebler doesn’t hit like Choo did. I don’t like Schebler in CF unless it’s to give whoever the regular CF is, a break. He’s marginal in RF and bad in CF.

  14. All well and good but the chances of him putting himself and the team in a chance to score runs from say 1st base or to steal home are wayyyyyyyyy less likely than him scoring regularly (being hit in from 2nd or 3rd). Basically saying anyone (almost anyone) can score regularly given the standard opportunity to do so. I value his base running a lot, but still doesn’t make a difference if he can’t put himself in a position to do incredible things on the bases.

  15. The next 3 season are make or break time for Joey Votto. As far as the Old Cossack is cincerned, Joey has already established himself as a great hitter for his MLB career, unless he simply falls off the cliff in 2018.

    In reviewing the top 15 hitter from the age 31-33 list, I ignore the three hitters with obvious steroid enhanced performances. What can we expect from Joey Votto during the next 3 seasons and how did the top hitters from the age 31-33 list perform during their age 34-36 seasons?

    Of the top 15 hitters from the age 31-33 list, two appear on the age 34-36 lisrt requiring a HUGE ASTERISK due to blatant steroid abuse. Only 8 of the top 15 players from the age 31-33 list appear in the top 30 on the age 34-36 list and only 4 of the top 15 players from the age 31-33 list appear in the top 15 on the age 34-36 list: Williams, Ruth, Wagner and Mays.

    The next 3 seasons will determine if Joey Votto will be grouped among the great hitters of all-time or rise to one of the ELITE great hitters of all-time. I keep seeing Ted Williams as the best comp for Joey Votto in terms of skill and plate approach as a hitter and Williams actually increased his hitting (as measured by wRC+) significantly from his age 31-33 seasons to his age 34-36 seasons. My money’s on Joey Votto to join the elite group.

    • I think Stuart Turner should be the manager for the Reds. He is thinking baseball. On visiting games, have a batter like Mesoraco hit, and then Billy goes into the field for him. The Reds then use an away game DH for the first inning. Billy goes to bat in the 10th spot instead of the 1st spot. That is some great thinking and could steal a few runs versus just starting Billy in the 1 hole.

      The article is very good and well worth reading. And a way to get Billy on base an extra 100 times per year is something that we could all get used to.

      I am guessing that is worth 43-25+18 extra runs during the year. that could win a few games

      Hope our manager reads RLN!

    • That article is absolutely awesome, it gives us a perspective of the clubhouse and players ribbing each other. Absolutely love it. I don’t think Billy liked the idea – lol.

    • Great article and I really support the idea vs LH pitching. On those days, the high-leverage solution makes sense and the LH starter will face Billy fewer times. But it provides an offensive spark and solid defense in the late innings.

      I understand everyone wants to play all game – every game. But Coach price has already talked about a 4-man split in the OF. This is a step to use it creatively!

  16. In much more important news…the Dbacks are bringing back the helmet clad bullpen golf cart.
    The Reds need to follow suit immediately!

  17. The issues raised by Joel have been discussed here at RLN since Hamilton first appeared at the major league level in September 2013. The basis for Joel’s discussion is Hamilton’s ability to score once he reaches base being an unappreciated or unrecognized aspect of Hamilton’s performance. I contend that the issue is not how often anyone scores ONCE they reach base, but how often they score when they step to the plate.

    Listed below are those players scoring 250+ runs scored from 2014 through 2017. Hamilton scored 282 runs during that time. Hamilton ranks 53rd (without splits considered) in R/PA among all MLB players scoring 250+ runs from 2014-2017, inclusive.

    0.168 R/PA – 101 R/600 PA – Mike Trout
    0.158 R/PA – 95 R/600 PA – A.J. Pollack
    0.158 R/PA – 95 R/600 PA – Kris Bryant
    0.157 R/PA – 95 R/600 PA – Pauk Goldschmidt
    0.156 R/PA – 94 R/600 PA – Charlie Blackmon
    0.155 R/PA – 94 R/600 PA – Bryce Harper
    0.154 R/PA – 93 R/600 PA – Josh Donaldson
    0.153 R/PA – 92 R/600 PA – George Springer
    0.151 R/PA – 91 R/600 PA – Mookie Betts
    0.150 R/PA – 90 R/600 PA – Brian Dozier
    0.148 R/PA – 89 R/600 PA – Ian Kinser
    0.148 R/PA – 89 R/600 PA – Ginacarlo Stanton
    0.147 R/PA – 89 R/600 PA – Nolan Arenado
    0.145 R/PA – 87 R/600 PA – Dee Gordon
    0.145 R/PA – 87 R/600 PA – Matt Carpenter
    0.145 R/PA – 87 R/600 PA – Jose Bautista
    0.143 R/PA – 86 R/600 PA – Edwin Encarnacion
    0.142 R/PA – 85 R/600 PA – Anthony Rendon
    0.142 R/PA – 85 R/600 PA – Freddie Freeman
    0.142 R/PA – 85 R/600 PA – Jose Ramirez
    0.142 R/PA – 85 R/600 PA – Joey Votto

    0.141 R/PA – 85 R/600 PA – Adam Eaton
    0.140 R/PA – 85 R/600 PA – Jose Altuve
    0.140 R/PA – 84 R/600 PA – Dexter Fowler
    0.137 R/PA – 82 R/600 PA – Ryan Braun
    0.136 R/PA – 82 R/600 PA – Brett Gardner
    0.136 R/PA – 82 R/600 PA – Lorenzo Cain
    0.134 R/PA – 81 R/600 PA – Sterling Marte
    0.133 R/PA – 80 R/600 PA – Curtis Granderson
    0.132 R/PA – 79 R/600 PA – Ender Inciarte
    0.131 R/PA – 79 R/600 PA – Christian Yelich

    0.141 R/PA – 85 R/600 Billy Hamilton v. LHP
    0.130 R/PA – 78 R/600 Billy Hamilton
    0.126 R/PA – 75 R/600 Billy Hamilton v. RHP

    • On the Reds, only Votto exceeds him. He was 3rd on the team in runs scored, barely behind Suarez. I believe that he should hit ninth and play rarely against left-handers, but he doesn’t deserve to be the whipping- boy for the failure of last season’s pitching staff.

      • I’m with you. He needs to be in CF because the Reds currently don’t have another option who can play the position adequately. Well, they have Revere but he’s still a drop defensively and not much of an offensive upgrade. Hamilton just needs to hit 9th. Schebler can play CF from time-to-time but you don’t want him out there for more than maybe 10-16 games a year.

    • Basically what Leo Mezzone said as well. I’m not for eliminating pitch counts but I think there are so many other factors. Pitches under duress matter much more than pitches where a guy is on cruise control. Also, if there are obvious signs that a guy is getting tired (losing his location, not finishing pitches, signs of fatigue in mechanics), then he may need to come out no matter what the pitch count.

    • That’s a very encouraging article! Pitchers not throwers! Will be exciting few years if the young staff can develop into smart pitchers.

  18. Since the Hamilton question has been beaten to death, it’s cool to see Little Joe check in at #11 on the 31-33 list. A thinking player a la Joey, or Joey a la Little Joe.

  19. Nice to see ALL perspectives discussed. Excellent article and most welcomed.

    Ironically, I think BHam is being evaluated by the old school/new metrics followers that STILL cannot fully understand what he represents on the field. As much as metrics is still a very flawed system on defense, the same can be said about the real value of a player like Billy. For instance, a pitcher is simply not the same pitching with him on base than not, which certainly helps #2 and #3 hitters. Positioning is not the same, not even with him in 3b.

    You hear this same people only talking about stolen bases when about Billy. That’s not only short sighted but misleading. Billy is one of the most efficient players converting a hit into a double or going for the extra base (remember him scoring from 1b after a single?!!!). How many bad throws has he forced? How many runs has Billy scored with shallow SF that not other player is able to score?.

    The effect on defense – and pitchers, especially young ones- with a guy that covers so much room is simply unmeasurable. The metric on saved runs is so flawed that it’s not even a standard one but depends on who you read (!).

    Now, I´m not saying Billy is perfect. Not even the great Joey Votto is (sorry). I would drop the switch-hitting, keep him fresh (platooning him against LH) so he doesn´t miss time at the end of the season and hope that one of Siri/Trammel speed up their development. Until then, lets enjoy the ride, with its ups and downs of one of the most curious (?) talent the Reds have had. That’s why so many articles are written about him.

    • This is a great post. People ignore what they can not measure. All of those little things that you mentioned, add up in a big way for the rest of his teammates. I don’t think there would be so much bashing if Price would just remove him from leadoff and bat him 9th

    • There are many, many organizations (not to mention electronic measurement now) who pay people to watch and break down every defensive play in every game and compare to norms. The “defensive metrics are bad” take is substantially out of date.

      Why do you think any of that is unmeasurable? If *you* can see those things, why couldn’t someone else who is paid to keep track of them? For example, Baseball Reference keeps track of the number of times batters (including Hamilton) reach base on an error. Hamilton in 2014: 6, 2015: 3, 2016: 1, 2017: 4. FanGraphs has a comprehensive base running stat that includes taking extra bases.

      • Reaching base on an error is clearly measureable, but whether a player should have made a catch, or whether another player would have made that catch involves judgment, not measurement. The systematic application of that judgment to most or all of the plays in a game or a season is undoubtedly more accurate than my judgment, but it seems more akin to judging ice-dancing than to mathematics.

        • Judgment is involved, but probably less than we think. With Statcast, they know the exact trajectory and location where the ball would land. They also know where the OF is standing at the start of the play. It’s not that hard to figure out “95% of outfielders make that catch” when they have really precise data. The new data is changing everything. That’s why I said a lot of the criticisms of defensive metrics are out of date, even from just a couple years ago.

        • And I don’t pretend to know most of what there is to know on how it’s changed. I’d love to learn more about it.

      • I’m not trying to be a jerk but I’m assuming someone was paid to watch Bronson Arroyo throw and made the judgement that he could still pitch?

        How does Duvall get a 1.0 defensive WAR in 2016 with 8 assists and 8 errors while he drops to .02 last year with 15 assists and 6 errors? That makes no sense? He had no leg injury where his range was seriously shortened? I’m just suspicious of random determinations by who knows who?

    • It is a good post. 2 things could help

      A. Bat him 9th
      B. Come to camp with 12-15 lbs of muscle…maybe 170s? How could it hurt?

      Simple things and yet nothing ever changes?

  20. Hamilton should never lead off.
    He should however bat.
    People are saying that his great skills in the field justify his leading off.That and his ability to score once he does reach base.
    When batting 9th he will still be showing his great talent in the field while still having the same ability to score when he reaches base.
    It will only be for one ab per game less that he can get on base .3% of the time.
    Bat him 9th and let our 2 and 3 hitters maximize their talent.

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