Billy Hamilton stole second off Yadi Molina on the first pitch. 

Hamilton had entered the game in the 7th inning to pinch run for Ryan Ludwick. Todd Frazier drove in Hamilton for the game’s only score. Chris Heisey took Ludwick’s place in left field. Homer Bailey, for the second time in a week, shut out the Cardinals for 7+ innings. Aroldis Chapman struck out the heart of the St. Louis order, several times registering 103 mph on the radar gun.

With that bang-bang moment, Billy Hamilton burst into our consciousness, if not Dusty Baker’s everyday lineup. Hamilton’s major league debut that humid September Cincinnati night came a handful of days before his 23rd birthday.

During that memorable final month of the 2013 season, Baker used Hamilton as a pinch runner and defensive replacement for Shin-Soo Choo. The young centerfielder played in 13 games, attempting 14 stolen bases, succeeding in all but one. Hamilton hit .368 and walked twice in his 22 plate appearances. He was 7-for-14 in the three games he started. He was fast. 

None of us suspected it at the time. How could we? We were watching peak Billy Hamilton.

Amazing is a worn-out adjective. But not in Hamilton’s case. He did amaze us. He did astonish us. Every Reds fan has easy recall of a favorite feat of Billy Hamilton’s feet. Most of all, the wonder boy entertained us. Hamilton became an in-the-flesh Flash in our small universe of Reds superheroes.

Meanwhile, he slid into our ready hearts. 

Billy Hamilton was a phenom in the true sense of the word: a person of outstanding talent and great promise. In those early, heady days, Reds fans believed Hamilton was transcendent, a player who would revolutionize the sport of baseball. We spoke in delirious, otherworldly terms. We abandoned appropriate skepticism. 

In addition to producing marvel, the likable Billy Hamilton became a point of pride for us. Hamilton’s legs joined Chapman’s arm and Joey Votto’s batting eye as qualities we Reds fans could brag on. They made us feel we were still part of the major league highlight reel. 

Photo: David Jablonski/WHIO

Hamilton’s stolen bases meant more than just the Reds being 90 feet closer to scoring a run. They were a larger validation of our team. 

The Reds speedy centerfielder also offered sweet respite from the exhaustion and drudgery of losing. It’s the same reason we became addicted to watching opponents flail at Chapman’s triple-digit fastball. Hamilton’s historic base running and acrobatic catches triggered jolts of fan adrenaline. We needed the thrill to stomach seasons that otherwise dragged and dragged.

Billy Hamilton’s exploits transformed our sports world. It was just for an instant, but those moments were glorious. Our hearts raced. The victory music in our heads throbbed. We granted ourselves permission to feel confidence in the Reds. The distant and implausible notion of success became real and present for a split second.

Billy Hamilton was intoxicating. When we watched Billy, we looked to score more ways than one and sometimes both paid off. We ordered another round. 

Ah, but that stubborn aftertaste. We loved the euphoria, but the morning after we ached for it to stick around. We wanted Hamilton to run and hit and catch every night. We yearned for Billy Hamilton to be a superstar, not a shooting star.

It turned out he wasn’t.

Our thirsty imagination had outstripped the facts on the ground. Those flush sensations we felt watching Billy Hamilton were thrilling but the hopes were false. Hamilton’s speed was a powerful narcotic that blinded us to his broader flaws as a player.

Our collective frenzy was understandable, if unjustified. We desperately wanted our idealized Billy Hamilton to make sense in our heads as it did in our hearts.

But buzz and brain didn’t connect. As fast as Billy Hamilton runs, he couldn’t keep up with our breakneck expectations.

Photo (also headline photo): USA Today Sports Images

Billy Hamilton is now the better part of five seasons and 2400 plate appearances into his major league career. This September, he turns 28. His electrifying debut feels a lifetime ago in the Upside Down.

The gap between our ideal and reality is measured. If you dare look, you’ll find Billy Hamilton at the bottom of the list of major league players in important offensive indicators – hard-hit balls, exit velocity, run creation, expected hitting. Out of 169 major league players with at least 200 plate appearances, Hamilton has the lowest xwOBA at .240. Player #166 is at .270.

Over his career, Hamilton has slap-hit .243/.297/.329. His contribution to scoring runs (wRC+) has been 30 percent below league average. His Win Probability Added (WPA) has been negative every year except 2013. We’re not talking about a single bad month by a 24-year-old rookie.

The odds are against Hamilton getting better. Aging curves slope downward for a reason. In fact, Hamilton’s performance this year has been well below his career average. He’s not stealing bases. Since May 1, Hamilton has swiped just five to go with three times caught stealing. He’s seemed mortal in centerfield. When Hamilton bats in key situations, it feels surprising when he hits the ball in play.

Can we say Billy Hamilton’s game has improved since 2013? Does he hit more line drives and fewer fly balls? Does he bunt better? Does he swing less often at bad pitches? Nope. Every spring we’ve been handed breathless reporting of a new mentor and point of emphasis for Hamilton — all ineffective. 

Was Billy transcendent? Eric Davis stole 80 bases in 1986 while hitting 27 home runs. Rickey Henderson stole 100+ bases three times and at age 39 swiped 66. Henderson also maintained a .401 on-base percentage over 24 seasons. Hamilton has earned 7.7 bWAR. Henderson earned 111 bWAR.

Our outsized hopes have been unfair to Billy Hamilton. But no more so than his treatment by the same front office that signed cautionary tale Willy Taveras to a 2-year contract. They installed a raw player as the Reds centerfielder and leadoff hitter in 2014 with no competition and wouldn’t take a serious second look. They didn’t hesitate giving Hamilton 1700 plate appearances at the top of the order. 

Reds officials still enable our misplaced faith. Through indifferent force of habit, the team’s broadcasters express ongoing wonderment over every non-routine play Hamilton makes in the outfield. The latest manager still mumbles about “havoc” Hamilton creates on the base paths. They point to the faintest signs that Hamilton is getting it together, as if evidence of progress must be believed to be seen.

Photo: David Kohl

It’s time to move beyond Billy the phenom. 

We’ve spent nearly five years patiently lowering the standard of acceptability for Billy Hamilton. If he could just be league average on offense … forget power, if he could only get on base … no, if he could simply manage a league-average on-base percentage … hold on, if he could raise his OPB to a mere .300 … just wait and see what happens when he gives up switch-hitting … why, he’d be the league MVP, you know. 

We’ve laid a big stack of hope on Billy Hamilton. We’ve mistakenly declared permanent improvement based on a few good months, a couple solid weeks, back-to-back nice days or, lately, decent at bats. Hamilton’s career has turned more corners than a beat cop.

It’s time to give centerfield to Scott Schebler for the rest of the season and evaluate how his overall game plays there. Shin-Soo Choo proved Olympic sprinter speed isn’t a necessary quality for a Reds centerfielder to provide value. Choo nearly earned more WAR in his one season with the Reds than Hamilton has in a career.

It’s time to play Jesse Winker every night. For the third outfield spot, a case can be made for Scooter Gennett, Adam Duvall, Nick Senzel or Jose Peraza. Any of those make more sense than playing Hamilton every night. 

Given the flat free agent market, the Reds were unlikely to get enough in return for Hamilton in a trade last winter to satisfy the owner. But the front office should be able to trade Hamilton in the next few weeks if they don’t ask for much. No contending team will give Hamilton’s bat a full-time gig. But Billy could help a deep veteran squad, like the 2013 Reds, by reprising his first major league role. 

If the Reds can’t find a trade partner, they should understand what that means and release Hamilton at the end of the season. He’s due a third year of arbitration and already makes $4.6 million. If Schebler can’t hack it in center, the Reds can build the bridge to Taylor Trammell or a major trade acquisition by signing a cheap free agent for 2019.

It’s time to move on from Billy Hamilton. It won’t be a sudden good-bye, nor should it be. In a sense, the Reds have already buried him. You can’t get lower than batting after the pitcher. But Hamilton will continue to take the field in a Cincinnati uniform for a while. He’ll still make wonderful plays, get big hits, maybe even string together a couple good games.

And like that bag he pilfered five years ago off the Cardinals’ villainous catcher, Billy Hamilton will steal our hearts again, for another phenomenal moment.

Photo: Charles LeClaire/USA Today

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 62 Comments

  1. I can’t believe how sad reading this article made me. I agree with every word, but the joy Billy has given me and my son watching him makes it hard to part with him.

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    • A lot of people feel that way. Billy is extremely likable. I think that’s another reason kids like him. Billy’s public demeanor is childlike, and I mean that in a good way.

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      • Saw him in Arizona this spring and he was terrific with the kids. I’m also sad that he most likely will never be able to hit enough to be an effective everyday player.

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  2. Well said, Steve. Just don’t let Chad read this

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  3. I want it so bad for Billy. Not just for the Reds sake but because he seems like a genuinely good dude. Personally, I don’t think the expectations have been set too high for Billy. Just get on base at an average rate. The rest would take care of itself.

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  4. Always wondered how he would have developed with a full year at AAA in 2014.

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  5. Much respect to the author of this piece and I agree with the main premise: it is time to cut bait with Billy Hamilton and find alternative solutions. It is beyond clear, and has been for several years, that this player cannot hit major league pitching. At all, really. It is not going to change. Stolen bases and good outfield defense cannot compensate for that.

    The one part with which I would quibble is the part about the breathless arrival. I have not run the numbers but I strongly suspect that players fresh up from the minors have initial success at the plate because pitchers have not yet figured out how to pitch them. It is common in my experience to see a guy come from the minors, do well, and then crash back down to earth once pitchers find their weaknesses. I remember when Hamilton arrived and it was pretty widely known even then that he was a potential liability with the bat. I do not recall that being a hidden or surprising revelation from engaged fans of the team. I seem to recall even authors on this site saying it would take time to find out who Hamilton was. His minor league numbers did not project him as a good hitter, though.

    I also strongly agree with the comments here about getting away from stereotypes. The centerfielder does not need to be an Olympic sprinter. The leadoff guy does not need to create havoc. The closer does not need to throw three digit fastballs. All these are items that it seems large segments of the Reds fan base and ownership have fallen in love with over the past several years and they are complete red herrings. This franchise has to find value where others miss it and subscribing to outdated typologies is the exact wrong way to do that.

    Also, bad on the front office for doing nothing for so long. Did we not try to move Brandon Phillips for Brett Gardner a few years ago to address this problem? That fell through but it would appear the front office simply ceased trying in the belief that Billy would come around. Any chance we could deal Iglesias for a viable centerfielder? If only.

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  6. I was probably yelling the loudest in Billy’s corner. In 2016, he batted .260/.321. Even the smallest improvement would keep him a productive Red going forward. That would have been fine, batting 9th for today’s Reds. But what couldn’t happen, did….and Billy has regressed to his current state. He plays the best center field, that I’ve seen in a long while.

    It’s time to move on from Billy though…I wish the Reds had a promising CF prospect to call up.

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  7. This comment does not represent an attempt to bash Billy. Rather this comment represents an indictment of the Reds organization and those making decisions within the Reds organization.

    Billy entered the consciousness of some fans in 2010 at Billings as a raw, 19-year-old enigma, stealing 48 bases and slashing .318/.383/.456, but Billy entered the consiousness of the casual baseball fan in 2012, playing in Bakerfield (yes that Cal League Bakerfield, where an average Mo becomes a superstar) stealing 103 bases (on his way to 155 steals for the season) and slashing .323/.413/.439. Billy became a national sensasion. After a brief 50-game appearance in AA, the Reds promoted him to AAA for the 2013 season where Billy stole 75 bases and slashed a sub-pedestrian .256/.308.343 in his first real exposure to upper level minor league pitching. The Reds blinders were firmly in place and no logic or something as inconsequential as data an results were going to alter the Reds decisions and course of action for their shiny new sideshow. Hamilton’s shimmer as a new toy seemed to enter the Reds collective consciousness of the organization as speed became the beginning and end of all things desired by the Reds decision makers.

    Hamilton should NEVER have been promoted to the 25-man roster, nevertheless a starting role, in 2014. That was classic BC and WJ ineptness on clear display. Billy was not ready to compete at the major league level, just run faster than anyone at the major league level. Everything that’s happened since then has just been piling-on to the initial bad decisions and compounding the problem. The Reds’ organizational ineptness has permitted Billy (kudos to Billy) to accumulate almost $9MM in career earnings to date with nothing better than subpar performance and left the Reds without ANY organizational options to play CF at the MLB level for 7+ seasons.

    The ONLY change in the Reds organizational structure during the past 10 seasons has been the nepetistic promotion of an unqualified member of the Reds ownership family into a role as the GM and then Pres of Baseball Ops.

    I sincerely hope the Reds trade Hamilton to an organization that can appreciate, understand and utilize Billy’s contributions appropriately, in a limited manned where he can make positive contributions, and provide Billy with a WS ring in the process, while the Reds stumble their way to another top 5 draft pick. That would be an appropriate kick in the teeth for BC and everything he’s done to the Reds organization.

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    • I actually take about a 180 degree opposite view of this. The failure to become the player we hoped he would be rests on Billy Hamilton. None of the coaches were at bat for Billy.
      1) Billy has NEVER learned how to bunt properly. And they have tried to teach him
      2) Billy has never developed any more upper body strength. This would have helped him with bat speed, which is crucial to being a good ML hitter.
      3) Billy has continued to hit a lot of fly balls. He should be trying to hit ground balls and keep the ball in play. That’s what they told Ken Griffey (senior) when he came up and was blazingly fast.

      So what if he came up a little too early? A lot of guys spend too much time in the Minors. That should not and did not prevent him from developing to become a better ball player. Davey Concepcion came up at 21 to play very good SS for an NL Pennant winner, batting 0.260. The next two years were a nightmare of bad hitting, worse than Billy. Davey finally did what the coaches and Sparky were telling him to do, switch to a lighter bat. 1973 was a very good year for Davey, before he broke his ankle. The years after also saw him hit well.
      Players sometimes just DO NOT pay attention to coaches. You would think they would, but history says otherwise.

      I don’t hate or love Billy. He could have become more, but he chose NOT to do and learn the things he should have. You could say that about a LOT of Major League ball players.

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      • This feels closer to the truth for me. The tiring thing, as the article points out, are all the claims about how some magic elixir will suddenly help Billy turn the corner. That is just so rarely what happens. We know who Billy is. The numbers are there.

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      • This analysis of Hamilton’s career is spot on …

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      • David, this really isn’t a 180 viewpoint from Cossack’s. Both realities could exist. But what you’re saying completely presupposes that Billy didn’t actually try to get better based only on the fact that he didn’t improve. Sometimes people don’t improve no matter how much effort. If we only go off what is known publicly, and that’s all we can do, then there have been no stories or instances of Billy not putting in the time or effort to improve as a player.

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      • I have to disagree with you. Billy has tried very hard the issue has been coaching and here is why. The coaching staff has allowed everyone to teach Billy instead of just one…the hitting coach. That being said we should have learbed our lesson with Drew Stubbs blazing speed and no hitting. All that being said at no point did Billy ever show he could hit upper echelon pitching,and anyone who says they never seen this coming was only fooling themselves.

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        • Drew Stubbs was a better player than Billy Hamilton. Stubbs, for example hit 60 home runs in 3.5 seasons. He didn’t steal as many bases, but did steal over 100. I’ll always remember a few plays he made in CF and the year (3.4 WAR) he put together in 2010. He was an integral part of that postseason team.

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          • Agreed, Stubb’s had power and speed. He didn’t have the OBP that you would like out of a lead off man, but that is another example of sticking the CF in the leadoff spot

    • ” nepetistic” WOW!!!! great adjective. 🙂

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    • A contender that will use Billy as a designated stolen base stealer, and a late inning defensive replacement will appreciate his God given abilities. And their fans will enjoy it, without the daily expectations that Reds fans have.

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  8. Nice piece, though I think many of us at RLN sense anything involving Hamilton is an emotional issue involving the primary owner, rather than any logical baseball business decision.

    I would go further regarding Schebler, and just as with Winker, suggest that he has to play every day, whether RF or CF, just to confirm what production level he can be at.

    Because he got a starting gig late in his career, Schebler is the rarest of gems in 2018 MLB…a player who see all of his peak years under team control. He won’t be a FA agent until 2023, his age 33 season.

    Schebler has provided $8.8M of value already (1.1 WAR) and is making $580K this season.

    That is the kind of outperformance to market value the Reds have to keep finding and developing, to get enough of a core to compete.

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  9. I appreciate the correlation of Billy’s speed with Chapman’s MPH on his fastball. Both skills were/are so mesmerizing that it also caused the Front Office to eschew good judgement and potentially misuse the overall talent:

    Chapman was never given a real chance at starting and Billy’s speed caused spending average years in the leadoff hole and the owner to say things like “he should be a Red forever.”

    It’s cool to have nice toys, but it’s not a curiosity shop, it’s a ballclub trying to win things.

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  10. Billy is useful in the right circumstances. Needs a team with a big outfield and enough lineup stability to be able to find spots to use his speed offensively in the late innings. The Astros would work for him, and maybe San Francisco and Colorado.

    He has great baseball instincts, both on the bases and the field. He gets good secondary leads; he reads pitcher’s pickoffs well; he gets great jumps on balls on defense; and he throws to the right base. He just can’t hit, and the giveaway is that he can’t bunt. (He got in a run-down last night, but the low-line drive at the pitcher’s ankle kind of put him in no-man’s land.)

    Hey, Ozzie Smith was worse offensively than Billy, before turning the corner at age 27. And Billy is 27 . . .

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    • I have seen this narrative “hey, Team X could surely use him” thrown around several times. Travis Sawchik is probably the worst of anyone at pushing it.

      Billy Hamilton is awful offensively. His season high for wRC+ is 79, done in 2014 and 2016.
      That’s more than 20% worse than league average.

      His wRC+ this season is 56. “Havoc” indeed.

      Here are the team wRC+ of some of the contenders “who could use him”:

      Rockies 80 (30th)
      Phillies 88 (25th)
      Nationals 91 (21st)
      Giants tried to trade for him, Reds wanted too much, SF made other OF moves

      These teams need more offense, not a reduction by playing Hamilton often.

      Short of the vague PTBNL or cash considerations, I think the Reds will have a tough time moving Hamilton…if Castellini even allows it.

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      • Absolutely true. Billy will likely still be a Red at the end of 2018 because no one will take him for anything. The question is then do they pay him arb money, or cut him loose.

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  11. Steve, we need trigger warnings around here if you’re going to bring up Willy Tavares. 😉

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    • Imagine having to write it. Seriously, it’s worth paying attention to how fast Taveras’s skills declined. Reds signed him for 2009-10. They were sick of his bad attitude (not rehabbing his injury) and swapped bad contracts with the Oakland A’s, who cut him right away. Taveras played a handful of games for the Washington Nationals in 2010 and that was it for major league baseball. What a terrible scouting job and miscalculation by the Reds to sign him to that contract. Outcome was predictable, but old-school Jocketty and Baker loved the speed.

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    • Willy or Corey Patterson!

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  12. Steve, good article and I agree. I remember when I was in high school we won a game 25 – 0 and our 2nd baseman didn’t have a hit. Coach told him on the way back he wished we played 10 men so he could bat join 10th. I feel that way about BH.

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  13. ok guys. Schebler cannot play centerfield. sorry. he just cant… the goal of this year is not to win games but to develop young players particularly pitchers so we need our best defensive players on the field. the reds will have the same goal next year so guess what? , Hamilton aint going anywhere. good news is that Jose Siri is developing nicely and hopefully will be the everyday cf for the reds in 2020. and gues what? he can hit a little bit! yay

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    • Siri might one day be the CF, but his numbers in Daytona don’t look great. 31 SO to only 4 BB, .268 OBP .368 SLG. He was injured early in the year, but that isn’t getting him to the Reds

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  14. It’s almost as if CF has been a curse since the millennium (Curse of Mike Cameron) starting with the constant injuries of Ken Griffey Jr, Taveras not working out, Stubbs & Hamilton regressing badly after promising starts at the plate, and also having Josh Hamilton fall on our lap and then trading him for a pitcher who needed Tommy John surgery a year later. I would have been content if Hamilton could have turned into Dexter Fowler with more steals but minus the power but just not in the cards. I can’t see the Reds getting any more than a C/D Level prospect at most and most likely Reds tenure will end as a DFA situation. Detroit would be intriguing because of huge CF, can bat him 9th, and in early rebuild situation ( no pressure/ vet presence).

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  15. Hmmm, reading Barnhart’s and Votto’s comments on Billy’s performance last nite suggests that it is not just BC who’d like Billy to be a Red forever. Not sure how I come down on whether Billy might have benefitted from a longer stay in AAA. Makes sense that it might have. Also, hard to say that Billy’s problem is he isn’t doing what he’s being told to do (implying an attitude issue). More likely that he can’t do what he’s been told to do and perhaps as a result he’s being told by too many people to do too many things and now he’s all screwed up.Gist of the article though seems accurate, the Reds went all in before doing due diligence.

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    • Sounds like maybe Joey and Tucker need to ask Billy to hang out with them in the weight room and with Joey being such s student of hitting, maybe its time to be a teacher.

      I have said on other posts to try Scooter in CF, but maybe now its time to pull the trigger and put Nick there. He can always switch to 2B later if need be. Remember Eric Davis was a SS. How times did Pete move, 4? By the way, he was a serviceable lead off hitter and did not have blazing speed. Just an incredible work ethic. That is the rub with many of today’s players. Again, Billy not changing hitting style and should hit from one side. He is exciting, but it’s getting to be fewer occasinos. Its like waiting to ride The Beast waiting in line for 2 hours and you do get a thrill, but it is short lived and you have another long line for the next ride.

      With Herrera, maybe he is a solution. The injury he had may have been a reason for prior poor performance.

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  16. I remember I think 3 years ago I wrote a semi-long analysis on why Billy Hamilton was about to break out. Something about his swing rate, contact rate, something something, I don’t remember exactly, but Steve offered me the chance to turn it into a full article to post here on RLN. But I never took him up on the offer because, while there were a few promising stats pointing toward Hamilton breaking out, I just didn’t feel it. I couldn’t, in good faith, write a full article about something that I didn’t really believe myself.

    I do feel like Hamilton was on the cusp at one point, but he needed to take that final step. A lot of young players get on the cusp, but they can’t find the key to unlock that final door. Some guys like Suarez blaze right through like they have a skeleton key. Some guys, like Scooter Gennet, keep fiddling with the lock until finally it clicks open. Billy Hamilton fiddled, fiddled some more, almost got it, but in the end, the door remains locked to Billy, and what we see is a guy who went right to the edge, but didn’t make it.

    Billy is 28, his prime year. Speed is one of the first things to go once the aging curve hits, meaning Billy’s only elite tool is going to be on the chopping block very soon, and then he will have virtually no value, either as a player or as a trade chip. But I do believe Billy can be a luxury item for a contending team this season, a late inning base runner/defensive replacement. He can score the go-ahead run for you in the 8th, then make the diving catch to prevent a run in the 9th. Some team that is going to the post season may see the value in having a player like that on the bench, and indeed if Billy were used like this, it would maximize his tools (speed and defense) while hiding his weaknesses (hitting and getting on base).

    Billy coulda been a contendah. But he just didn’t make it. I agree Steve, it’s been time to move on for a long time now.

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  17. I typed this a few weeks ago but here it goes again! I happened to catch a little of a KC/Yankees game weeks ago and they were talking about Whit Merrifield. He was still kicking around the minors at 27 and was running out of time. He decided to gain 20 lbs of muscle and ate 7 eggs every morning and worked out hard. Now at 29 he’s a pretty productive player in the bigs! He wanted it! Billy obviously never wanted it like that or he wouldn’t still be a toothpick. Its pretty simple!

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  18. I’d like to keep Hamilton on as the 4th OF.
    The Yankees are bringing up a starting pitcher from AA to make a start Friday. This AA pitcher was out injured in 2014, 2015, 2016 and some in 2017. The Reds should be in continual contact with Yankees GM Cashman about either Finnegan or Stephenson. The Reds could get their next starting CF from NY if they were to play their cards just right. I thought Brandon Drury would be a good return, but Clint Frazier is a CF, not Drury. Frazier and Drury are just sitting at AAA with no room in NY for them. Frazier would be a good Hamilton replacement and Drury a good Duvall replacement. But Frazier is the priority. Both Finnegan and Stephenson were 1st round picks, just as Frazier was too. Who knows Stephenson or Finnegan could pop in The Pinstripes and excel in a change of scenery. And Frazier could pop in the Reds CF as Hamilton’s replacement.
    Frazier has been mentioned by a couple on here as a trade target. Today he looks like a better target for Cincinnati than the Indians Bradley Zimmer or Tyler Naquin. Or the Astros Kyle Tucker. Frazier is stuck at AAA with the Yankees OF situation. Heck I would make it a 2-fer day and give up both Finnegan and Stephenson for Frazier if the Yanks are buying. They help keep the Yankees under the luxury tax threshold. They need some pitching. They also need a younger starter or two for more than just 2018. They both fit that bill and the Yankees still could go after a Cole Hamels type or some other impending free agent SP.

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    • Are you suggesting that the Yanks would actually trade for Brandon Finnegan or Robert Stephenson to be the 5th starter? Is that something that the Yankees would ever do?

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    • Can’t agree more on Frazier. The Yankees are looking to win it all this year. The Reds are not for quite awhile. Sweeten the deal for them.

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    • Sorry just can’t see Brian Cashman giving up one of his top prospects (the gem in the Andrew Miller trade) for 2 pitchers (Stephenson & Finnegan) that can’t crack the worst pitching staff in the majors. Cashman is too shrewd of a GM to do so. Just think of the return we got for Chapman. Yes Frazier is blocked which had to do with concussion issues earlier this year and Yankee brass liking Hicks as CF. If he is moved, it most likely will be for top line pitcher (deGrom, Snydergaard).

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  19. The only thing better than this written blog post is Tom Rinaldi reading it out loud. Read good job, Steve!

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  20. Bravo Steve! The quality of the writing on RLN just gets better and better….

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  21. Steve and the commenters have about said it all and well. My only addition is that I don’t give the org a free pass on BHam’s lack of development. If they didn’t lay out and strongly “suggest” an off season strength building program for him, shame on them. If they did and he didn’t follow through; double shame on them. This would just be another brick in the wall indicating they are not really as on point and focused as they publicly profess to be.

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  22. I was thinking about Billy’s popularity with children and have come to this conclusion: kids can identify with Billy because they know the thrill of running fast. They can’t identify as well with the game’s great hitters, because their hand/eye coordination stinks. They can’t identify with pitchers because they can’t easily acquire that skill either. But every kid knows what it’s like to run fast and can thrill to Billy’s exploits in that department. They can easily imagine themselves as Little Billys.

    Obviously, that’s not a good reason to keep him around. I agree he needs to go. But the speed was thrilling to watch, and I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the guy.

    It just goes to show you the limitations of having one great skill. Give a track star a bat and he’s just a poorly-hitting track star. Baseball requires a whole collection of skills.

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    • Give a track star a glove and he’s a poor-fielding track star. Billy’s excellent defense is based on considerably more than speed. He reads the ball well, runs good routes, is sure-handed, and throws quickly and accurately. He’s a very poor hitter–worse this season than ever before and, as such, should have a different role, probably the one the Cossack has suggested. But like many–probably a majority–of players, he’s good on one side of the ball (pardon the football terminology) and poor on the other. That doesn’t amount to being a curiousity or a player without value. Joey Votto is a one-trick pony, too. So is Scooter. Peraza has yet to demonstrate that he has any tricks. and we don’t know about Schebler. Our fixation with Billy is astounding, given that I know that you are all too smart to really believe what the fixation implies: That Billy is the main reason the Reds suck.

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  23.  SLIOTAR
    06/13/2018 AT 1:52 PM
    “if Castellini even allows it”.

    The above post by Sliotar is the bottom line. No matter what logic says, no matter what the analytics say, not even common sense makes a difference. “Billy” is Bob’s shiny toy and he won’t let go of it.

    Reply
    • I’ve always thought that people have way over-read the Castillini comment. He said “I hope Billy is with us forever.” I interpret that to mean, “I hope he can be productive, so we can be a Red his whole career.” It is a stretch for it to be interpreted as “By God, I like that guy, it’s my team, and there is no way we’ll ever not play him.”

      People don’t earn Castellini’s kind of wealth without a clear-eyed understanding of business.

      Reply
      • BigEd, I agree with this 100 %. So many here keep bringing up that statement without knowing the context in how it was being discussed. When the media is talking to the owner about any player, what do you think the owner is going to say??? “We don’t see player X as as a Red in the future..”
        NO….he will (or should) speak about every player as being part of the team. Owners aren’t going to talk bad about anyone on his team. (at least in public)

        Reply
  24. Outstanding comprehensive post.
    A+ content. I enjoyed reading.

    Taylor Trammell and Senzel both look like 2020 starters. There is a great article on the Braves resurgence and John Scheurholz going back to the draft/ develop focus of the 1990’s. The Reds must stay the course and aggressively target a young core entering their prime in 2020.

    Reply
  25. Steve – Excellent article, over the past few games I find myself hoping this is the moment Billy turns the corner. Unfortunately the moments of awe are fewer and fewer and the moments of aargh come more often. I wish Billy the best but the Reds have got to move on to a new everyday center-fielder.

    Reply
  26. All my years of rooting on the Reds, I can’t think of another player that I wanted to succed more than Billy.
    It will be a sad day when he is no longer a Red. But he needs to go to a contender. Pinch Run late inning Def. replacment. He still has value in that role.
    Imagine game 7 of a playoff or world series game. 9th inn. down 1 or tied. Leadoff man reaches base. Who else in baseball beside Billy would you wanna see pinch running in that spot?

    Reply
  27. Great article. Here is an odd thing. This year Hamilton’s BB% is 11.5% versus his career of 7.1% and his K% is 30.8% versus a career of 20.4%. So both his BB% and K% are up simultaneously which strikes me as odd.

    Reply
    • That is strange, he currently has the same amount of walks as Barnhart and Suarez; trailing only Votto and Winker

      Reply
    • Was thinking of addressing this in the post but left it out. Billy’s contact rate on swings is WAY down. That’s putting him later in counts so his walk and strikeout rate are way up. His swinging-strike rate, which use to be relatively low has spiked.

      Reply
  28. The kid is 28…maybe he needs glasses. Also, I thought, well Ichiro Suzuki can’t weigh very much, so why does Billy have to put on 20 pounds. Well, it turns out Ichiro at 5″11 weighs 175 and Billy at 6’0 weighs 160…so, yeah, maybe he did need to put on some weight (of course it would probably slow him down some)

    Reply
  29. Call me cold hearted, but I think this article is about 3.5 years too late. Exciting as a handful of plays per month are, he’s not a good mlb player, and it seemed obvious shortly after the “magic” of his 2013 debut. This is simply not a sport, like football or hockey, where speed can overcome major flaws in hitting. And as all the great mlb base stealers say, speed is not necessarily the most important factor in stealing bases, but timing is. Even in Hamilton’s most potent offensive weapon, his best physical ability isn’t essential to good baseball.

    Reply
  30. Just some things to ponder on about valuing (or devaluing Billy). The majority on here won’t like this because it uses the old stat “RUNS CREATED”, which is basically (Runs Scored + RBI – HR). The number of HR is subtracted so that a run doesn’t get counted twice.

    As everyone is well aware, the problem for Billy is not scoring runs, but getting on base. For his career he scores around 46% of the time when he gets on base. Winker in a much smaller sample size scores about 33% of the time that he reaches base. This year, so far, Billy is scoring exactly 50% of the time, up slightly from his career average while Winker is scoring around 28% of the time, down slightly from his career average over the short sample size.

    I think it is interesting to compare Billy and Winker this season, they have almost the same number of plate appearances and Winker has batted primarily leadoff while Billy has batted primarily in the 9th position (kind of a pseudo lead off).

    I think it is interesting to look at the chart below and compare runs scored per plate appearance and runs created per plate appearance between the two (I included Votto, well, because he is Votto). My numbers could be slightly off because I did not include SF and SH in the PA totals, but the numbers should be close.

    Even though Billy’s OBP is about 80 points less than Winker’s, he still out scores Winker per PA 0.142 to 0.100. If you project that over 500 PA (I chose 500 because I have a simple mind and nice round numbers are easy to work with), that comes out to approximately 71 runs for Billy and 50 for Winker, a not insignificant difference of 21 runs.

    If you compare my old favorite, Runs Created per PA, Billy, even with his gosh awful batting average of less than .200 and slugging of .282, still comes out slightly ahead at 0.192 per PA to Winker’s 0.174. Projected over 500 PA, Billy creates 96 runs to Winker’s 87, a difference of 9 runs.
    Now, I realize there is more positives to be gained from getting on base than just runs created by the batter. Getting on base can move up the runner(s) without giving up an out, it can keep the inning alive (keep the line moving) and give the next batter the opportunity to drive in the run(s), etc. But I also think one might want to consider factoring in Billy’s defense, it may well trump those benefits, but of course that is hard to quantify.

    I’m not trying to belittle Winker, just wondering if Billy’s value to the team is being undervalued a little bit. Just some things to ponder on.

    PA AB H BB HBP R RBI HR RC R/PA RC/PA
    Hamilton 239 213 42 26 0 34 14 2 46 0.142259414 0.192468619

    Winker 229 196 50 31 2 23 19 2 40 0.100436681 0.174672489

    Votto 307 252 76 50 5 34 32 2 64 0.110749186 0.208469055

    Reply

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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