Billy Hamilton has played in 537 games for the Cincinnati Reds over the past five years. In that time, Hamilton has accumulated a career on base percentage of .298, putting him at #256 on the list of 289 qualified hitters in the league during that time. His career slugging percentage is .334, putting him at #280 out of 289 hitters in the league. He has been, by almost every metric, one of the worst hitters in all of baseball in the last 5 years. He has also started 364 games as the leadoff hitter for the Reds in that same time.

I would say that opinions are mixed on the issue of Billy as a leadoff hitter, but that would probably be a bit generous. As the years have worn on and Billy has continued to hit like Billy, even his most ardent supporters have conceded that his place in the lineup is likely not at the top. And with the arrival of Jesse Winker, the best on-base machine in the Reds system whose name is not Joseph, not only is there a clear need to remove Hamilton from the leadoff spot, but a clear replacement for him there as well. This appears obvious to most everyone in the Reds community, except perhaps, the guy crafting the lineups every day.

“I’m still looking to see the evolution of Billy as a leadoff man, I’d love him to hold down that spot, if we’re a better team with someone else hitting up a little higher, that’s the way we’ll go.” – Bryan Price

I’ll ignore the first part of that sentence, where he believes that somehow, after four full seasons of non-progress and a 2017 campaign almost on the dot with his career averages, Price is still looking for the evolution of Billy Hamilton. I’ve spent enough time waiting for that evolution, and I along with many others have come to accept that Billy is what he is. It’s the second part of that quote that I’m going to dissect: “if we’re a better team with someone else hitting up a little higher, that’s the way we’ll go.” Well, if you don’t mind, I’d like to demonstrate to you that the Reds are a better team with someone else hitting leadoff.

The first thing we’re going to look at is Run-Expectancy charts. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, fangraphs has a great primer on them here. The basic idea is that, in any of the 24 base-out situations (first and third with no outs, second and third with two outs, etc), there is an average number of runs the offensive team would expect to score in that inning, given the situation. For example, from the chart in the article, with a runner on second and one out, the team on offense can expect to score 0.644 runs in that inning, on average. You can measure a player’s contribution to the situation by subtracting the run-expectancy before they hit from the run-expectancy after they hit, and adding any runs that scored.

This is easy to do for a leadoff hitter, since the run-expectancy before they hit is always the same: 0.461, with nobody on, nobody out. Let’s use Billy Hamilton and Jesse Winker’s 2017 seasons as our numbers in this hypothetical. For Winker, we’ll extrapolate to 633 plate appearances, the same as Billy had last year.

Leadoff 1

These both seem like reasonable stat lines to expect out of a full season from each player. Now, let’s scale them to 140 plate appearances, one for each time they would lead off a game in our hypothetical season:

Leadoff 2

Again, pretty reasonable numbers. Now, for every time they lead off, it is going to end in one of five ways: either they get out, end up on first, end up on second, end up on third, or hit a home run. The change in run expectancy for each of these situations is -0.218, 0.370, 0.607, 0.965, and 1.000, respectively. To find each player’s total contribution to run expectancy in the leadoff position over a whole season, we simply multiply the change in run expectancy for each outcome by the number of times that outcome occurs. For example, Billy will end up on first 35 times (25 by a single, 10 by walking), so we multiply 0.370 by 35 to get 12.95 expected runs added. For the sake of ease, we’ll assume all stolen bases result in the player on second, and all caught stealings end with the player out.

When you total up all the contributions over a whole season, the numbers come out like this: Billy Hamilton will add 5.5 expected runs over 140 leadoff appearances, while Jesse Winker will add 6.4 expected runs.

Now, that is a relatively small margin, but at the end of the day, baseball is a game of inches, and any expected advantage, no matter how small, has to be taken. No matter how you shake it, Jesse Winker will provide more value to the team in the leadoff position than Billy Hamilton would, according to run-expectancy.

But wait, there’s more! Hitting leadoff isn’t just about who gets to hit first. If that were all it were, people would not be as upset by Billy leading off as they are. No, the biggest component of being a leadoff hitter is that you get the most plate appearances of anyone on the team. Again, it’s an easy and intuitive concept – you’ll go around the order four and some change times in an average game, and as a leadoff hitter, the order will come back around to you a fifth time more often than it will any other player.

So why on earth is the worst hitter on the team – one of the worst hitters in all of baseball – getting the most plate appearances? I ran a few more numbers, this time using this chart of expected plate appearances per game as my guide. In 140 games started, from the leadoff position, Billy can expect to get about 651 plate appearances in a season. Now, let’s compare that to if he were hitting, say, ninth. That’s not a bad place for him to hit – not only does it give the worst hitter the fewest plate appearances, but Billy still functions as effectively a leadoff hitter every time through the order but the first, coming after the pitcher and before the thumpers. From the ninth spot, Billy would get about 528 plate appearances in a 140 game season. Given his .299 on base percentage last season, Billy would make an out 456 times in the leadoff position versus 370 times in the ninth spot.

Now let’s say we replace him with Jesse Winker. On days that Billy was in the lineup, Winker would bafflingly hit 7th last year, so we’ll use that as our baseline. From the 7th spot, over 140 games, Winker would get 561 plate appearances, compared to 651 from leadoff. With Winker’s .375 OBP last year, he would make 351 outs batting 7th and 407 outs batting leadoff.

Now let’s add the two scenarios. With Billy hitting 1st and Winker hitting 7th, the two will combine for 807 outs made on the season. Compare that to Winker hitting 1st and Billy hitting 9th, where the two would combine for 777 outs on the season. That’s 30 fewer outs made by the two. Over a 600 plate appearance season, 30 fewer outs is a boost of 50 points to your OBP. For a team that totaled 6,213 plate appearances in total last year, it would raise the team OBP 5 points, from .329 to .334, bumping us from 11th to 6th in all of baseball.

Imagine that! Imagine if you could arbitrarily add 50 points to the OBP of anyone in your lineup, simply by changing the order in which you bat people! This is the magic of mathematics. In a game where the most important thing is not making an out, Bryan Price could make a dramatic improvement to his team by doing nothing other than changing where people hit in the lineup.

Let’s circle back to the beginning here. Bryan Price said:

“if we’re a better team with someone else hitting up a little higher, that’s the way we’ll go.”

Jesse Winker would add more expected runs in the leadoff position than Billy Hamilton would over a full season. Jesse Winker hitting leadoff and Billy Hamilton hitting 9th would take away 30 outs made over the course of the season. From every angle you cut it, the Reds are a better team with Jesse Winker hitting leadoff, not Billy Hamilton.

96 Responses

  1. kmartin

    Jackson, thank you for this excellent post. Here is my forecast. Price is going to point to the seven walks Hamilton has drawn (so far) this spring and claim he has “evolved” as a leadoff hitter.

    • Bill Lack

      Price is talking “evolution”, I want a “revolution”.

    • Jackson Thurnquist

      While Price isn’t entirely blind to trends (he was smart enough to recognize that Gennett was playing better than Peraza last year), I do think he suffers from a bit of confirmation bias. If Price *wants* to bat Hamilton leadoff, he’ll definitely find reasons to do so, regardless of how poorly Hamilton is playing and how well others are.

      • kmartin

        Hamilton has 2180 PAs. It seems to me that the decision to have him leadoff should be based on that, not on what he does in spring training this year.

  2. Streamer88

    Awesome stuff thanks for your contribution!

    30 outs!! That means 10-15 more times Votto comes to bat with runners on base.

    Run expectancy is so boring, I’m more about potential damage. Votto with men on base = game changing at bats. The variance is higher than run expectancy, but if Votto goes David Ortiz with RISP one year it could win us 6-8 games by batting Winker first!

  3. BigRedMachine

    You make a strong case, backed up with numbers, and I agree with you. That said, the problem isn’t that the numbers suggest Winker should be the leadoff hitter because they clearly do. The problem is that the Reds organization claims to be considering more modern approaches to managing a baseball team but deep down I fear they can’t let the traditional ways go.

    Billy is exciting when he (too rarely) gets on base. He “causes havoc” and “speed kills”. When he scores from 2nd on a popup to shallow right it makes headlines. Intangible things like “gritty veteran leadership” in the rotation. You can prove with numbers all day long that those things don’t make for a better baseball team but if management believes in it, all the numbers in the world don’t matter.

  4. cfd3000

    Jackson this is compelling stuff, and some of it is not obvious in an “eye test” kind of way. But what am I missing? If anything it seems like the difference in run expectancy with Winker leading off should be a lot more than one run over 140 plate appearances. Just a quick check here. Ignoring the issue of power, if I assume that every time reaching base for both guys results in no outs, runner on first, then a switch from out to on base increases run expectancy by 0.588 runs (-0.218 replaced by +0.370). If swapping Winker for Hamilton yields that result 10 times (0.076 x 140, rounded down) that’s 6 runs in Winker’s favor before you account for power. That difference should only get bigger when you adjust for doubles and triples and homers (and, to be fair, stolen bases). This is a very compelling argument for playing Winker instead of Hamilton whenever possible, and always hitting Winker first.

    And if I’ve missed something important on the math please set me straight and I apologize for the distraction!

    • TXRedleg

      I am assuming that Billy’s stolen bases would offset some of the gain, but it still would be an obvious choice. I would love to see the Reds utilize Billy as a late inning strategic PR and defensive substitution. Remember the first September when he was called up? They won several games down the stretch by using him as a PR in key situations late in the game. You combine that with his range and glove in the field and he becomes so much more valuable in that role as opposed to making 4 outs every game.

    • Jackson Thurnquist

      Stolen bases are very important here. The idea of having a speedy guy leadoff isn’t necessarily a bad one, because being able to turn first with no outs into second with no outs, or go first-third or second-home on a single is incredibly valuable. Hamilton stole 59 bases last year, which is essentially turning 59 singles into doubles, far more doubles than Jesse Winker will expect to hit. So, this narrows the margin pretty dramatically. If one guy has a .330 OBP with 50 stolen bases and another has a .350 OBP with 5 stolen bases, the former is honestly probably a better pick to leadoff.

      With Hamilton and Winker, however, we’re not talking about 20 points difference in OBP, we’re talking 70-100 points difference. While stolen bases do dramatically help Billy, his OBP is just so goshdarn awful that Winker *still* comes out ahead, if only slightly.

      • Old-school

        What about 10 caught stealings and 21 Home Rome runs v 3?

      • Patrick Jeter

        Something like 71% is the breakeven point for steals from an RE24 standpoint.

        If you stole 71 bases and were thrown out 29 times, you provided exactly 0 value for your team.

        If that wasn’t taken into account, then the argument skews ways further into Winker’s favor, even if we replace his 2017 numbers with a more conservative projection.

  5. Don

    Great stuff. Even if people don’t like to admit it, baseball is won and lost by math. Do you have any major league managing experience?

  6. Sliotar

    Jackson, great stuff.

    I suspect someone in the Reds analytical department has ran these numbers and presented to them to Dick Williams.

    However, when you have a lame duck manager,and a general manager who hasn’t earned his position and had it given to him, it would seem logical they would like to please the boss (Castellini) and not confront him on Hamilton.

    I had to look up the name of Houston’s owner. Jeff Luhnow earned his chops with the Cardinals, then tore down the Astros and re-built them into champs. Luhnow calls the shots in Hou, same with Epstein with the Cubs, Cashman with the Yankees, etc.

    In Cincinnati, Bob Castellini and his whims/orders/influence loom large over the Reds and he apparently wants Hamilton around “forever.”

    Maybe John Farrell or whoever is next as manager can end this foolishness with “Havoc!”

  7. james garrett

    The Reds don’t use data so using it to make a point is well pointless.Great stuff Jackson and we get it but well we don’t run the team.

    • Grand Salami

      Data? We don’t need no stinkin data!

  8. eric3287

    Unfortunately, the Reds have set the bar so low that before we even mention Winker as a potential leadoff hitter, Bryan Price has to be convinced to let the guy get 400+ plate appearances this year. I personally don’t expect that to be a given.

  9. dougschloemer

    Barring injury, it’s likely Winker has the 4th most PA’s of the 4 outfielders. Sigh….

  10. J

    Your analysis is nice and all, but it ignores a very important variable: Havoc Created (HC). With HC factored in, the team is not only better off if Hamilton gets the most plate appearances, but also if opposing pitchers are able to see him at all times — including when they’re in the dugout. The constant reminder that a man with Hamilton’s HC numbers will be eventually be at the plate is going to cause many pitchers to lose concentration and allow low-HC hitters like Winker to be a lot more productive.

    • Jeff Reed

      To create Havoc, a hitter has to get on base.

      • vegastypo

        I firmly believe that one of the ”worst’ plays last season was when the Red Sox had Billy picked off first base, but he got into a rundown and ended up scoring when the Red Sox threw the ball around. ‘Havoc’ personified.

    • Joey

      Just keep him in the on deck circle if Billy Hamilton’s havoc strikes that much fear into the opposing pitcher!

      • lwblogger2

        Great idea, but technically very, very illegal.

  11. doofus

    Hmmm..If only the Reds had an analytics department?

    • lwblogger2

      They actually have some good people in the analytics department. They just don’t seem to have a very loud voice in a lot of organizational and on-field decisions.

  12. Big56dog

    Just want to chime a big point that was made but not emphasized enough, there is no other spot for Billy to hit besides 9th that I can rationalize

  13. Thomas Jefferson

    Thanks, Jackson. It’s definitely fun to see all the math, and I agree that Winker should be in the leadoff spot much/most of the time. But the run expectancy math used here is the average for all major league players. Billy on first will score more runs than Winker on first. The math will get quite granular and complicated and need a lot of help to get out of small sample size problems, but it has to be considered in the mix. With the incredible amount of data available to major league teams (yes, they have an analytics department and it’s been growing under DW), we can bet the Reds have it and understand it.

    I hope that BP actually uses the data.

    • james garrett

      Your are right on but to say the Reds have data and understand it and hope Price uses it points to the real issue.How can you have a analytics department and the data isn’t used by the manager?I can and do give a pass on the small sample size stuff and can even bend on the warm and fuzzy stuff such as letting a guy hit his way or work his way out of a slump.I can also bend to the vet rules but Billy has 4 + years of data that is what it is.No other team anywhere would do that.

      • Thomas Jefferson

        Every organization in the world struggles with alignment from function to function or department to department. As DW has upgraded analytics and other parts of the organization, he still has the same manager he inherited. Whether BP is adapting to new tools and info and increasing his alignment we do not really know. We will probably know best at season’s end how DW feels about BP’s performance being in alignment with his expectations for the whole organization. From a fan’s perspective it certainly seems like they are not in strong enough alignment at this point.

    • Mike Mooney

      This is my issue as well. Run expectancy for Billy should be higher than average – perhaps one of the highest in the league – while for Winker might be lower than league average. How does that impact the analysis?

  14. Thomas Jefferson

    Then there is also the data showing Billy has a higher OBP in the first inning. If the Reds have enough analysis that says this is sustainable, then it would be considered, as well.

    Do any of our favorite stat geeks (said admiringly, lovingly) know if performance by inning (by a hitter) is statistically relevant over time?

    • Patrick Jeter

      Everyone hits better in the first inning. Its the whole “settling in” theory of starting pitching, which has proven to have some mettle.

    • MrRed

      Doesn’t that seem to suggest that a hitter can adjust his OBP skillset for a particular situation.?That’s a dubious proposition. Because if a hitter could do that for any situation, why not do it all the time since it would be a repeatable skill?

      I think your earlier point that BH’s base running ability would have some affect on run expectancy is well taken. And I believe Jackson acknowledged as much in his post, without getting into a deep analysis. Of course, if you count his base running skill, you also have to weigh it against his lack of power. Seems to me that power is going to have a more profound affect on run scoring (whether we’re talking the first batter of the game or just the additional number of plate appearances the leadoff hitter will get).

    • Jackson Thurnquist

      Patrick Jeter is right. Among all MLB pitchers last year, wOBA allowed was .334 in the first inning compared .321 overall. Starting pitchers tend to have their grove in the 2nd-4th innings, after they’ve settled down but are still only seeing batters for the first or second time.

  15. Bill

    Big56dog you sound like my high school coach when he told a player after a 25-0 game we won but he had no hits, “I wish there were 10 players on the team so I could bat you 10th”.

    • vicferrari

      Maybe I misunderstood, but I do not think it was meant as a means to insult Billy by batting him 9th, but if he does not lead off where else should he hit? If one argues 8th, then when he gets on in front of the pitcher he is less likely to use his speed. If you fear the pitcher gets more AB due to batting 8th, you do not account for PH late in games and double switches- I do not see this being the issue. Batting 9th allows for scenarios every time someone argues for batting one of the leagues worst hitter lead off (gets on in front of the teams best hitters)

  16. WVRedlegs

    When it comes to lineup construction and platooning in 2018, it is a bit stunning to see just how few LH starters the Reds will face in 2018. Over at Roster Resource they have the projected starters for each team. Certainly not something etched in stone at this time but a depth chart nonetheless. This list is comprised of LH starters / LH relievers for each team in the NL and ALC.
    CHC- 2 LH Starters / 3 LH Relievers
    MIL- 1 / 2
    STL- 0 / 2
    PIT- 0 / 3
    WAS- 1 / 3
    NYM- 1 / 1
    ATL- 2 / 2
    PHL- 2 / 2
    MIA- 1 / 2
    ARZ- 2 / 2
    LAD- 4 / 2
    SF- 2 / 2
    COL- 2 / 4
    SD- 1 / 2
    CLE- 0 / 3
    MIN- 0 / 2
    KC- 1 / 1
    CWS- 0 / 3
    DET- 2 / 2.
    Depending on how 2, 3 and 4 game series fall it is no guarantee the Reds will face this many LH starters. It might not be all that great to be a RH hitter in a platoon situation with the Reds this year.
    Duvall to some extent, Mesoraco, and probably Blandino face the prospect of fewer AB’s right off the bat.
    That also could help LH hitters like Winker, Barnhart, Schebler and Scooter get more AB’s than anticipated right now.

    • Shchi Cossack

      I don’t know that this is out of whack with any other season. The starting rotations are comprised of 75% RHP and 25% LHP. The teams average just over 2 LHP relievers per team. The starters may be a little shy on LHP, but those number sound just about normal to me.

      • WVRedlegs

        Yeah, the bullpens look about average. But I was surprised that 2 teams in the NL Central were without any LH starters and MIL only had one. And 3 teams in the AL Central without any. With the bulk of games in the NLC, I would be surprised if Cincinnati gets 15%-17% of their total yearly AB’s vs. LH pitching this year.
        It doesn’t bode well for RH hitters in platoon situations for starting playing time. It does bode well for Winker leading off more though against all those RH starters.

      • lwblogger2

        And the Reds play the AL Central in inter-league play. Think you’re right about the percentages. Maybe 20% as a top end?

  17. Patrick Jeter

    Good post, Jackson. Glad to see some RE24 thrown around the pages of RLN again!

    For the full picture, you also need to add PAs to everyone who formerly batted behind Hamilton. Not only Winker gets more PAs, but so do the guys hitting closer to the bottom that are now hitting closer to the top.

    RE24 for decision making is a powerful tool. I’m hoping to read more from you on the topic in the future!

  18. David

    Your numbers and arguments frighten me, and make me want to listen to my “Best of Marty Brennamen” recording!

    Unfrozen Caveman Red’s Fan

  19. Eric the Red

    Is Joey Votto: A) Ignorant of the negative impact on the team of having Hamilton bat lead off; B) Fully aware, but he’s a loyal soldier who will never question anything his manager does; C) Kind of relieved not to have Hamilton disrupting his concentration by being on base when JV’s trying to hit; D) Quietly lobbying behind the scenes to get some higher OBP guys batting in front of him; E) Quietly seething, and ready to make a donkey-related bet with just about anyone that the team will score more runs when Hamilton is eventually replaced at leadoff; or F) Other?

    I’d love for an intrepid reporter to ask JV on camera something like “do you think the team would be better off having guys who can get on base more often batting in front of you?”

    • Old-school


      Great question though. RLN should buy seats collectively every game by the on deck circle and ask that question every game.

    • cfd3000

      I’d like to think it’s D. A bit like Adam from Milwaukee (the infamous banana phone call from Adam Dunn to Marty Brennaman), perhaps Joey Votto is quietly lurking, posting, and provoking on RLN. Hotto4Votto – is that you Joseph?

  20. jmussa2015

    The question of Winker leading off vs “Sliding Billy” Hamilton Mk II is a no-brainer from jump street–the idea of stealing a second base from a rarely attainable first base is foolish.
    So let us go to another aspect–how about leading off with Hall of Fame lock Joey Votto? His OBP is regularly pushing 50%, he’s wasted too many first inning at-bats batting behind the wimpy Hamilton and his hopeful-sacrifice 2-slot dude. And, in another issue, Votto does bang into more than his share of 4-6-3s.

    Would it hurt to have a slow-ish runner getting on base almost half of every game? Votto’s RBI totals have always been low for a premier 3-slot hitter, but he’s batted too often behind weenies.

    On Hamilton–I’m an old school guy who still digs new SABR analytics, but he has done EVERYTHING a man can do to disabuse folks from the idea of him leading off. FOREVER!

    The site offers a useful (if not top analytics) service by breaking down each mlb player’s as to how it averages for a 162 game season. It’s useful in the old numbers as a baseline.

    Hamilton–whose 2017 season copied career stat levels within .002 of all meaningful ratings was, once again, awful.

    Anyhoo, for all of the crap that some folks pile on my dear Dusty Baker, his original use of Aroldis Chapman as an “anytime after the 5th Swiss Army knife” beastie proved prescient as did his use of Billy Hamilton in the late stages of the playoff-bound 2013 Redlegs.

    Granted, the 2013 stats reek of short sample numbers, but I think Hamilton’s success as a bench weapon as used by Dusty has never been equaled. Hamilton IS JUST NOT AN EVERYDAY PLAYER!!! YOU COULD LOOK IT UP!!

    Consider Hammie’s 2013 sweep into autumn–13 G, 22 PA, 19 AB, 9 R, 13 stolen bases vs 1 caught. His stats since then are deadly, as you all know.

    So how about leading off with Joey, starting an outfield of Schebler, Winker and Duvall and–like 2013–introducing Hamilton and his dazzling defense somewhere in the 6th or 7th inning as a random pinchrunner when one of the other boys gets on In the, Does anybody else think it’s weird that a lead-off hitter with 56-59 stolen bases (bumping up incrementallly) has topped out–last year–with 88 (EIGHTY-EIGHT!) runs-scored?

    Like many of you Redlegs fans, I rooted forever, and it was a gas to have Aroldis and Billy as the dazzlingly fastest thrower and runner in MLB. But it didn’t add up to much after all.

    Push come to shove, my friends, I’d rather dump Billy Hamilton than once again use him as a leadoff human sacrifuce.

    • David

      Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass insanity. No, it’s a Reds night with Bark in the Park.

    • Shchi Cossack

      The thing is, that Hamilton might actually be more valuable as a player is he was used in a manner to emphasize his strengths (speed and CF defense) while minimizing his weaknesses (batting). He may even be more valuable than playing full time.

      This is not a new idea or concept. Several contributors have brought up this idea many times. That’s not to pooh-pooh on your idea JMussa. It’s a great idea, except for one insurmountable and unavoidable problem…the manager.

      This process would often require a well-executed double switch at the ideal moment in the game. Price can’t even execute a simple double switch, or sometimes even a simple substitution, without bungling the process.

      In a perfectly executed process, Hamilton would get no more than one PA in every game (excluding extra innings), but would be on base in every game with a high probability of creating a run. He could conceivably score 150 runs while playing part time and the name of the game is scoring runs. He could conceivably lead the league in stolen bases while playing part time. Hamilton would not only create havoc while running the bases, but the knowledge that he could be substituted for any hitter reaching base, would create high leverage situations for the pitcher when facing any hitter in the 5th or 6th inning, even with no one on base. Can you envision Hamilton standing at the dugout railing, chomping at the bit like a thoroughbred in the starting gate when another hitter is walking to the plate? Don’t try and tell me a pitcher wouldn’t notice and take heed. Hamilton’s defense would also be in CF to help hold any lead (which he may very well have created) late in the game.

      Another benefit would be less wear and tear on Hamilton’s body by playing only part time while creating almost full time playing opportunties for the other three OF. Duvall could be regularly spelled by the 5th OF (Ervin or Williams) to limit his playing time to 80-100 games. Schebler and Winker would easily get >600 PA. The OF moves from an offensive meh to an offensive force and catalyst. Joey Votto could finally earn his 2nd MVP and Hamilton could be an annual all star selection as a part time player. I just don’t trust Price to manage such a situation.

      • Eric the Red

        That sure would be fun to watch! I’d love to see them try something like this.

      • cfd3000

        Something along these lines makes so much sense Cossack (and I’ve thrown out ideas along these lines in step with many others on RLN) that I would be shocked if DW and BP and the Reds analytics department haven’t considered these options. The maddening part is that they just don’t seem willing to give it a try. Where’s Joe Madden when we need him? My fondest hope is that with three good to very good hitters in the Reds outfield this year (Schebler, Duvall, Winker) and a potentially decent fifth in Ervin that just maybe this is the year to give that a test. Maybe BHam’s dismal spring will be the final straw. We can dream, right?

      • Still a Red

        Sounds like an idea worth trying…but it assumes Billy can maintain his level of performance on the base paths and in CF while not playing full time. Maybe that wouldn’t be an issue, if he were deployed like that almost every game…but still coming in cold is a challenge.

    • old-school

      “a rarely attainable first base”?
      I’m using this phrase now for Billy . consider this your TM

  21. WVRedlegs

    Apparently Michael Lorenzen is being shut down. Move to a DL to come.
    Disappointing news there.

  22. KDJ

    A fun and important argument. Yet, it does not include the fact that Billy is more likely to score once on base than would be a slower player. Examples: scoring from second on a wild pitch, scoring from third on a drive to deep second base . . . other people just don’t do those things. It may be hard to quantitate that, but I suspect Winker would still be the favored lead-off hitter because the differences in OBP and OPS are so large. I also like to Winker first and Hamilton ninth arrangement.

  23. Ron Payne

    Winker is the best option for the leadoff spot.
    Hamilton would help this team more by coming off the bench as a pinch runner and staying in the game as a defensive replacement.
    Platooning the four outfielders is a bad idea. Duvall, Schebler and Winker should get the bulk of the playing time.

  24. VaRedsFan

    Mahle touched up for 2 in the 1st. BB balk, double, single

    • Shchi Cossack

      Throw in a HBP & a WP for good measure. Mahle’s human!

  25. VaRedsFan

    Schebler, Scooter, and Peraza continue to hit and produce a run.

    • Shchi Cossack

      …but throw in another CS for Peraza to run them out of an inning.

      • lwblogger2

        I really hope he’s just trying to get his timing down. His success rate this spring has been unacceptable. At the plate he still doesn’t walk but he seems to be hitting. I have only seen him bat a couple times on TV though so no idea if he’s actually hitting the ball harder or if he’s just getting lucky.

  26. VaRedsFan

    Duval playing 1B tonight. Has this happened this spring?

    • Shchi Cossack

      I believe it is. With the pitcher hitting and Joey taking a couple of games off, it was an opportunity to get all 4 OF in the lineup together.

  27. Shchi Cossack

    Mahle came back strong after that rough 1st inning, shutting the Friars down on 1-H & 3-SO over the next 3 innings.

    Here we go! Billy Hamilton TRIPLES to drive in…wait for it…Tyler Mahle in the 5th with 2 outs.

    • Shchi Cossack

      Just envisioning Billy gliding around the bases on a triple, I have to wonder how much Hamilton had to slow down to avoid running up Mahle’s back.

    • Shchi Cossack

      And Mahle comes back out for the 5th inning and slams the door on the Friars with 2 more SO.

      • VaRedsFan

        Yes, very impressive after the little hiccup to start

      • Indy Red Man

        Mahle is cash money!! I’m sure he’ll take his lumps like every young guy, but he can be as good as Disco ever was before. I guess the scouts have to make some kind of analysis, but I saw alot of 3rd/4th starter projections for him but he’s very impressive. I saw him in Indy and he put the ball wherever he wanted. Very composed for a young guy!

  28. Shchi Cossack

    Schebler is doing some serious work going to other way and driving the ball to LF. If he’s not careful, he’s going to lock up an OF spot for quite a while.

  29. Sandman

    Fantastic article! It’s mathematical and it’s logical. Now, way back when this rebuild started and I was railing against it, almost EVERYBODY pointed out the logic behind the trades that they all said needed to happen. Even though the ppl who may want to see Billy leading off are hopefully small in number, I would hope they’d see the logic in the numbers that are slapping them in the face in this article. Especially if they were part of the group of fans preaching the logic behind some of the trades that I didn’t want to see happen in the beginning (which is not to say that I’ve TOTALLY reversed my position on those trades and this rebuild…guess I’m stubborn like that…but I’m not gonna keep beating that dead horse).

    Getting back on track here, I would just like to reaffirm that, I would be ok with Billy no longer being a part of the Reds team. BUT,…..if he’s going to keep stubbornly being a part of this team bcuz the powers that be don’t want him to leave, then placing him in a situation where he makes fewer outs would be one of the ideal situations I could see. Let’s just hope those same powers that be that I just mentioned are smart enough to recognize what has been pointed out in this article but even smarter to trade him should the right deal arrive (which is hopefully not an outrageous asking price for someone who can’t hit. But that’s not to say that I want us to get robbed in the deal. Reasonable , not outrageous).

    • bouwills

      I’d be surprised if another team offered a better prospect than the Giants did in C. Arroyo for Billy. Perhaps Hamilton has a good 1st half & raises his trade value. Maybe a couple teams lose their cf to injuries & want Billy for depth. Probably Billy is Billy, the Reds are the Reds, & 5th place here we come.

      • Bill

        I think the Reds had a high asking price that wasn;t going to be met. This changes if a contender has an injury during the year or can afford to use Hamilton as a pinch runner and defensive replacement later in the year. The Reds could potentially get a better return by waiting until the deadlline. On the other hand they may find there is no market for him at that time. Waiting is probably a good gamble when you look at what the potential returns were during the off season.

      • Sandman

        More than likely. But if we can remain healthy I think we can finish 4th (but no higher if Mil, Chi & Stl perform as expected).

        But I just want Billy gone. If he could hit I’d be a little more okay with him in general (still wouldn’t like his lack of pwr but that’s not part of everybody’s game). But I just can’t stand him being nearly a guaranteed out almost every time at the plate. His defense and basestealing alone is just not worth it to me. And that will surprise some ppl and maybe even tick them off bcuz they will point to all these defensive sabermetric stats like DRS and his 5-star catches and how he’s still providing value to the team, blah, blah, blah. I don’t know how they can put up with the lack of offense. Dude had trouble getting hits in spring training…Spring Training!! Some might say, “so did a lot of reds hitters (including Votto)”. We know Votto’s gonna hit…bottom line! Just like we know Billy’s NOT gonna hit.

  30. Joe Cincinnati

    Ozzie Smith. It took Ozzie 5 years to figure out a decent On Base Approach. If we use the same metrics can’t we assume that after 5 years Billy should match up statistically?

    • Indy Red Man

      Ozzie had that turf in St. Louis. Actually almost everyone played on the same stuff back then. Ozzie, Willie McGee, and Vince Coleman would just slap down and chop it 10 ft off the turf and call it a basehit. Billy pulls it off once in a while on grass but its not good for 25 hits a year like those guys. I hated that style of baseball.

  31. jreis

    the reds had the best years on astro turf in a relatively large stadium. lets get back to that. lets move the plate back about 20 feet and let billy roam the outfield. lets put some artificial turf down so the grounders he hits start to find holes. where are all the eric davis’s, bip Roberts, ceasar cedenos of the world. we need you.

    the reds will never have the ops numbers like the Yankees, dodgers or cubs. we just don’t have the money to sign these guys so we have to get more athletic and speedy to compete.

    • lwblogger2

      I think they should sign Usain Bolt (getting a little old but can still run), Justin Gatlin, and Christian Coleman for the outfield. That outta do it.

  32. Bill

    Knowing it’s a small sample, but just noticed the 2 centerfielders the Reds are likely to keep batting averages are about the same & the 2 they wouldn’t keep are about the same. Keepers below 200, the 2 they don’t above 300.

  33. Dave Roemerman

    Hey Jackson, really good article. From a stats perspective, though, I’d say you disregarded/missed a few things, all of which are important. Sorry to be critical, but they do matter and considering them all but eliminates the argument that Winker is really any better than Hamilton leading off (much to the chagrin of Reds fans everywhere). First, you don’t use full enough baserunning data (minor adjustment). Second, you extrapolate Winker’s disproportionate SLG (most of his run expectancy advantage). Finally, and unrelated to Hamilton v. Winker individually, you miscalculated the OBP advantage attributable to lineup construction.

    1. Incomplete Running:
    You did include SB/CS in the equation (good, because far too many people, especially on this site, just choose to ignore that major contribution altogether) but not 1st-3rd, 2nd-home, and other advanced base-taking metrics. Some of Hamilton’s can’t even really be accounted for mathematically (scoring from 2nd on a ground out that no one else scores on or taking home on a pop-out to 2B, for instance). These count as doing it (moving up a base), but they’re not comparable – scoring on sac flies is a function of OBP and the guys behind you – it can be measured over a career, arguably, but not precisely from year to year (it was done = accurately record an extra base, it was done at a similar rate = imprecise, too much variance). Doing it when no one else can is an eyeball test all the way.

    The point is, including SBs/CSs = good, not including other “need ya on third, Brucie!” metrics and unmeasurables (only Billy scores on that play) = incomplete. Hamilton’s taking the extra base slightly offsets Winker’s OBP, though to a far lesser degree than adding bases with steals.

    2. Improper Winker Power Numbers:
    Additionally, you didn’t mention Winker’s historically limited power – everyone discusses his minor league numbers for his OBP and how that translates to the bigs, but disregards the same argument for his SLG (no clue why, but it’s statistically-indefensible, even if power variance from MiLB to MLB is more pronounced than OBP variance). Last year, he had an OBP in line with his MiLB averages (as expected, .375 vs. MiLB career .398) but hit 7 HRs, which was two years’ worth in the minors (unexpectedly better). He had 280 TB over 692 ABs (810 PAs) the last two years in the minors, combined. That’s a .404 SLG. His .529 last year would equal 366 TB over the same 692 MLB ABs (both of which would lead the league in many years – 662 ABs and 377/366/355 TBs led in 2017). For comparison, Joey Votto’s career high in TB is 328 in his 2010 MVP year and he had 323 last year. In short, 366 isn’t gonna happen, nor will he get close. Winker’s .529 is way above his recent numbers, his minors career, and slightly over his best year (in A/AA, at .518 in 2014).

    See for yourself –

    Even using a midpoint SLG rate (.529 and .404 = .467) makes it hard to estimate his run expectancies (does he double instead of homering, single, what – it’s all guessing). Using that .467 as a percentage of .529, it’s just over 88%. If we assume a linear correlation to run expectancy (technically incorrect, but simpler than guessing at doubles/HRs/etc.) and took 88% of 6.4, it’s gonna be 5.64. In other words, he’s all of point-14 better than Hamilton. If we use .404, (again, per 140, .404/.529 = 76%, 12% below our 88% midpoint, which is 12% below 100% – math check) his number dips to 4.96, or roughly a half point behind Hamilton’s. This does disregard walks (which at 300 TB and 100 walks = about 25% of the number, less if you include the run expectancy discrepancy in being on 1st vs. a homer) still, but the point is that if you reduce his disproportionate slugging from last year’s limited sample, Winker’s alleged advantage in run expectancy basically disappears, if not becomes lower than Hamilton’s.

    While he dealt with wrist/hand injuries and I think his power in the minors was playing down recently, I also don’t buy a 32 2B/32 HR season from Winker – I hope the juiced ball, small park, and unforeseen power prove me wrong, but I’m not optimistic there. Drop the difference in HR power and go with his minor league 3.5 or so per year (or even just take 10) and the difference in the two hitters pretty much vanishes, in spite of what Reds fans hope will happen. The math using real projections from the minors (which everyone loves for OBP) says there’s not a difference, even before calculating baserunning. Adding in running, Hamilton is likely superior from a run expectancy standpoint which far exceeds OBP in terms of value. Getting on more is nice but, at the end of the day, it’s really about reaching home (or getting closer), not first – a fact many people out there still don’t realize.

    3. Proper calculation of OBP for two players:
    Finally, you mention that dropping 30 outs a year (or adding 30 times on base) increases your OBP 50 points. Going from 200/600 to 230/600 is a move from .333 to .383, sure. The 30 outs comment is correct. But when you reduce two guys’ total outs by 30, it’s 15 each, and only adds .25 points. Said differently, it’s 30 outs from 1,200, not 600. The numbers are 215 (not 230)/600 for EACH guy, not combined. You can’t just say switching the order and using the OBPs leads to 30 fewer outs and divide by one person’s PAs – there were two guys totaling nearly 1,200 trips to the plate to get that 30 difference. You have to adjust the counting stat (times on base) by the other counting stat (PAs) to get a proper rate stat (OBP points added). So switching the order gets you another 25 points each (which is the same for the team, it’s a rate stat) – it’s a difference, but a smaller one. Further, it might be negated by baserunning…

    Which is sort of what we keep coming back to – everyone knows Hamilton is weak with a bat, particularly (and oddly) from his natural right side. His running arguable compensates for that (adding 50 points to his effective OBP, using run expectancies, calculated only from SB/CS, which ignores the small “taking the extra base” factor). However, unless the huge uptick in power is real, Winker isn’t really any better. Reds fans don’t seem prepared to realize this, thanks to irrational exuberance (hey, buy stocks all January, too, people, then act shocked when the bottom falls out – humans are naturally irrational creatures, as the field of statistics repeatedly shows us).

    I guess at the end of the day, what we’re seeing in all the online comments is backlash from the Taveras/Hamilton underproduction with the bats and hype from the “top prospect arrives,” but it looks like the two are a few Hamilton bunt hits and a Jesse Winker “full season grind” July/August slump from being roughly equal or, if Winker’s power is overrated, already there. That’s discouraging, honestly, but when you factor in the non-SB-related running and drop the overblown power numbers from a limited sample size error, the two are pretty even. I’d love to rail against the “old baseball guys putting the fast dude at leadoff despite the math” but, truth be told, full math (baserunning included and a fair power projection for Winker) reveals the two as being about equal. Despite what everyone on here wishes were true, that’s what the math really says. *Shrug*

    Most importantly, If we just use Hamilton against righties, he’s a .322 OBP guy and makes a great leadoff hitter. Against lefties, he’s at .241, which is probably about what my grandmother would do if she were still in her 80s. I’m guessing all of this conjecture is moot if he leads off against righties and hits (rarely) ninth against lefties. With our LHP OF shaping up to be Duvall/Schebler/Winker (and maybe Hamilton/Revere or later righties with good LHP splits, Ervin/Kivlehan) and our RHP OF being WInker/Hamilton/Schebler, I think this works itself out. Any way you slice it though, proper math shows us that Winker probably isn’t better than Hamilton, on the whole, and is only so if he has a surprising uptick in power…hoping for that is just like hoping Hamilton can learn to get on base more…irrational and mathematically incorrect.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Haven’t read the rest of your comment. But why would you think that if Billy Hamilton has speed that “only the eyeball test” can see, that a professional who is employed to watch every play of every game with, you know, eye balls, wouldn’t be able to measure cases where Hamilton scores that most others don’t? As I’ve said to you before, FanGraphs does exactly that and includes it in their overall “runs from base running” contribution to WAR. It always amazes me how fans think things that they themselves plainly see, can’t be measured. Believe me, it’s all being measured.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Pretty ironic for someone defending Billy Hamilton against Jesse Winker to accuse others of “irrational exuberance” at the same time they’re preaching about Hamilton’s magic base running abilities that can’t be measured.

      Your comment overall is a bunch of convoluted reasoning to defend the indefensible. Getting on base and hitting with power, things that Jesse Winker does much better than Billy Hamilton, is far more important in generating runs (RBI, not just scoring runs) than speed. It really isn’t even a close comparison.

    • Old-school

      Jesse Winker is 24 and the best Reds home grown hitter since Joey Votto.

      Billy Hamiltons math is pretty clear cut. .248/.298/.334/.632 heading into his 5 th season.

      Let’s see how things play out.

    • MrRed

      Re: Point 1 – factoring in SB/CS stats is valid. But I would just use available base running metrics (FG or Bref for example) rather than an eyeball test argument. Though it should be noted that base running metrics make up a relatively smaller component of WAR compared to hitting.

      Re: Point 2 – Agree that the extrapolation of Winker’s power numbers over his brief MLB career is not going to yield any reliable conclusion. But so too is relying on Milb numbers for a player as young as Winker. You’re just guessing on this one.

      Re: Point 3 – for purposes of Jackson’s analysis, the aggregate PAs for both players remains approximately the same regardless of where each hits. What doesn’t get mentioned by you or Jackson is the effect on everyone else’s numbers as a result of moving BH down in the order (say to 9th) and moving everyone else up one spot. That matters more.

      All of this is to say, your post and tone were really arrogant and unjustifiably so given the short comings in your own arguments.

  34. Dave Roemerman

    Unrelated to the difference at leadoff argument (which is mathematically negligible), I’ve heard many people advocate tossing Hamilton aside (Sandman, above – “but I just want Billy gone”) or limiting his playing time in favor of WInker (against LHPs, sure, but that’s not the argument floating around). That doesn’t help the Reds unless we get someone better in there.

    As a final thought on which one should play, defense and baserunning count, too (UZR, defensive runs saved, or whatever defensive metric you prefer and BsR). A look at the projections netting ALL of these things into WAR says that Winker might have more upside (highest projection) overall but, most likely, projects lower (and he’s in the 450-550 ABs range v 550-600 for Billy, so not that much difference in projected playing time). In short, Hamilton is the bigger overall contributor and the more desirable player to run out there. I don’t fully agree that should be our approach, however. I still want to see a four-man OF rotation, given the big platoon differences in the guys but, still, Hamilton’s numbers are better, especially barring Winker’s disproportionate power year.

    Roughly 1.5 WAR

    Roughly 1.25 WAR, though the 2.0 is the highest among 8 values (combined) for the two players.

    Basically, the gripes with Billy being 1.5-3.5 WAR (slightly below starting/MLB average, though better than a AAA/quad-A replacement, up to a solid big leaguer) are justified. If we stopped letting him stink it up against lefties for 20% or so of his ABs, he would be much better, statistically-speaking. Winker, despite all our optimism, doesn’t have the minor league track record showing he’ll be substantially better (SORRY EVERYONE, but it’s true). He’s a 75 or so walk guy, not a 100+ one (again, math, not my personal opinion). He hits for average, which buoys his OBP (and is nice in and of itself), but he is not a .450 OBP guy in the bigs (few are) and he likely will lack the power to compensate for his defense and baserunning, especially for a corner OF.

    In short, Winker looks like the classic bat control #2 guy and should probably hit there. I think (my eyeball test) his pitch selection will continue to improve, as will his healthy (good wrist) power, leading to 15-20 HR power (not 32/yr., an aberration) and solid (80-100) walk numbers. That’s a pretty good #1 or 2, but not enough to relegate Hamilton to San Francisco for some mediocre AA prospect (which Dick Williams, unlike many on here, apparently realizes). If he exceeds likely projections, then great, he’ll hit 30-plus dingers, play average defense, steal a dozen bags, and hit in the 3/4/5 spots. I’m not holding my breath, but I’d love it if it happened. That said, too many people are excited about his potential, rather than what he has actually done, both in the minors and in any extended time in the bigs (non-existent). Let’s hope Hamilton hits his rookie year .368 and Winker drops 32 bombs, but let’s not get so angry when it doesn’t happen (the math told us it wouldn’t).

    • old-school

      How do you possibly explain Eugenio Suarez’s growth as a player the last 2 years? Do you have any understanding of a growth mindset?
      Some things are static – Billy Hamilton’s exit velocity and OBP and ISO in year 5-STATIC
      Todd Coffey’s slider.

      Other things are dynamic.Jay Bruce was a singles and doubles hitter at 19. That grew. Jesse Winker is growing as a power hitter right now before our eyes. Did you not see his 7 home runs in limited action last year or his Roy Hobbs-esque bomb in spring training this year. Nick Senzel’s career isn’t fixed either. I m certain he will get a lot better. Hunter Greene’s slider WILL get better too.

      Your arguments lack context or basic understanding of player development. Have you ever played baseball at a high level or parented a youth player through the stages of select/elite travel baseball?

      • Dave Roemerman

        In order:

        Suarez = pitch selection. He’s been taking notes on Votto and selecting better pitches (namely, strikes). This ups your walks and you hit good pitches harder, improving other numbers. Ted WIlliams, in 1971’s the Science of Hitting (Votto’s dog-eared Bible, which I’ve read a few times myself and keep a pdf copy on my computer and phone) lists the first rule of good hitting as “Get a good pitch to hit.” Ted used to ask people who said they’d read his book what the first rule was and only talk to them about hitting if they got it right…He was also the first big advocate of weight training (I started lifting on my dad’s Ted Williams brand Sears weight set) and swinging slightly up, to better match the downward path of all pitches (6′ or so pitcher, on a mound, has to throw down to hit the strike zone and “rising fastballs” merely drop less, not actually rise). Not only do you hit more flies to less fielders (3 OFs, 4 IFs), you’re gunning for extra base hits, not grounders that sneak through for singles (XBHs) and your swing plane allows for more time with your bat in the zone, particularly that of the pitch’s flight path. That’s also Hamilton’s problem – O-swing% is high, Z-swing% is low. That would up exit velocity and a reduction in outside the zone swings would help with walks (see Suarez, Votto, Williams).

        Secondly, Bruce grew, physically. As did Rodriguez (.356 his second year) and Griffey. Their SBs dropped, too. Power increases with age and “old man strength” (physical maturity), SBs decline with age. Pretty simple. *shrug* Winker will see some of that, too.

        As for me, yes, I could play. I’ve hit a ball about 475 feet (in the juiced up metal bat era) that landed on the infield of the softball diamond 20′ beyond my high school’s outfield fence (and quite a few other decent shots). At 38, I can still park BP balls with a wooden bat when the mood strikes. I spent years facing Aaron Cook, Josh Harrison’s older brother, and a slew of 90 MPH+ pitchers in Cincinnati AABC and Dayton travel leagues from 12 on, as well as in college. I’ve been a high school hitting coach (adding 40-some points to the team average in my first year on a team returning all its starters, largely by teaching pitch selection and knowing what you wanted to do when you stepped up in every AB – not every hack should be aiming for a homer). That’s all extremely irrelevant, though.

        The fact I chose an academic D3 school (Washington U, STL) doesn’t mean I wasn’t a D1-level player and, even if I quit in 6th grade, my math still holds up, regardless of whether I could play or if I have coached or parented. I know how to adjust swings from the eye test (and have, hundreds of times, to good results), but I also know how to properly apply statistical analysis and regression curves – not just from reading Fangraphs a bit, but as a finance attorney who works in securities, derivatives contracts, and mortgage fraud (in case you doubt whether I actually “can play” in the math department, which is actually relevant to this discussion).

        But this comment thread isn’t about my ego or my bona fides in statistical interpretation and application. It’s about the fact that Winker is overrated by Reds blog fans and Hamilton is underrated. The math says as much, if you analyze it without trying to prove something going in (which few people seem truly interested in doing). Their numbers are roughly equal, when correctly and fully analyzed. Sorry if that’s disappointing but, at this point, it is true. Their OBPs are not but, as anyone who listens to the old greats (Williams played from 1939 on) knows, there’s more to it than just getting on base. Get a good pitch to hit, (walks rule, Moneyball!!!), swing up (the “launch angle revolution!”), bulk up (“the steroid era, chicks dig the long ball!”), and hit the ball where it’s thrown (lefties not yanking and rolling over grounders into the teeth of what was once called the “Williams shift!”) aren’t new or brilliant. They’re old, basic, baseball revisited with the numbers and analytical data (Statcast, PitchFX, UZR, etc.) to back them. Pitch tunneling is the same as saying “make your changeup look like your fastball coming out of your hand,” which I first heard at 10 or 12 years old.

        Anyway, if Winker’s power can improve (it did with a healthy wrist and will be somewhat sustainable, compared to his MiLB numbers, due to juiced MLB balls, smaller big league parks, a higher strike percentage than in the minors, and personal development on his part), he will be a better hitter than Hamilton. That said, Hamilton’s OBP can improve in his late 20s, as well, if his approach does. Contrary to your opinion, the fact is that it’s no more a static factor than Suarez’s OBP. It may remain unchanged if he fails to develop but, by definition, it is a very dynamic
        (which means subject to change, not “explosive runner,” another common misuse of the language) variable.

        Most importantly, my point was that projecting Winker for 32 doubles and homers both isn’t realistic. This based on the last 5 or so years of his scouting reports (“could develop into a solid AVG/OBP corner outfielder with 15-25 HR potential”) and his minor league track record at all levels. He’s not a #1 prospect in baseball 2 years running, natural power guy like Bruce (bad comparison – he was often projected as a 40 HR guy). His hit tool is better than his power tool and both are better than his D/Arm/Speed rankings. Look it up. In short, Winker is a fan favorite with a higher OBP, which is a semi-misunderstood and overused stat. Hamilton doesn’t get on base enough (at least not when you factor in lefties – he’s at .322, a mere 3 points below league average against righties, and his SBs make it effectively 50 points higher from a run expectancy standpoint, which is what counts), but he’s not nearly as terribly as this site’s readers believe. I’m simply giving the whole story as the math suggests, rather than over-interpreting limited sample size data (if you ignore Winker’s minor league numbers, which is extremely poor analysis) to paint an overly (willfully ignorant) rosy picture. I know folks don’t like that, but it is what it is (which is an obvious and redundant colloquialism, if we’re really analyzing things fairly). Winker is a better hitter with more power, somewhat negated by his comparable lack of speed. He is likely going to have a better career that is more justified in him batting atop the order. At this point, though, he is not really much better suited for it than BH and he’s certainly not a far better all-around player that would necessitate “dropping” or “moving on from” or “dumping” Billy. That’s statistical fact, not misguided, frustrated fan opinion, whether I could still turn on 95 or teach a kid to do it or not.

      • old-school

        Wash U is an incredible school and kudos to you for an incredible education and being a great Reds fan in a Cardinal town. Cant stand those Cardinal fans! I do think Jesse Winker will be a great player for a long time and that Billy Hamilton has peaked. We can disagree on that.

      • Dave Roemerman

        Thanks – I loved my time there and even played a year of football (CB). That said, 99-02, after the 99 year and getting Griffey was rough. McGwire/Sosa eased the pain, as did $6 bleacher seats and Budweiser lol.

        FWIW, we don’t disagree. Hamilton hasn’t shown me he can improve much (too many chefs helping, as Price alluded to) and a .241 OBP from his natural side is stunningly awful. He needs to stop The downward chop for grounders and just level off to meet the ball. Texas Leaguers are easy when you’re that fast.

        Winker is a more cerebral type (not that Billy is dumb, but he seems to get by more on ability) and a few years around Votto has me optimistic he hits like a better contact, slightly less power Suarez. That’s a really nice guy to run out there even if he plays opposite-handed on D. The math says Hamilton is underrated and Winker isn’t better yet but my eyes say Winker is gonna end up there. I’ve been up on him for 3 years, based on pitch selection and swing mechanics (smooth, simple, and long time in the proper zone).

        My two main thoughts are that Hamilton shouldn’t be discarded, he’s good, and that proper math says Winker isn’t ahead – yet.

    • Optimist

      I’m not going to match any of the detailed analysis here, but there’s an interesting comparison to be made between BHam and Cesar Geronimo. I expect Billy’s defense is much better, perhaps surpassingly better, but Cesar was very, very good himself. Their BAs so far are basically identical, and Cesar has a slightly higher OBP. Billy will likely regress if he lasts as long as Cesar, unless he has a real breakout age-27 year.

      Billy, of course, has a huge speed/SB/extra-base-on-the-basepath advantage – but, again, the low OBP negates that a little bit.

      Finally, Sparky plugged Cesar into the 8 spot in the order where he flourished. I wonder if BHam’s only shot at a 15 year career is also to be batting at the bottom for 120-140 games, and used for all sorts of PR/late game defense in the remainder. He should probably appear in all 162 games, just not all 9 innings of each of them.

      • Dave Roemerman

        And, as always, keep him away from lefties (.241 OBP, ouch!). But yeah, I love the comparison. He was an underrated part of that team (though that’s easy to be, with those personalities), from what I’ve heard. I’d rather see a legit MLB shortstop hitting leadoff, Winker second, Votto, Suarez, Duvall/Schebler, Barnhart, BH, P. Actually, I’d love Hamilton to hit .350 with some walks like his rookie year and Winker to club 35 homers, but I think I probab(i)l(it)y know better…

  35. abado

    Great post! Billy should definitely be batting 9th. I wouldn’t count out him evolving as a hitter though. Lot’s of players improve after years of consistent play (see Zach Cozart). Unlike Price, though, I’d let him evolve from the 9th spot not the top of the lineup.