Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Billy Hamilton: More than just speed

by: Chase Fitzgerald
Staff Writer

Billy Hamilton is no longer the Reds’ little secret anymore. Hamilton has become a household name but only because of one stat; stolen bases. Since Billy broke 100 stolen bases in only 78 games, he has been the focus of a tremendous amount of media attention including a MLB fan cave video listing the few things faster than Billy Hamilton. So, I’m here to tell you that Billy is famous for all the wrong reasons.

Yes, stealing bases is “cool” but speed by itself doesn’t make you a superstar. Just ask Drew Stubbs who is one of the fastest players in the league yet is not even close to one of the best players in the league. You have to be able to hit too which Billy Hamilton has been doing all year. Last season Billy stole 103 bases but he only hit .278. People seemed to ignore the fact that Billy was an average hitter last year. This season he has tremendously improved. His hitting has been the key to all of his success this year. If you Google Billy Hamilton all you see his posts on how fast he is and you don’t see anything that even mentions his hitting. The media is completely ignoring the fact that Billy Hamilton has become a much better hitter this year and has become very patient at the plate. Last season in 135 games, he walked a total of 52 times. This season in 93 games, he has already walked 58 times and his on base percentage has gone up from .340 to .417. Before he was promoted, he led the California League in walks. His batting average has also gone up from .278 to .324. Keep in mind that all these improvements are at a higher level than last season. The bigger the challenge, the more Billy seems to thrive. After he was promoted to Double-A, he had a rough start but since adjusting he has been amazing. His stolen bases per game have gone down but he is actually posting better numbers. It is a small sample size but he has drawn 8 walks in only 11 games and his OPS is .982.

A leadoff hitter’s job is to get on base and jump start a team which is exactly what Billy has been doing. He has just been plain out getting on base and you can’t ask for anything more from him. He has been the best leadoff man in the minors and he may even be the best if you take away his speed. The Reds lineup right now may be getting the job done but they only have one hitter with a batting average over .300. The Reds also need more men on base when Votto hits and the Reds need more left handed hitter having only two with Bruce and Votto. Billy Hamilton being a great lead-off hitter, a switch hitter, and an over .300 batting average is exactly what the Reds need. He also will most likely be moved to the outfield by the time he reaches the majors where the Reds happen to need a left/center fielder depending on what they do with Drew Stubbs.

So next time you here Billy Hamilton’s latest stolen base achievement, just remember he is a lot more than just fast. He might be the best hitter in the Reds farm system. The thing that his critics and the media don’t get is that he just as good in the batter’s box than he is on the base paths.

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