LINK: An Even Better Article on Billy Hamilton

I wrote up the Billy Hamilton factoid this morning because I wanted to write about him, but I didn’t have a fully formed post yet, so I used that as a tide-me-over until that post materialized. Well, now, I might just have to come up with a new idea, because J.J. Cooper wrote about Billy Hamilton at Baseball America today, and I don’t think I can do any better than this.

On the three of Hamilton’s four steal attempts last night where the broadcast showed his steal from first move to sliding into second, Hamilton was consistently taking roughly 3.1 seconds from first move to tagging the bag. If you want a fuller explanation of how each steal was timed, please see the note at the bottom of this story.

If a base stealer can get from first to second in right at or under 3.1 seconds, the math of throwing him out becomes very, very difficult. With a slide-step, a pitcher can often cut his time to home to 1.1-1.2 seconds. Without the slide step, a 1.3 second time home is pretty reasonable. For any pitcher taking more than 1.3 seconds to throw home, it’s probably not worth even considering a pitchout.

The post even includes GIFs of Hamilton’s steals last night, with the Astros being basically helpless to stop him from running even when everyone knew he was going. I heartily endorse this piece, and will now go try and find a new subject to write about, since J.J. Cooper aced this one.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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FeslenR
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FeslenR
2 years 10 months ago

I wonder if Billy will steal 100 bases in a full season? I watched that game last night and man…he is as fast as the Flash.

tz
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tz
2 years 10 months ago

First time seeing him as well. Visibly faster than anyone else I’ve seen in recent years.

Jonathan Clayton
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Jonathan Clayton
2 years 10 months ago

Actually, I thought they would have had him on the last one absent an excessively wide pitchout. After all, his success rate in the minors is only 80%, and MLB catcher/pitchers should be better. Pitchouts, properly executed, are going to slow him down.

Plagarist
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Plagarist
2 years 10 months ago

well yeah, but he won’t be running

Plagarist
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Plagarist
2 years 10 months ago

well yeah, but he won’t be running at every opportunity after the first few pitchouts, which will make the pitchouts more costly, so he’ll be more free to run, so… etc. etc. I don’t think it’s going to make a huge difference, certainly not on the order of dropping him to 80% — he’s crazy fast.

Plagarist
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Plagarist
2 years 10 months ago

ALSO: from the baseball america article:
“On two of the three steals, helped by pitchouts, the Astros’ catchers ripped off 1.8 second pop times, which are extremely good for anyone not in the Yadier Molina category.”
Even when pitching out, they can’t catch him.

vivalajeter
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vivalajeter
2 years 10 months ago

If they can’t catch him even on a pitchout, how’d he get caught so often in the minors? I’ve never seen him play, and don’t even know what he looks like, but it seems like someone that fast should not get caught 20% in the minors.

Plagarist
Guest
Plagarist
2 years 10 months ago

well I mean I think there’s a skill element as well, and like other players, he gets better the more time he spends on it. he’s not just insane fast, he’s got amazing timing, and so I could see building that up accounting for some of the times he got caught.

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown
2 years 10 months ago

How’d he get caught so often in the minors? You forget that the total SB/CS numbers include steals of third (and home). You don’t put up crazy SB totals by being content with second base.

Iron
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Iron
2 years 10 months ago

That does beg the question, which should be available somewhere, of his SB/CS rate only including attempts to steal 2nd.

Hurtlockertwo
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Hurtlockertwo
2 years 10 months ago

This guy kind of reminds me of Vince Coleman or Tim Raines in their prime. You knew they were going to steal but they got there so fast you had to be almost perfect to get them.

SKob
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

I feel very satisfied after seeing his performance in his first major league start. What I mean is that this kid was getting kinda panned last year for what was a percieved inability to hit major league pitching. I only knew what I saw and that was a kid who was still learning to hit left handed, but still managed to get on base like a pro… and FLY once he got there. This years struggles coinside with a move to centerfield, so its worth mentioning that he has learned 2 extremely complicated skills in 3 years.

Opponent aside, Billy showed he can get on base, take a walk, and rip through the bases! Not saying he will hit .300, but he is showing that he is a game changer, not just for fantasy, but for a contending team. So happy to see this kid prove himself! Give him 5 more years of playing time and experience under his belt and I would not be surprised to see him get close to Rickey’s single season record. You think that’s crazy talk? He is going to steal 20… this month… as a sub!!!!! It’s mind-boggling!

Rick
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Rick
2 years 10 months ago

I’m curious if he could get close to Rickey’s single season record too. If he were to play everyday (600-650 PAs), I would think he would need ~.350 OBP at least to give him the opportunity to get near Rickey, if he were to steal at 85% success rate.
How realistic is this?

Hurtlockertwo
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Hurtlockertwo
2 years 10 months ago

Vince Coleman had 107 steals in a year he batted .232 and had an OBP of .301

dfives
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dfives
2 years 10 months ago

how exciting would it be if billy hamilton and mike trout had a baby

James
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James
2 years 10 months ago

I’d be more excited if Mike Trout had a baby with Mike Trout.

Biology
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Biology
2 years 10 months ago

I’d be more confused at the second than the first, but yeah, pretty excited about both.

Nathan
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Nathan
2 years 10 months ago

What if Miguel Cabrera and Billy Hamilton had a baby? Would they name it Mike Trout?

A Crazed geneticist
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A Crazed geneticist
2 years 10 months ago

MIggy + Billy = Mike Trout

Rogers Hornsby
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Rogers Hornsby
2 years 10 months ago

Already happened moron.

cass
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cass
2 years 10 months ago

When they walked Billy Hamilton to lead off the 14th inning last night, I knew the Nationals season was finished. I thought he’d steal 2nd and 3rd and was only slightly incorrect since he advanced to third on a wild pitch.

Baseball is a funny game. One more hit in each game by the Astros and Nationals when they had the bases juiced would mean that the Nationals would be right back in the thick of things, 3.5 games behind the Reds. As is, they’re season is basically over. All based on a couple at bats. The margin for error is so very, very thin.

Iron
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Iron
2 years 10 months ago

3.5 back would improve their postseason odds from 1.4% to maybe 3-4%. Not exactly in the thick of things with 10 games to go.

Blasphemous
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Blasphemous
2 years 10 months ago

Takeaway from the BA article – Billy Hamilton has consistently lower times from 1st – 2nd base than Rickey Henderson did in his prime. As long as he gets regular playing time and can get on, he’ll get 100 steals in a season some day..

Mike Green
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Mike Green
2 years 10 months ago

Hamilton went 57-9 stealing bases in triple A this year against RHPs. Surely, major league pitchers and catchers can do a little better than their minor league counterparts. An 80-85% success rate against RHPs is very good. Hamilton is 23 years old. When Rickey was 24 years old, he went 70-9 stealing bases in the major leagues against RHPs. At 23, Tim Raines went 74-9 stealing bases in the major leagues against RHPs.

Yordano
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Yordano
2 years 10 months ago

Looking back at his stolen bases so far, he could have been out with better throws on several of them. If he had 7 SB and 2 CS so far, people wouldn’t be making such a big deal. Yes, he is an amazing base runner. And yes, he could be a legitimate 100 SB threat. But he isn’t unbeatable at all.

Plagarist
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Plagarist
2 years 10 months ago

He’s beating decent throws on pitch outs in the linked videos — if he’s not unbeatable, he’s close enough not to matter, since you need to be PERFECT to catch him.

Yordano
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Yordano
2 years 10 months ago

Fair enough. He has a 81.6% success rate over the past two years in the minors (82.1% if you want to count his MLB steals). That’s very good, especially considering opponents know he is going to steal. However, Mike Trout has a 87.8% success rate in his major league career. Ellsbury has 84%. Carlos Gomez has a 81%. There are plenty of other base stealers with similar or better success rates.

jacjacatk
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jacjacatk
2 years 10 months ago

Carlos Gomez has less than half as many steals in his MLB career as Hamilton does since the beginning of 2012. Despite 3 50 SB seasons, Ellsbury has just 2 more steals in his MLB career. Trout is 194-30 (86.6%) as a pro. Hamilton is 239-52 (82.1%) since the start of 2012 in a little less than half the plate appearances.

ValueArb
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ValueArb
2 years 10 months ago

Hamilton attempted 479 steals in the minors, in 782 times on base (hits/walks/IBB). 6 attempts per every 10 times on base.

Trout has has attempted 98 steals in 582 times on base (same stats). 1.7 attempts per every 10 times on base.

I’m guessing that if Billy wants to match Mikes success rate in the majors, he only has to reduce his attempt rate to 3 or 4 per every 10 times on base. No more stealing home. Only judicious steals of third. But still destroy catchers going first to second every time possible. Probably good for an 85%+ MLB success rate with at least double the attempt rate as any other MLB player.

What you did should be called missing forest for trees analysis. It’s stats only devoid of context analysis like yours that gets sabermetric analysts derided for never watching the game.

Yordano
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Yordano
2 years 10 months ago

I didn’t say he wasn’t a great base stealer. I think it’s very possible he will provide the most value from base running out of any major leaguer right now. But it’s clearly not impossible to throw him out at second base as has already been evident so far.

You don’t need to get all defensive and (@ ValueArb) blame me for all of the flack that gets heaped on the sabermetric community. You are damning a conclusion that I didn’t state.

Iron
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Iron
2 years 10 months ago

But your point about success rate% of other players who attempted steals at vastly lower rates was not a valid comparison.

AsDevilsRun
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AsDevilsRun
2 years 10 months ago

Did you look at the success rate of those guys in the minors? They’re much more aggressive in the minors, so comparing their major league rates with Hamilton’s minor league rates is unfair. Trout had a success rate of 79.4%. Ellsbury: 79.9%. Gomez: 77.9%

None of them tried as often as Hamilton, either. Even attempting far more steals, they had a lower success rate than him.

Yordano
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Yordano
2 years 10 months ago

It seemed like the BA article said he was just about impossible to throw out based on his times from 1st to 2nd. But looking back on the throws, he clearly isn’t as good throws would have gotten him in several of his attempts (as would every base runner and, because you can’t expect good throws, the success rate of base stealers is where it is).

My comparison isn’t to say he isn’t as good of a base stealer as X player who has a greater success rate. I guess I could have been more explicit with my point, which was his success rate is similar to several other players. Of course, he steals a lot more which makes his rate more impressive, but his rate by itself is similar to others.

Sean
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Sean
2 years 10 months ago

It would make sense that the threat of his speed is creating the greater inaccuracy in the throws.

Gyre
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Gyre
2 years 10 months ago

It’s doing more than that, it’s creating fear in all members of the infield. Once you start questioning your move, you lose it.

The best one was when he was nearly at third before learning the flyball was going to be caught, going back and still making it. Considering the number of runners I see that blow this opportunity, I really like this kid. The Reds unveiled a secret weapon for the playoffs, the NL should be concerned.

ValueArb
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ValueArb
2 years 10 months ago

Think about the value of those pitchouts. Given the extra value Hamilton brings with his steals, and with giving his team-mates better hitting counts, I wonder if he could be the Reds best lead off hitter even with an OBP as low as, say, .330?

ALEastbound
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

What no you can’t steal first comment? So disappointed.

Matty Brown
Member
Member
Matty Brown
2 years 10 months ago

Thank you. All I really wanted was .Gif porn.

J. B. Rainsberger
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Seems to me like the math of throwing Hamilton out was pretty easy, although actually throwing him out looks awfully difficult.

Gyre
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Gyre
2 years 10 months ago

Looks like Billy is following Rickeys advice, use the lead leg to pull you forward – which requires not having too wide a stance. You see that right leg flex a bit just as he takesoff.

There will be much in the playoffs to enjoy this year (again!)

James
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James
2 years 10 months ago

Everyone, Billy’s first Major League steal was against the best in the league (Molina). There is no denying his speed. He’s 10/10 so far. The question is who will be the first to get him and when it happens he will just run faster the next time. So yeah, he’s just that fast.

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