Cincinnati Reds’ Billy Hamilton’s speed puts him in elite company

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Reds’ center fielder is one of the fastest players in MLB and is in good company.

Last season MLB Statcast attempted to figure out if the Cincinnati Reds’ center fielder was the fastest in the game.  Spoiler alert, Hamilton was not.  Still, being in the top five cemented his legacy as one of the faster players in MLB.

Hamilton ranked third last year in MLB in average time getting to first (from the left handed batter’s box).  According to Statcast, Billy Burns of the Oakland Athletics is the fastest runner in baseball.  He averaged 3.85 seconds out of the batter’s box.

The other person ahead of Hamilton is Dee Gordon of the Miami Marlins.  Gordon is one of only two non-outfielders to make the list.  Gordon and Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Jonathan Villar have each beat Hamilton once for the National League stolen base title.

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Just below Hamilton at number four in the ratings was Delino DeShields of the Texas Rangers.  He was part of negotiations this off-season between the Rangers and the Reds over Hamilton and former pitcher Dan Straily.  DeShields moved over to left field to allow Carlos Gomez everyday playing time, despite DeShields’ top shelf speed.

The Cincinnati Reds can see Billy Hamilton’s speed,  but is the speedster taking full advantage?

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Hamilton has been the lead-off hitter for the Reds all season long.  He leads MLB in stolen bases, just ahead of the injured shortstop for the Washington Nationals, Trea Turner, and Gordon.  Despite batting lead-off and moving himself along, he is only 25th in MLB in runs this season.

Hamilton’s batting average of .242 is a little bit low, but his OBP of .296 is what really holds him back.  Looking at the other fastest players, only Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros, ranked fifth, is truly an elite all around player.  The rest of the players lack a dimension or consistency.

Hamilton needs to do something to take better advantage of his speed.  He won’t become a hitter like Altuve,  That means he needs to do something else.

The real thing is for Hamilton to bunt more when the Reds have base runners.  Forcing him to work on bunting in that manner should make him a better bunter.  Getting him a tutor like former MLB center fielder Brett Butler may help.

Next: How much longer will Zack be in Cincinnati?

Hamilton has been in the running for the All-Star team and he has been in danger of losing his starting role, both this season.  His OBP and aggressiveness drives the Reds offense.  Hopefully, his speed will propel Hamilton to another level, eventually.