Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Billy Hamilton: The difference this time around


Billy Hamilton started the season in center field for the Cincinnati Reds against the St. Louis Cardinals. In that opening series Hamilton went 0-12 with a walk and six strikeouts. Reds postgame radio talk host Doc Rogers wanted him to be sent to the minor leagues because he said that Hamilton was overmatched and he didn’t want to crush his confidence. I’m not sure how sending him to the minor leagues because of three games is supposed to be good for your confidence, but nonetheless, Rogers said it.

The speedy outfielder was given the game off against the Mets to start the next series and in a pinch running appearance he was caught stealing and tweaked a finger. That held him out of the next two games as a hitter, only making one appearance as a pinch runner.

Hamilton then returned for the series against the Cardinals. This time around he went 5-14 with a walk and a strikeout. He did some crazy things on the base paths such as scoring on a sacrifice fly that was caught by an outfielder about 25 feet from the dirt and stealing second base off of Yadier Molina without an attempt at a throw. While those things may have Reds fans talking, it isn’t what they should be talking about.

Everyone already knows that Billy Hamilton can run faster than anyone in the game and do some truly special things with his speed. What Reds fans should be talking about is how different Billy Hamilton looked at the plate. Back on April 3rd I tweeted out this about Hamilton’s mechanics:

In that first series he was a mess. Hamilton still doesn’t exactly show a nice swing from the left side of the plate, and he will still have some issues with pitch recognition at times that will cause him to be out front and look fooled, but in that first series against the Cardinals Billy Hamilton was simply a mess. He was throwing the bat at the ball simply trying to slap the ball and he was doing so out on his front foot. The number of hitters with enough bat control to do that in the last 30 years can be counted on one hand and the Reds center fielder isn’t one of them.

In this past series with the Cardinals Hamilton was a completely different hitter. He stayed back and tried to drive the ball rather than simply flail the bat at the ball in an effort to make contact. He had a double and a triple in the series, though the double was of the “did you really forget how fast I am” variety, but the triple was stung well. When he can stay back and try to hit the ball hard, he is going to see a lot more success than when he is simply up there throwing the bat at the ball trying to make contact. As we have seen thus far, Major League infielders can throw him out on ground balls (0-10 on balls fielded by infielders that weren’t bunts) even with how fast he is.

If Billy Hamilton can keep doing what he did with his plate approach in St. Louis, he will be just fine and the Reds will get plenty of offensive value from him, even if it does come in extraordinary ways at times because of his special kind of speed.

Tags: Billy Hamilton Cincinnati Reds

  • beeker

    I am really glad the Reds did not listen to Doc Rogers’ advice. He was a one-man wrecking crew on Wed, completely taking over that game.

    I don’t know his name yet, but kudos to the new batting coach. Frazier looks like a different person at the plate. Heisey’s adjustments are working. Ludwick is seeing production in April for perhaps the first time in his career. Who would have predicted the starts that Mesoraco and Pena have had? (We will see how long they last.) If he can continue honing those guys, it will be a wonderful change to not have to depend on Bruce, Phillips and Votto to produce 80% of the teams runs.

    • Doug Gray

      Don Long is the hitting coach. I have liked what I have seen from most of the guys when it comes to approach. Guys are being more patient at the plate for the most part and in the long run, it is going to get them better pitches to hit and help.

      With Doc Rogers, let’s just say that there is a reason he used to work in baseball and now he hosts a local talk radio show.

      With Mesoraco, I hope that consistent playing time gets him back to the hitter he was in the minor leagues. Sitting for 3-4 days at a time under Baker simply wasn’t going to work.

  • S.Thomas

    So, are you saying you know more about baseball and evaluating players than Doc Rogers who.. played minor league baseball. Doc Rogers who worked in the front offices in baseball? Umm…ok

    • Doug Gray

      Yes, I am in this case. If you want to demote a player after 12 at bats, then you are just flat out wrong about it.

      • S.Thomas

        And your experience of evaluating talent, is based on???? Watching baseball on television and attending minor league games and then writing blogs and internet articles on it. Ok. Sorry, skeptical on your decades of writing about a sport when you have only been an observer and not a participant–and laying claim that your opinion is greater than someone that actually was paid to evaluate players by a professional baseball team.

        • Doug Gray

          I’m watching the game right now. Billy Hamilton is still wearing a Reds uniform. So clearly Walt Jocketty and Bryan Price also thought that sending Hamilton to the minor leagues after 12 at-bats was a bad idea. How do their qualifications stand up?

          Simply because you are paid to make evaluations doesn’t mean you can’t be wrong. In baseball, even the best guys at it are wrong more than they are right when it comes to young and unproven players.

          End of the day, I don’t care if you are Andrew Friedman or Andrew Schoolteacher, if you are saying to demote a player based on three games worth of at bats, you are wrong about it. There simply isn’t enough time to know what is going on there. That was the point. Not that I am some better talent evaluator. Not saying that I am some genius. Just saying that 12 at-bats is not, in any way, enough to determine the future of a player.

          Now, if today Doc wanted to have that conversation, I am willing to listen to it a lot more. We have a small sample size to work with still, but have also seen far more at bats. We have seen him at his low (that first series) and we have seen him when he was doing well over a few games too (Pirates/Cubs – he hit .432 in a span of four games against those two).

          Personally, I think Hamilton would be fine in either the minor leagues or being moved down in the lineup (bat him 7th with Cozart behind him). He isn’t a leadoff hitter at this point in his career.