After four years of watching Billy Hamilton, the Cincinnati Reds need to give up
It doesn’t make sense for the Cincinnati Reds to continue to bat center fielder Billy Hamilton in the lead-off spot. 2016 is the only year that saw Hamilton have an OBP higher than .300. The Reds need to realize what is going on.
Hamilton is an elite defensive center fielder. He is also an elite base stealer. He is not an elite batter at the MLB level.
On a good team, Hamilton may only be a fourth outfielder. On the Reds he is a starter. That doesn’t mean that he should be batting lead-off.
For awhile, the Reds batted Hamilton ninth. That is ridiculous. If they think he is that limited offensively, they should bench him.
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That does leave batting second through eighth up for debate. Third and fourth are off the table. Eighth is too, logistically.
Given that the Reds aren’t big on bunting, batting Hamilton second doesn’t make much sense. He only would bat second, if it meant frequently bunting the lead-off batter over to second. That just isn’t the way the Reds usually operate on offense.
That leaves fifth through seventh open for Hamilton to bat. Which among those makes sense would depend on what else the Reds are doing offensively. Fifth makes the most sense based on 2017’s set-up.
If Billy Hamilton isn’t a lead-off batter, the Cincinnati Reds shouldn’t keep him around.
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Since Hamilton cannot get on base, he is more valuable as a trade piece. Teams have been trying to acquire Hamilton for two seasons. The only hindrance to a trade is how much the team owner loves Hamilton.
MLB is big business. When it makes sense to trade a player, you trade a player. Emotions cannot dictate roster moves.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, and Texas Rangers all can afford to bat Hamilton down in the order. They also can afford financially to use Hamilton as a fourth outfielder. That’s a flexibility the Reds also don’t have.
The Reds, however, need to plan to have someone else bat lead-off in 2018. They also need to consider whether Hamilton has a place in the new line-up. That is what it takes to get ready to compete.