With apologies to the band Aerosmith who sang the song “Janie’s Gotta Gun” , the Cincinnati Reds top prospect Billy Hamilton follows the theory that when he reaches base…”Billy’s Gotta Run”. Facing growing expectation, attention and anticipation the road has been slightly bumpy for Hamilton as he closes in on the All Time Minor League Baseball stolen base record of 145 set in 1983. He has been caught stealing in 6 of his past 9 games but consider the numbers:
- At Class A Dayton in 2011 Billy Hamilton stole 103 bases on 123 attempts for a success rate of 84%
- At Advanced A Bakersfield Billy stole 104 bases on 125 attempts for a success rate of 83%
- At Class AA Pensacola Hamilton has stolen 39 bases on 52 attempts for a success rate of 75%
- During his entire MiLB career Hamilton has pilfered 308 bases on 373 attempts for a success rate of 83%
- He leads the California League in stolen bases and is within two of the lead in the Carolina League in spite of playing just a quarter of the games that the league leader has played.
What these numbers do not reflect are the staggering number of extra bases Billy has taken due to errors caused by opposing fielders rushing their throws. He has scored 284 runs in 366 career minor league games.
Since his promotion to Bakersfield at the beginning of the season, Billy’s speed has not been a secret. Every time he reaches base the expectation is that he will try to steal. He is a highlight reel from the moment he steps into the batters box. The reason he produces more excitement than any player I have ever had the privilege to watch is you know what he is going to try to do and so does his opposition and yet he still does it. Billy has an on base percentage this season of .415, it is .419 with the Blue Wahoos. His stolen base percentage is still hovering around 80% in spite of the near constant pickoff attempts and pitchouts. He may not be the finished product we all want to imagine but he is improving in every facet of his game. The most important statistic in my opinion though is this: In 366 career games within the Reds organization Billy has scored 284 runs. Not a bad pace.
One of the advantages Hamilton has provided the Reds organization is a being a one man marketing bonanza. The Dayton Dragons focused attention on the speedster as part of the celebration revolving around attaining the record for the most consecutive sellouts in American professional sports history. Upon moving to Bakersfield at the start of this season he provided the inspiration for his own bobblehead promotion by the club last week. Now in Pensacola as they celebrate their inaugural season they have offered a wonderful page combining a number of video vignettes of Hamilton at work on the basepaths. Not least of these is the scintillating inside the park homerun where Billy was timed circling the bases in a mere 13.8 seconds.
The inside the park home run requires we put his speed in perspective. The acclaimed fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, ran the 100 meter sprint in 9.63 seconds in a straight line off a starting block during the 2012 Olympic Games. Billy Hamilton swung the bat and CIRCLED the bases in 13.8 seconds. The distance: 360 feet is equal to 109.7 meters. I have no idea what time Billy can earn in this race but I know this without any doubt. Billy Hamilton would offer a competitive race.
I have talked a number of times about the eye opening performance Billy offered in the Reds/Futures game prior to the opening of the 2012 season. When he reached base and attempted to steal against Devin Mesoraco on a pitch out he was only tagged out by sliding over the bag. Later in the game he did steal against Ryan Hanigan.
Tomorrow Billy will play in a twilight double header at home in Pensacola. If he reaches base he will run. Odds are in his favor that he will steal a base or two and possibly even break the record. I am guessing Billy’s still gonna run…
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