Realistic Expectations for Billy Hamilton


In 2014, Billy Hamilton became one of the main attractions to watch during a Reds game. If you were watching and he reached first base, you suddenly paid closer attention to the game. In this regard, he rewarded the fans with 56 stolen bases during the season. The downside was that he was caught stealing 23 times, but that probably had to do with the fact that pitchers and catchers were waiting for him to run. Overall, he had an average rookie season, hitting .250/.292/.355 with six home runs, 25 doubles, eight triples and 48 RBI.

Most of his success came in the first half of the season. He hit .285/.319/.423 in the first half, but struggled mightily in the second half, hitting .200/.254/.257. The second half is what ultimately cost him the Rookie of the Year award. I’m sure some of it had to do with the fact that it was the first time he’s played 152 games in a season. But there could also be another reason for the second half slump.

Diving deeper into the stats, it’s discovered that Hamilton hit a lot of fly balls. His ground ball to fly ball ratio was 0.73. Fourteen percent of the fly balls he hit were infield flies. That’s not conducive to the kind of game Hamilton wants to play or what the Reds would like to see from him. Of his 141 hits last season, 39 were infield hits and 15 were bunt hits. With his speed, he needs to hit more ground balls, especially given that he grounded into only one double play the entire season. Even when there are runners on base, he should be trying to hit the ball on the ground.

Hamilton is also a player who is going to have a high strike out rate. In 2014, he had 117 strikeouts. This is nothing out of the ordinary for Hamilton. During his minor league career, he had 143 strikeouts in 2011 at Dayton, 125 strikeouts in 2012 at Bakersfield and Pensacola, and 114 strikeouts in 2013 at Louisville. His strikeout to walk ratio was 3.44 last season, and he struck out every fourth at-bat. He doesn’t seem to show a lot of patience at the plate in order to draw walks. And as a leadoff hitter, 34 walks in a season (Hamilton’s total last year) is not ideal.

It’s not going to get any easier for Hamilton. Pitchers will figure out how to pitch to him. There will be more scouting reports on him. It’s up to Hamilton to make adjustments to those adjustments. 2015 will be just his sophomore season and he’s only 24 years old. He does now have a better understanding of how to take care of his body over the course of a grueling 162-game season. He’s still young enough to figure it out, but a player can only change so much from what seems to be the same approach throughout his minor league career.

Realistically, if Hamilton hits about .270/.325/.350., which is comparable to what he did the first half of 2014 and his years in the minors, I think it would be a successful season for him. Can he raise his batting average 20 points from last year? I think if he tries to limit the fly balls, it’s possible. One thing’s for certain, if Hamilton can avoid the second half slump and get on base regularly for the power hitters in the lineup behind him, the Reds should be a better team in 2015.