Former Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton will take the field tonight for the Atlanta Braves. This will be the first playoff game of Hamilton’s career.
This past offseason, the Cincinnati Reds bid farewell to fan favorite Billy Hamilton. During his six years in the Queen City, Hamilton dazzled Reds Country with out-of-this-world catches and blazing fast speed on the base paths. Tonight will mark Hamilton’s first postseason appearance as the Atlanta Braves host the St. Louis Cardinals.
I don’t know which team you’re rooting for in the NLDS, but I’ve got a pretty good idea. The majority of Reds fans cannot stand the Cardinals, so it would stand to reason that Atlanta would have a contingent of folks throughout Reds Country pulling for the Braves. In addition to the hatred for the Redbirds, the love for Hamilton will also fuel Reds fans’ rooting interest in this series.
Don’t expect to see Hamilton in the starting lineup tonight for the Braves. Atlanta has one of the best center fielders in the game, Ronald Acuna Jr., slated to start Game 1. However, Hamilton has started 9 of the 24 games he’s played for Atlanta this season, and Acuna’s versatility allows him to play all over the outfield.
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With Ender Inciarte still nursing a hamstring injury and expected to miss the Division Series, Hamilton could take on a bigger role than expected. Believe it or not, Billy’s actually hitting .268 with a .375 on-base percentage since joining Atlanta.
More times than not this season, Hamilton has served as a defensive replacement and pinch runner for the Braves. In fact, 17 of his 24 appearances for Atlanta have come after the sixth inning. Hamilton’s speed has not been of much help on the base paths, as he’s only stolen four bases while being caught just once.
During his time with the Cincinnati Reds, fans would marvel at his speed. From 2014-2017, Hamilton stole more than 50 bases in a season, with his career-high of 59 coming in 2017. Hamilton was one away from Dee Gordon‘s league-leading 60 steals that season.
As good as Hamilton was at swiping bags, he was just a bad at swinging the bat. For his career in Cincinnati, Hamilton slashed .245/.298/.333. There may have never been a more frustrating player to watch at the plate. Fans knew that once Hamilton was on the bases, they were in for a show. Unfortunately, his time on the base paths were few and far between.
Hamilton’s poor offensive performance led the Cincinnati Reds to non-tender their starting center fielder this past offseason. Hamilton signed a deal with the Kansas City Royals, but was eventually released after failing to perform at the plate yet again.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll be rooting for Billy and the Braves to knock off the St. Louis Cardinals during the upcoming ALDS. It seems like Atlanta has found the proper role for Billy Hamilton – a defensive replacement, late in games, when your team has the lead. Here’s hoping Billy runs all the way to the NLCS.