Cincinnati Reds see season fall apart with Billy Hamilton injury

Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /

With an oblique injury to centerfielder Billy Hamilton, the Cincinnati Reds’ plans to forecast for next season fell apart.

It was just a checked swing.  It wasn’t even a full check.  Cincinnati Reds’ centerfielder Billy Hamilton twitched his bat and then held his side.  That was all it took for the next month of the season take a drastic turn.

The Reds had been hoping to see how the trio of Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler and Hamilton would work together in the outfield.  They also wanted to see them bat together for the remainder of the season. Now they will watch a combination of Tyler Holt, Jose Peraza and Hernan Iribarren covering the hole created by Hamilton’s injury.

There is a bigger hole than centerfield, too.  The hole atop the Reds’ line-up will frustrate the fans and front office even more.  For much of the year Zack Cozart was a capable lead-off hitter, but it has been apparent that he doesn’t belong there full-time.  Since the trade of Jay Bruce, Hamilton had batted lead-off consistently.

Hamilton’s injury may slow down the development of Peraza and Schebler.

In the first game without Hamilton Peraza batted lead-off and played center.  The hope has been that Peraza would be a middle infielder and bat second, if Hamilton could maintain his OBP through the end of the year.  Now Peraza is batting in the wrong spot, playing the wrong position.

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The good news is that the Reds want Hamilton in center, batting first to start the 2017 season. There may not be a safer projection right now, with the possible exception of Joey Votto at first base.  Even Votto isn’t sure where the front office would like to see him bat next spring.

The test that the Reds’ front office had briefly mentioned was batting Schebler second behind Hamilton to see how that would work.  Then Schebler went on a home run tear.  Now with Hamilton injured Cozart is staying hitting second.  This is despite it making more sense for Cozart to bat in the bottom half of the order as a run producer.

Billy Hamilton has put the Cincinnati Reds through this before.

This isn’t the first time that Hamilton has been injured during his reign as the Cincinnati Reds’ centerfielder, not even close.  Earlier this season he suffered a concussion and a knee contusion.  In 2015 he missed time late in the year with a right shoulder injury.  He’s also hurt his left hand sliding head first into bases, requiring the constant wearing of a soft cast whenever he is on base.

Hamilton may be hurting his hold on center with his history of injuries.  Where exactly does he land on the Willie McGee-Vince Coleman-Doug Dascenzo spectrum?  Right now he is much closer to elite defensive outfielder Doug Dascenzo than elite lead-off man Vince Coleman.

For Reds’ fans the spectrum maybe Eric Davis-Reggie Sanders-Eddie Milner, since Davis and Sanders were drafted as infielders like Hamilton.  To compare him offensively to Davis and Sanders would be unfair, though.  The duo produced power in the minors, not just speed alone.  Hamilton has been a speedster extraordinaire since day one.

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Hamilton’s place on the team has to be in danger with this season-ending injury.  An injury like this could cost the Reds a play-off appearance, if they were in the pennant race.   Is Billy Hamilton good enough to be worth the risk?