Let’s Watch Billy Hamilton Make a Run Happen

One of the big conversations taking place in baseball right now concerns whether or not Billy Hamilton is going to hit enough to stick as an actual long-term regular. It’s a justifiable worry, because Hamilton didn’t exactly tear up the minors, and he hasn’t looked fantastic in his limited exposure to the majors. We won’t know for a while whether Hamilton can do enough at the plate, but it’s good to have the occasional reminder of why he’s being held to a lower baseline than others. Wednesday’s fifth inning of a game between the Reds and Cardinals provided such a reminder.

It wouldn’t be fair to say that Hamilton made a run happen entirely on his own. He required assistance from the pitcher, his teammates, and the rest of the opposition. But with no other player in baseball would a run have been scored, given the sequence you’re about to observe, in .gif form.

I almost wrote that, “innocently enough, Hamilton led off with a first-pitch single.” But as we have already come to know, there’s nothing innocent about a Billy Hamilton single with no one on base in front of him. Shelby Miller threw a fastball down the middle and Hamilton slapped it.

Hamilton1B.gif.opt

That’s the boring part. That’s the part Hamilton has to do in order to really get into his strength. Up next was Brandon Phillips, and the Cardinals opted for a pitch-out. Hamilton didn’t budge. The next pitch was a cutter, for a strike, and Hamilton budged.

HamiltonSB.gif.opt

Hamilton got an unbelievable jump, and I timed him at about 3.1 seconds. It’s important to note that the Cardinals’ catcher was Yadier Molina. It’s important to note that Molina didn’t even fake an attempt of a throw. Billy Hamilton took off against the best defensive catcher in baseball, and the best defensive catcher in baseball was like, “welp.” Granted, steals are really more against the pitcher than they are against the catcher, but I’d love to know the last time Molina didn’t even think about making a throw.

The next pitch was another cutter, which Phillips lifted in play into relatively shallow right field. Hamilton did some more budging.

HamiltonSF1.gif.opt

Jon Jay had everything lined up, but Hamilton would’ve been safe even if the throw had been on target. I timed Hamilton at about 3.4 seconds, and that’s tagging up, remember, where you can’t get a lead. Hamilton got himself to third with one out, and that’s the fly-ball advance no one’s going to remember tomorrow. (foreshadowing)

After Joey Votto walked, Jay Bruce came up and got a first-pitch fastball, high. He swung and made contact and lifted the ball a little bit beyond the infield dirt. Focus on those words — “a little bit beyond the infield dirt” — and remember that you’re reading an article about baserunning. Billy Hamilton doesn’t even make sense.

HamiltonSF2.gif.opt

Fine throw. Fine defensive effort all around. No matter. I timed Hamilton at about 3.3 seconds. Here’s another view of the same thing happening:

HamiltonSF3.gif.opt

And just as a still shot of how that pop-up developed:

sacflyhamilton

Jay Bruce hit a pop-up the second baseman could’ve caught. Bruce got credit for a sac fly and an RBI. With literally anybody else in the game, Bruce would’ve returned to the dugout knowing he’d screwed up. He still knew he screwed up, but that’s one of the things about Hamilton — he can erase other people’s mistakes. Billy Hamilton, by himself, turned Jay Bruce’s negative into a positive.

You’re looking at probably one of the most shallow sac flies in baseball history. It’s hard to imagine a sac fly more shallow. Let’s look at the most shallow sac flies from 2013, shall we? We’ll move in chronological order. These are the sac flies hit to what were considered infield zones.

2013sf1

Player fell down making the catch. Easy to advance when the player with the ball falls down.

2013sf2

Player had his back turned, momentum carrying him in the wrong direction. Ballsy baserunning, but it’s easier to advance when the defender’s moving away from you.

2013sf3

Player dropped the ball on the transfer. These days this wouldn’t even be a catch at all. Easy to advance when the ball’s on the ground.

2013sf4

Easy to advance when the defender is Starlin Castro. Castro, here, just zoned out, and didn’t even notice the runner was going until it was too late. In Castro’s defense, Darwin Barney also gave up on the play after the catch, and Barney is a tremendous and tremendously heads-up defensive player.

2013sf5

Player fell down making the catch again.

2013sf6

This time Eric Young just flat beat Norichika Aoki‘s throw. Though Aoki slightly bobbled the baseball, he had forward momentum and his throw was accurate. Young just out-ran the play. In that way, Young pulled a Billy Hamilton just last September, but Aoki, at least, was still clearly in the outfield. An infielder couldn’t have caught the ball that Aoki caught, so the throw had to come from further away and every split-second matters.

Billy Hamilton’s bat got him on first, and Billy Hamilton’s legs got him to home, with limited help. If Bruce’s wasn’t the most shallow ordinary sac fly ever, it’s at least in the conversation, and that’s not a credit to Bruce — that’s all on the baserunner, who didn’t even need to take advantage of a mistake. One of the things with Hamilton is people always operate under the assumption that he’s going to try to advance. He advances almost all the time despite that, being sort of the baserunning version of Mariano Rivera‘s cutter. Yeah, it’s going to happen. What are you going to do about it?

Over his career, Rickey Henderson scored 40% of the time he got on base. Michael Bourn and Jose Reyes are also at 40%. Jimmy Rollins, Carl Crawford, and Jacoby Ellsbury are at 39%. Juan Pierre, 38%. Ichiro Suzuki, 36%. Carlos Beltran, 35%. These are some of the game’s premier recent baserunners, and they’ve all scored at a well above-average clip, where lately the average has been about 29-30%. The question with Hamilton is all about how high that percentage can go. We can say with a high degree of confidence that Hamilton isn’t likely to be a true on-base threat. But an alternative to creating runs by getting on base is squeezing as many runs as you can out of the times you are on base. Hamilton promises to do all this with perhaps unprecedented efficiency, and that’s why the Reds are having him do what he’s doing. Hamilton isn’t going to create runs with his bat — the bat’s just going to put him in position to do what he knows.

No, it’s still not clear Hamilton’s ever going to hit enough. But remember that “enough” for Billy Hamilton is different from “enough” for Oscar Taveras or Jackie Bradley Jr. Wednesday provided a most conspicuous reminder. At the end of the day, Billy Hamilton’s going to settle for mostly singles, but, here’s a baseball riddle for you: when is a single not a single? You’ve read a few hundred words about the answer.




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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


160 Responses to “Let’s Watch Billy Hamilton Make a Run Happen”

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  1. Hurtlockertwo says:

    That Billy Hamilton is one fast MoFo. Love this.

    +24 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • tz says:

      He fricken scored on a ball that would have been called an infield fly, if the infield fly rule was applicable.

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    • Balthazar says:

      Hamilton sure is. I remember the last era of great basestealers. I lived in Oakland when Ricky Henderson first notched 100 steals and many others on the team were running wild also. Omar Moreno, Miguel Dilone, Otis Nixon: none of them great players, and mostly well below average hitters. They could defend in the OF, though—and were incredibly disruptive once on base.

      Not all of the great frequency basestealers had good success rates, which is really the thing to watch. Henderson didn’t have a good rate. When he set the major league record for steals, he was still caught 46 times if I recall, which is an enormous number of outs to give up on the basepaths. But he was so disruptive to the other team’s pitching staff he impacted the game in broader ways. Hamilton may well have this kind of impact. My personal favorite stealers are the high success rate guys, like Davy Lopes back just before Henderson came up who had a 7:1 rate, or Ichiro who has always had an outstand success rate. But a guy like Hamilton is just very exciting to watch play. I’m glad we’ll now have that privilege.

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      • Jon L. says:

        They may have let Rickey run wild in his youth, but he calmed down as he got older (i.e., after that 130-steal season) to the tune of an 82.3% success rate over his last 1321 steal attempts.

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  2. SamYam says:

    The best part is that Bruce is very clearly upset with himself that he didn’t get enough of it

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  3. But Really says:

    While Hamilton’s speed is undeniable, if anyone else on the team makes that catch he’s thrown out. Jay might have the weakest arm in baseball…

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    • Norichika Aoki says:

      I find that hard to believe.

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    • Bryce says:

      Jay’s arm is weak, but that throw was in his range, and he was on target.

      +27 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • jiveballer says:

      If it takes a perfect throw by a strong arm then you have to give all credit to the runner.

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      • Sam says:

        That play was more about Jay than Hamilton. Jay could hardly have messed it up any more. If he doesn’t call off Wong then Hamilton’s out by plenty. Instead Jay called Wong off, caught the ball flat footed and then took a half step away from home before making (for him) a decent throw. I can only guess that he didn’t think that Hamilton was going to go.

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        • Belloc says:

          That’s delusional for so many reasons.

          Jay is supposed to call off the infielder if he can make the play. Although Wong has a good arm for a second baseman, his lack of arm strength is the reason the Cardinals converted him from shortstop to second base. Jay’s arm is probably stronger than Wong’s. If Wong had caught the ball, he would not have been in any better position to make the throw. High infield pop ups are the most difficult for the fielder to judge because the Magnus force is larger than the drag force, and this creates a confusing and unexpected paradox for fielders. That is why you see Major Leaguers occasionally botch or nearly botch what seem to be routine pop ups. In fact, if you watch Wong tracking the pop up, you’ll notice that he gets cross-legged right before he peels off to let Jay make the catch.

          The people who obsess over Jay’s actions are missing the point. Hamilton may be the fastest baserunner in the history of our game. He is certainly among the fastest ever to play the game. There is something miserable about a personality that can watch that play and immediately criticize Jay’s footwork instead of marvel at Hamilton’s rare gift.

          Which makes me wonder: Do you even like baseball?

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        • chuckb says:

          @Belloc — The Cardinals didn’t convert Wong from SS to 2B. Wong was a 2B in college and was drafted to be a 2B.

          The rest of your post is correct, though I don’t really see the need for all the snarkiness. Wong would’ve also been flat-footed and wouldn’t have had a better chance than Jay. Jay, despite the weak arm, did about the best he could given the circumstances.

          It’s possible to disagree with someone without acting like a humongous jerk.

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        • Johnston says:

          FYI, Kolten Wing played SS successfully in college.

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        • Sam says:

          @ Belloc. Hamilton is very fast. There’s no doubt about that. You’re overrating him compared to other great runners but I’ll leave that alone. However, I stand by my original statements. Wong’s arms is definitely stronger than Jay’s. In addition to SS, he also played CF in college. The Cardinals even looked at moving him back to CF before 2012 because of their dissatisfaction with Jay. I recognize that it is textbook for the outfielder to call off the infielder in this situation, but that’s only because the outfielder is supposed to be able to catch the ball with his momentum coming home. For some reason Jay didn’t do that. He messed up the play two different ways and even with his notoriously bad arm Hamilton only barely beat his throw.
          I guess for those who are anxious to marvel at Hamilton this article is some sort of master work of Hamilton’s speed. However, for those who actually care to look at facts, they’ll see that its really about a pitcher who is terrible at holding runners and an outfielder with a second baseman’s arm who (literally) got caught flat footed.

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        • RC says:

          Sam’s right on this one.

          Jay comes charging in, overruns the ball, and catches it backing up. It’s poorly played.

          Hamilton is really fast, which helps, but if that ball is fielded by the outfielder coming in, with proper footwork, and the throw is good, Molina is standing at the plate holding the ball waiting for Hamilton.

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        • SliderHI says:

          @ Johnson: Wong didn’t play SS in college – unless it was for an inning or two. Current Cardinals MiLB SS Greg Garcia was an outstanding college SS, and served as Wong’s double play partner at Hawaii as well as in the minor leagues. Wong was actually recruited as a catcher – his primary high school position – who was moved to CF his freshman year to get his bat into the line up.

          At a showcase event, he posted sub 1.90 pop times as a catcher; he also showed off a strong throwing arm as a CF in college.

          Without busting out the radar guy, I’d guess Wong’s throwing arm is significantly stronger than Jay’s. That said, Wong did what every 2B is taught, and gave way to the charging OF Jay, since the forward momentum of the OF provides for a better, stronger throw home.

          Well, of course, until Jay over ran the fly ball and had to back up a step, as already noted by Sam.

          That said, entirely possible Hamilton scores even of Wong makes a clean catch and throw to the plate. Dude is scary-fast.

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        • Johnston says:

          @SliderHI: I know about the C, CF, and 2B but unless my memory is completely gone I saw him play SS.

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    • Balthazar says:

      Something else both obvious and irrelevant on the dash home from 3B is that under the old rules Molina would certainly have been blocking the plate, and Hamilton would have been solidly out, weak throw or not. —But the really impressive baserunning from Hamilton was before that. His _lead_ at 1B before taking off all but begged a throw over or pitchout; extremely daring. And his jump from 1B was the best I have ever seen, wow! NOBODY is going to throw him out if he gets a jump like that. Hamilton’s tag-ang-go at 2b was really brilliant baserunning too. He would have beaten most throws not made by Ichiro or Vlad Guerrero, and taking off like that forces the bad throw he got, which can lead to scores by itself.

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      • Simon says:

        Well, he only succeeded about 80% of the time against minor league pitchers and catchers, so I’m going to guess that he’ll get caught some of the time.

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  4. Greyness says:

    Not to take anything away from Hamilton’s impressive run on the shallow sac fly, but that was a terrible job on Jay’s part. He was running in with momentum, but comes to a complete stop, twist and then try to throw home. He should have lined it up, just like he did in the 3rd gif. Regardless, kudos to Hamilton. He’ll be exciting if he can continue to get on base.

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    • Bryan says:

      You have to think the element of surprise was in play. Who prepares to throw out a guy tagging up from third on a pop up barely out of the infield? Any other player in baseball holds up at third and the play is over.

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      • Josh says:

        I agree, he probably wasnt anticipatin having to make a throw to the plate but given what happened previously, he probably should have.

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      • MDL says:

        If that’s the case then does this situation happen again? I bet OFers are more aggressive on shallow flies with Hamilton on 3rd, anticipating he’ll go for it again.

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    • humblepie says:

      …yeah, but on the previous play, when he did set himself to make a good throw, his throw was well off line. at least the throw home was on target…

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    • Dug says:

      I agree that Jay didn’t line up to get behind the throw, but he did have to run an awful long way to just get to the ball. It looks to me like he wouldn’t have been able to round it off like one would like to get momentum behind the throw. Also, it’s a lot harder to time balls that are coming almost straight down rather than a fly ball with trajectory coming towards you.

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  5. Brian McCann says:

    Now I REALLY wonder why they made Hamilton (a natural right-hander) into a switch-hitter.

    His swing looks like crap from the left side. With speed like his, how many extra infield hits will he squeeze out by running from the LHB batters box vs. the RHB batters box.

    Free Billy Hamilton. So we can see more of the above.

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  6. Steve Aoki says:

    Groundbreaking information here. How long did it take to write this garbage?

    -241 Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. tz says:

    I used to think Molina’s quick-trigger release on throws to second was the seventh wonder of the baseball world.

    Until I saw Hamilton’s quick-trigger jump on that steal of second. By the time Molina had even CAUGHT the ball, Hamilton was already beginning his slide. No chance.

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  8. Jon C. says:

    It might be the .gif here, but when Hamilton singled it looks like the OF was playing him at a normal depth. Wouldn it make sense to bring the outfielders in a little more until he shows he can hit major league pitching with authority somewhat consistently?

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    • Bip says:

      If you play shallow and he hits it by you, that’s a home run.

      +29 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TangoAlphaLima says:

        And Billy would immediately do a second lap around the bases just to show off before the outfielder could get the ball to home plate.

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        • shapular says:

          When Billy Hamilton asks you if you want to see him run around the world and then if you want to see it again, he actually already ran around the world twice.

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        • Jon C. says:

          Yes, that’s all great. But first he has to be able to hit the ball by you, and I don’t think he’s shown that in the majors.

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        • jruby says:

          Even Ben Revere gets the ball to the warning track on occasion.

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    • Random Reds Fan says:

      Not shown here was the fact that he tripled past the left fielder leading off the game for the Reds – probably in no mood to get burned like that twice.

      +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. John G says:

    Yakety Sax soundtrack would go well with these gifs

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  10. James says:

    Selfish Votto, taking a walk. SMH.

    +20 Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Josh says:

    Lets say he does hite just “enough” OBP of .280, assuming his hitting doesnt improve how long can he last on just his speed until he loses it to the point of no longer being useful? Can he last more than 5 or 6 years?

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  12. Bip says:

    What’s interesting is that all this spectacular baserunning all-told ended up being worth one solo home run. He did something that no other player can do, but the end result was something that many other players can do.

    This isn’t to say that Hamilton’s baserunning is worthless. Of course it is valuable. However, we need to be aware that although his ability is superlative, he has this ability in an area where, in baseball, it is much harder to create value compared to other areas, like power. If Hamilton does this even 20 times this season, that is less valuable than 20 home runs, and it’s not likely Hamilton will have a very impressive actual homer total to add this to.

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    • Nathan says:

      Except that this spectacular base running took two outs whereas a homerun takes none. So it’s worth much less than a homerun and not comparable at all.

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      • Josh says:

        and to me thats the kicker, what he did was impressive but it cost two outs to get it done.

        -7 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Bad Bill says:

          Not so. It didn’t “cost” two outs. It allowed him to score despite the hitters after him making two outs. Nobody else could have done that, including sluggers in the 90%+ of their at-bats that don’t end in home runs.

          +27 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Nathan says:

          I don’t think you’re understanding us, Bad Bill. Clearly, his base running didn’t actually “cost” any outs. However, it has much less value than a homerun because it needed two outs to produce a run. A homerun doesn’t need any outs to produce a run. It does have value, but not near the value of a homerun.

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        • Bad Bill says:

          Did you even bother to read what Josh and you yourself wrote? “this spectacular base running took two outs” … “it cost two outs to get it done” … Man up and acknowledge that these statements are dumb.

          Jeff’s point is very interesting, namely that for someone like Hamilton, reaching base at all may have a higher value in terms of potential run scoring than it has for more station-to-station runners (which is to say, most everybody). This is worth further examination, and an apples-to-oranges comparison to home runs doesn’t help with that.

          +14 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Nathan says:

          Regardless of your immature ad hominem attacks which only serve to weaken your credibility, cost actually can mean different things. So yes, it did cost two outs. Are you so ignorant as to say how he scored his run did not require two outs to advance him to third and then to home? He would not have scored in that situation without two outs. That’s just fact, and certainly not “stupid” as you ironically point out.

          I agree that better base runners provide more value when getting on base than worse base runners. A Hamilton single or walk should be worth more than a Billy Butler single or walk. You could have just said that; I would have agreed with you, and you wouldn’t have had to show your ignorance and/or bias here.

          -25 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Nathan says:

          *would not have necessarily scored in that situation without two outs

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        • Ugh says:

          I don’t think you understand how ad hominem attacks work.

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        • Tim says:

          Costing two outs is a really abstruse way of putting it. It didn’t cost two outs, because there are lots of ways Hamilton’s speed would have been valuable in this situation had the players behind him done something other than make outs.

          However, it’s an important difference that in this situation, and many like it, Hamilton was only able to score because his single came with zero outs. That makes it less valuable than a home run.

          +11 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Nathan says:

          Ugh- “Man up” is a personal attack on me. It has nothing to do with refuting my argument or strengthening his, yet it is used to support his argument that I need to admit my argument was stupid. That sounds like ad hominem to me.

          Tim- Yeah, the use of “cost” wasn’t perfect. Yet, it was hardly so egregious as to need a stupid comment on semantics. The funny thing is that we all agree here that a Hamilton single is worth more than others, and that a Hamilton single is definitely worth less than a homerun. Yet, Bad Bill wants to argue semantics.

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        • Iron says:

          He refuted your argument that you didn’t claim it ‘cost two outs’ or ‘took two outs’ by directly quoting you saying it took two outs. Then he asked you to man up and admit it. This is not an ad hominem attack.

          An ad hominem attack would be to, say, call you an idiot. However accurate, that would not advance the discussion.

          +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Bip says:

        Of course it is comparable. One of the fundamental underpinnings of the sabermetric movement is the ability to convert all actions into a “run value” in a context-independent environment. It’s hard to measure the value of baserunning – in this case it requires knowing how many runners could score on a fly ball depending on distance, etc. – so I used a comparison that would have resulted in the same run value in this case.

        I even said

        If Hamilton does this even 20 times this season, that is less valuable than 20 home runs

        so yes, I’m aware that a home run is more valuable than singling with Hamilton’s speed.

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      • Jon L. says:

        So basically you’re looking at a guy who, if he can put up a .280 obp when no one’s on base, can “hit” a solo home run nearly 28% of the time – or at least nearer to 28% of the time than an actual slugger could.

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    • Baltar says:

      All my life (more than 2/3 of a century) I have fantasized being a baseball player who is like Ichiro at the plate and Hamilton on base.
      I would not be the greatest player ever, but I would have the most fun of any player ever and the fans would have more fun watching me than any other player.

      +13 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Andy says:

        “All my life (more than 2/3 of a century) I have fantasized being a baseball player who is like Ichiro at the plate and Hamilton on base.”

        You mean Rickey Henderson?

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        • Dag Gummit says:

          I would say that Rickey Henderson had far too much power and patience to be such player. He was well-known for overtly making any and every effort he could as a player to slow opposing pitchers down.

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    • SKob says:

      You guys are morons! You are comparing a solo home run to what billy can do every single time he is on base… So like 200 solo home runs. He’s a rookie with talent that might not be what everyone loves to see, but it’s AMAZING!

      -8 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • aaron says:

        i get your point, but it’s obviously not going to be “every single time” he gets on base. this specific scenario not only required no outs to succeed, but also empty bases in front of him. in addition, he was caught stealing over 17% of the time in the minors. he was caught at least once in his cup of coffee last year. despite being a cardinal fan, i’m rooting for him, because i like the excitement that type of play brings (vince coleman was my favorite player when i was a kid,) but it’s nowhere near comparable to 200 solo home runs.

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      • Iron says:

        If only there were some way of determining relative value of a speedy player versus a power hitter in terms of the number of wins they create above, say, some kind of a replacement player.

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      • Simon says:

        That would be amazing, given that in the minors he never scored more than 112 runs in a season. It seems unlikely he’ll get that up to 200 in the bigs.

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    • Iron says:

      If only there were some way of determining relative value of a speedy player versus a power hitter in terms of the number of wins they create above, say, some kind of a replacement player.

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    • Brett says:

      This is a decent analogy but not totally accurate. It is like a solo HR in the sense that 99% of baseball players would have ended that inning, all things going the same, standing on 2nd base (because of Votto’s walk). He created a run that few others in the past 30 years could have done (Coleman and PrimeTime come to mind). It would not surprise me in this year to see him steal 2nd and 3rd and score on a PB/WP or on a ground ball that he beats the throw home. That senario would require 0 outs (and in the case of beating a grounder home he actually creates additional value by allowing another runner to reach base on what would have been an out) and be much more akin to a solo HR. This one did require 2 outs so its different but certainly no less amazing

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    • Slacker George says:

      Is there an “expected runs” metric that can quantify the negative impact his speed has on forced fielder errors, sub-optimal decision-making (attempting to throw him out but allowing others to advance), and sub-optimal positioning (whether he is at bat or on the bases), because I’d have to think there is non-zero value in that. I’m guessing it would have to be some sort of a team measure in reflect his impact on batters hitting behind him.

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    • Bill says:

      It kind of ties into the post one of the writers here made on the value of the five tools. Speed can be awesome, but power is more valuable.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Very good point.

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  13. mike wants wins says:

    As someone w/o cable, this is the kind of thing I come here for. Very entertaining work.

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  14. Brendan says:

    ‘That boy sho is a runnin fool’

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  15. Kumar Plocher says:

    Can he/does he bunt?

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  16. wasabibean says:

    How many runs do you think a no out Hamilton single is worth? .75? How many runs would David Ortiz score if Hamilton was his designated runner? What about 2004 Barry Bonds? What does Hamilton’s OBP have to be for him to stick given what he can do?

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  17. FeslenR says:

    I’d be very happy if Billy burns every critic out there. Sadly, I deactivated him for one of my leagues against the Cardinals…I mean, Molina-one of the best throwing catchers. Oops.

    Run, Billy, Run!

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    • TangoAlphaLima says:

      The sequence above was only worth 1 hit, 1 SB, and 1 run. Unfortunately there is no stat for advancing on a short fly ball.

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      • wasabibean says:

        The question is this: Your Bryan Price and Hamilton has just walked with the bases empty and nobody out. I’m the opposing manager and I offer you .6 runs if you let us tag him out. Do you take it?

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        • Owen Barron says:

          Probably yes. Oh, man, this should totally be a thing all the time. David Ortiz is at the plate in the World Series with bases loaded and 2 outs, the Sox down 3 runs in the 6th. The NL manager offers 1.5 runs in exchange for an out. Do the Sox take it?

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        • Jason B says:

          To Owne’s question: hell yes, all day, every day. Twice on Sunday.

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    • Carlos Gomez says:

      I scored on a sacrifice fly from 2B the other day in Boston. Well, I was called out but replay would show I was safe. Skip should of challenged it.

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    • Well Bearded Vogon says:

      I was just thinking of that. If anyone’s more capable of running the base paths than Hamilton, it’s going to be Burns.

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  18. jacaissie says:

    I have to wonder if Billy Hamilton might make a completely new strategy worthwhile–what if the Reds guaranteed he gets on base by pinch-running every time in the 6th inning or later that the leadoff guy in the inning gets on? Would that be worth a spot on a 25-man roster? You could avoid all the outs he makes at the plate, and also choose your high-leverage situation. I guess in retrospect this is just the “designated pinch runner” that other teams have tried in the past, but I would imagine that if anyone would make this a winning strategy, it’d be Hamilton.

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    • Ballfan says:

      I wanted to argue that roster spots are too valuable….but the Jays have an 8 man bullpen (note: ?) and kept Omar Visquel around as a 44 year old bench guy….

      I would take Hamilton over that any day.

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    • Myran says:

      Agree! If his bat serves as a longer term liability, he could still be a marginal starter because of his defensive range. At that point, you could argue he’d more more useful pinch running and coming in as a defensive replacement. That’s really what a bench is for. Team typically carry five outfielders and there’s no reason he can’t enter every single game, whether it’s starting, pinch running, or coming in as a defensive placement. If he can do everything except bat, then start him in every game as a pinch runner or a defensive replacement for somebody who just batted.

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      • nd says:

        This is a humorous changeup to the normal dilemma that managers face: get a guy as many chances with the bat while minimizing the time he spends doing other things. With Hamilton, put him in every situation where he doesn’t go up to bat.

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    • Simon says:

      It would usually take two moves, given that Hamilton can only really play the outfield, and maybe second with some practice. Given that he should be able to play a very good defensive CF, then the Reds aren’t going to go with the pinch-runner plan unless they are absolutely sure that the bat is too bad to play every day.

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  19. Shrewd Cat says:

    I don’t know if he’ll bat enough to make it as a major leaguer- but I really hope he does. It’s great to have these players with interesting abilities. Just like how I always root for knuckleballers.

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  20. pobothecat says:

    And y’know, it’s not just the raw speed. The quickness! He takes, what, three full steps before the pitcher releases the ball? Suck it, inertia!

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  21. Joey Votto says:

    Wait, so does this mean it’s okay if I hit an infield pop-up, at least when Hamilton is on third?

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  22. murphyluke says:

    Wow.

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  23. Aaron says:

    I think he’ll be in the big leagues for a long time. Even if he can’t hit well, perhaps there are multiple ways of using him. He could be a high leverage pinch runner, or platooned with another player and start against certain pitchers.

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  24. KK-Swizzle says:

    Soooooo…Billy Hamilton = MLB version of Pete Wheeler?!?

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  25. John W. says:

    He is simply different.

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  26. fang2415 says:

    I think Tony Campana could have done this, but also isn’t much of a player due to his similar lack of any non-speed tool. When he’d make plays in center we’d joke about how it would be faster for him to run to the plate and hand the ball to the catcher than to throw it.

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  27. Ben Folds' Nuts says:

    So is it possible that Hamilton could possibly be the actual example of the guy who advanced metrics truly undervalue? It seems like–and I admit I don’t know enough about Bsr–if this is a guy who scores, say, 60% or even 70% of the time he reaches base, Bsr might not be fully equipped to properly value his baserunning in terms of runs created/added, because it’s designed to measure human beings and not the Flash. So his OBP and SLG will be low, deflating his value by wOBA, and his Bsr will be low because Bsr is just low. The best Bsr in baseball last year was like 11.

    But if we’re talking about a guy who actually could score the majority of the times he reaches base–and it seems like that might actually be a possibility here–it seems like he might be the lone instance of a player for whom context-dependent stats like runs scored actually DO mean something.

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    • Brett says:

      Whoa! thats a huge number! As noted in the article the Reds would be thrilled with something around %40. That is truly elite. Take yesterday’s game… he reached 4 times, 2 times with no outs, reached 3rd 3 times and scored twice. 50% (awesome!). Lets regress that a bit to the mean and to account for everyone learning to always be ready for a steal/advance and say he can manage 45%, a huge number still. Lets say, for math’s sake, he reaches base, in any way, 200 times this year. He scores 90 times. Thats 30 more than the average player assuming the same number of times on base. The average player would have to reach base 300(!!!) times. Thats nuts. You may be on to something because that looks like a lot of value and Bsr will punish him for eventual bad decisions/good defense. I think stats that are still growing and occupy a smaller part of the game (like baserunning) have a tendency to under-estimate too.

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      • Simon says:

        He’s also only scored about half the time he’s reached base in the minors. Expecting that rate to increase in the bigs seems silly.

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  28. Mike Green says:

    Hamilton can be an effective player (but probably not a good leadoff hitter) if he cuts down on the strikeouts a little bit and continues to avoid the fly ball. He is probably going to be at least a decent defensive centerfielder. FWIW, he’d be a natural ninth place hitter on an American League team or frankly for a creative National League team.

    It is important to bear in mind that his offensive development was probably delayed because the organization kept him at shortstop too long. Too much focus was placed on trying to improve his defensive skills rather than letting him play the position where he can most readily use the assets he has.

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  29. Impossibles says:

    Why wasn’t the infield fly rule called on the Bruce pop up?

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    • Iron says:

      The ball was caught, so infield fly rule would not apply.

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      • Jimmer says:

        Infield fly rule states that the infield fly is called while in the air, so the catching of it is irrelevant to whether or not it’s an infield fly. The runner is out no matter what.

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    • Captain Tenneal says:

      Infield fly is only with first and second or bases chucked, not first and third.

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      • Iron says:

        That too.

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      • Jimmer says:

        An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, BEFORE two are out.

        The whole purpose of this is to protect the runners on base from the potential of being doubled up due to the fielder dropping the ball on purpose.

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  30. JimmyD says:

    SO DYNAMIC!!!

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  31. Chuck says:

    So amazing.
    Think about odds an average player basestealing player would have to do that once he’s on first, at each stop:
    1.) Steal second against Molina: 55% chance (lifetime SB% for Molina)
    2.) Make third on that popup: 25%? 80% if you account for the throw being off without accounting for the fact it was likely rushed because it was Hamilton?
    3.) Get home on that “popup”: 3%?

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  32. tz says:

    Seeing Wong’s late reaction to Jay calling him off, I can only imagine that Jay was screaming “HAMILTON!!!!” and other choice words to remind Wong of the danger lurking at third base.

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  33. Player Development Nerd says:

    Hamilton’s speed is a tremendous weapon. Still, it might make better sense to bat him lower in the order. The Reds offense relies upon making the most of Votto and Bruce’s plate appearances. The best way to do that is to get guys on base ahead of them. Hamilton’s speed won’t matter much when the other players hit a home run (or often even a double). Since he doesn’t get on base at a high rate, the Reds are sacrificing runs by batting him at lead-off. However, Hamilton’s ability to squeeze out an extra run with his legs is an asset lower in the order. I would bat him 8th. Then a stolen base and a bunt from the pitcher can get him to third with the top of the order coming up.

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    • Kiss my Go Nats says:

      Yes but if someone is on base when Hamilton reaches first, then Hamilton’s base-running is curtailed.

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      • dingus says:

        Interesting to put him in FRONT of the pitcher.

        If he gets on base with less than two outs, have the hitter take two pitches (hoping he goes 1st to 3rd on them) and then just try to make any contact.

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        • Sam says:

          That makes a lot of sense. Certainly more sense than batting a guy with an OB% lower than .300 at leadoff. I’d let Hamilton try to steal every time he gets on base in front of the pitcher and then see if the pitcher can bunt him to third after he does so he can score from third on a groundout/ pop-fly/ pretty much anything.
          As a leadoff man he’s going to cost the Reds a lot of games due to all the outs he’s creating though.

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  34. Kiss my Go Nats says:

    if he has not already, Billy Hamilton should be cast in the upcoming FLASH Gordon Movie!

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    • Sam says:

      That role has already gone to Dee Gordon, the much more appropriate inheritor of his father’s nickname and an extremely dangerous baserunner in his own right.

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    • Jimmer says:

      I believe you are mistaking ‘The Flash’ (DC superhero with incredible speed) with ‘Flash Gordon.’

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  35. Johnston says:

    More Hamilton please!

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  36. JimL says:

    Emilio Bonifacio taps a ball back to the pitcher (Gerritt Cole) who bobbles it trying to hurry the throw to first. E-1. When Bonifacio steals second the catcher’s throw goes into shallow center field and rather than just advancing to third on the play he keeps running and scores. The other three batters in the inning struck out.

    The Cubs score a run off a weak tap back to the pitcher squeezed in between 3 strikeouts.

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  37. Bomok says:

    What i find most shoking is how the outfielder new Billy Hamilton was going to run, even from that close a distance. And he still beat it! incredible!

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  38. Sam says:

    I know people don’t want to hear it, but Billy Hamilton still has a negative WAR even after his great game on Wednesday. Its just kind of funny to see the gushing about him above in comparison to that fact.

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    • Johnston says:

      You totally don’t get it. Hamilton does things that no other player can do, and some of us find that to be a fine and wonderful thing.

      You can’t have to join our parade by any means, but you really should try to not rain on it.

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