Sep 7, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds speedster Billy Hamilton (6) slides in safely as he steals second base during the bottom of the 10th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

Which Red could benefit the most from Billy Hamilton leading off?


 

Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price has already stated that his lineup, at least on most nights, is going to start off with Billy Hamilton, Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto making up the top three spots. As you know, unless you have been living under a rock, Billy Hamilton is the fastest man that baseball has seen in quite a long time and while there is some debate about how often he will get on base, no one questions that he is going to run wild when he actually does get on base.

As JJ Cooper of Baseball America has noted, if Billy Hamilton gets a decent jump and doesn’t fall over, it will take a perfect pitch and a perfect throw that is right on target in order to catch him stealing when he runs. The perfect pitch is going to have to be a fastball or the pitch won’t get to the plate fast enough to allow a throw to be on time.

What that means of course is that whoever is hitting second for the Cincinnati Reds is going to see plenty of fastballs. While Brandon Phillips is slated to be the man hitting there, which Red would benefit the most from seeing more fastballs? To find out the answer to that question, we can head over to Fangraphs and look at how the projected other seven starters perform when seeing a fastball.

Run Value per 100 Fastballs
Player 2011 vs FB 2012 vs FB 2013 vs FB
Joey Votto 2.81 2.64 2.32
Jay Bruce 0.71 0.70 1.40
Todd Frazier -0.40 0.58 1.07
Brandon Phillips 1.14 0.52 -0.63
Zack Cozart 1.08 -0.20 -1.14
Devin Mesoraco 0.42 0.06 -0.90
Ryan Ludwick -0.08 1.71 -0.52

Joey Votto clearly tops this list as he is the only hitter who has had a two run mark per 100 fastballs on the list and he did so three times in a row. Jay Bruce is easily second on the list, though far behind Votto he is more than twice as valuable as anyone else on the list. Todd Frazier, Ryan Ludwick and Brandon Phillips are all fairly close in value against the fastball over the past three seasons. Zack Cozart and Devin Mesoraco have both struggled against the fastball in recent years.

Joey Votto crushes fastballs. But Votto also performs well against all other pitches. Jay Bruce hits all other pitches well with the exception of the slider. Todd Frazier handles the fastball well and crushes the curveball but he struggles against other pitches. Brandon Phillips has historically hit the change up quite well and has also hit the fastball well, while being average against the curveball and change up. Ryan Ludwick has struggled against the slider, but has been average against most other pitches in recent years.

Joey Votto and Jay Bruce would benefit the most from seeing more fastballs but they are also the two best hitters against other pitches on the team which may mean that others would benefit more from seeing additional fastballs to help hide the lack of success against other pitches. Frazier, Ludwick and Phillips all seem like good options that could benefit from facing a few extra fastballs batting behind Billy Hamilton.

With Phillips being named as the second batter in the lineup already it does seem that there is evidence that he could benefit quite a bit from the spot in the lineup directly behind Hamilton as much as any other hitter could. While we don’t know that was the reasoning behind the choice made by manager Bryan Price, we could see the benefits paying off for it throughout the season.

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  • Ron Fulton

    Doug Gray just validated my point that Votto should bat second and Phillips third. Not to mention Votto is left handed and makes it a little harder to throw vs a right handed batter (Phillips). I will keep harping on this because I know I’m right.

    • Doug Gray

      You are arguing with the wrong people. We aren’t the manager of the team.

      And really, you want a right hander to make the throw harder because the throw to third base is the shorter one and is the one that really makes it easier to get Hamilton. Hamilton is only going to be caught stealing second because of something he did as noted in the linked JJ Cooper article given how fast he is and the time it takes to get a pitch to the plate and then back to second base. The throw to third base though is shorter and takes less time, so having a right hander in the way provides that extra protection. Of course, you don’t change your batting order up for stolen base protection.

      • Ron Fulton

        Good point. You think Phillips is better in the 2 hole and I think Votto is the prototype 2 hole hitter. I guess we will agree to disagree. I think my point will be validated as the season goes on.

        • Doug Gray

          I think Votto is the best fit in terms of how it will lead directly to the most production, but for the team as it is constructed, other players make more sense because the Reds only have two guys that can handle nearly all pitches thrown, so I would rather take advantage of someone seeing more fastballs who struggles with more than 1 pitch in order to get something extra out of someone that you probably wouldn’t get as much benefit from by hitting Votto or Bruce there because of how they handle all pitches.

          • Ron Fulton

            Votto should bat second and I am convinced of that especially with Hamilton leading off.