View Full Version : Who is Billy Hamilton and what do we expect out of a lead-off hitter?

Don Votto
04-21-2014, 12:20 PM
Who is Billy Hamilton and what do we expect out of a lead-off hitter?

I am 42 years old, and I was blessed in seeing the two greatest lead-off hitters in the history of baseball--Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines. Their combination of speed, power, and on base percentage from the leadoff position was never seen prior to 1980.

For the better part of a decade, prior to 2013, the Cincinnati Reds has been below average for production from the leadoff spot--and then we had Shin Soo Choo.

Choo was an on-base machine. As a lead-off hitter, he was Tim Raines and Rickey Henderson--just devoid of speed. A professional, mature hitter, who knew how to get on base, whether it was through a walk, hit by pitch, or a base hit. Choo was able to get to first base at a +.400 on base clip--and voila, we as Reds fans now know what a lead-off hitter is suppose to do.

Now, because of money, here comes 2014 and Billy Hamilton. A 23-year-old, blazing speed lead-off man, who, is struggling at the plate.

But, what really are fair expectations of Hamilton?

I think it is fair to expect Hamilton to post a .300 OBP--but to expect anything higher than that is a bit ridiculous.

Quite simply, Hamilton does not have the power for pitchers to do anything but challenge Hamilton to put the ball into play. And while his speed is greater than either Henderson or Raines' speed, he certainly does not have their slugging ability to warrant a pitcher to think twice about a 2-0 or 3-1 fastball.

So, naturally the walks are not going to come to Hamilton as they did for both Raines and Henderson, which will drastically impact his OBP.

Example: In Henderson's first eleven full seasons, he walked over 80 times ten times (and the year he failed to do so was in 1981). And while Henderson stole over 930 bases during that time, his slugging percentage was.441--with 294 doubles, 50 triples, and 166 homeruns.

Example: In Raines' first ten full seasons, Raines walked over 80 times five of the ten seasons (he was hurt in one, and one was 1981).And while Raines stole over 630 bases in the 1980's--his slugging percentage was .437 with 273 doubles, 81 triples, and 96 homeruns.

To me, for any rational baseball person to judge Hamilton's hitting ability where it is including SLG AND OPS is ridiculous. He is not that type of performer. And FEW lead-off men in the history of the game are true SLG AND OPS marvels.

Hamilton's ceiling reminds me more of Vince Coleman and Omar Moreno.

In Coleman's St. Louis days--his slash line was .265/.324/.365/.668 but--the impact Coleman had on the National League from 1985- through about 1988 was insane. In his first four years, Coleman stole 80 four times, and 100+ three times--and his presence on the base paths was felt throughout the league. His game was much like Hamiltons with the exception of one HUGE CRUCIAL PIECE--astro-turf.

In Moreno's case in the late 1970's and early 1980's Moreno was roughly a .250/.305/.320/.625 hitter, but his stolen base numbers were crazy--and the cat could seriously flash the leather. But, again--Moreno had Astro-turf.

In this day and age, we are expecting a hall of fame perfomance from the over-hyped players when they come on the scene, but to be fair--we are comparing and expecting things of Hamilton that probably cannot be done.

He will not get on base with Choo's regularity, because quite frankly... Choo could not turn a walk into a triple.

He does not have, right now, the ability to hit for power--like the two greatest lead-off hitters of all-time, because welll--he is not that type of hitter.

Don't discount the speed of Hamilton though--I have seen how speed will cause chaos on a team--it is a continual threat.

To me, Hamilton needs to keep bunting, keep working on hitting the ball in the grass, and it may even behoove the Reds maintenance team to let the grass grow a bit higher to slow that ball down even more for Hamilton.

If Hamilton can approach anything like Moreno numbers of .250/.302--we are going to have a great 2014.

Now, the wizards of sabremetrics will tell you that those numbers are in-effective-- and not deserving of a lead-off hitter...

And for those people-- I shrug my shoulders and say--baseball is more than WAR, OPS, and all of the other crap statistics.

04-21-2014, 12:53 PM
Unless he's trying to bunt past the pitcher on the first base side...then maintenance should cut it short : ) but billy will be okay I think...the future will reveal him to be an average to below average player when all is said and done I think.

04-21-2014, 01:25 PM
I think OBP is highly underrated in general. I think SB's are overrated at the top of the lineup, assuming the top of the lineup is filled with guys that can hit for power.

Don Votto
04-21-2014, 11:31 PM
I think OBP is highly underrated in general. I think SB's are overrated at the top of the lineup, assuming the top of the lineup is filled with guys that can hit for power.

I think many of the posters at this site only think in terms of OBP==but there is more to it than that.

I also think the expectations for him are unrealistic-- if he puts up anything close to his Louisville numbers, he wins Rookie of the Year.

Kai Slater
04-22-2014, 06:02 AM
Time will tell about Billy's ability to get on base and to hit big-league pitching. It's early, he's got huge hype built around him, and who knows, part of his early struggles may be attributed to feeling the pressure as he gets adjusted. One issue I see is that opposing pitchers and defensive units will also make adjustments to him, especially as we progress through the season and play against certain teams more often.

Over time, it's going to take much, much more than running fast to make a huge impact in our lineup. If only he had some pop in his bat and could hit even 8-10 home runs and add some extra base hits to the gaps. Billy just seems like such a weak hitter right now. Will that change? Can he make those major improvements? It really make me appreciate some of the past generation players that we've mentioned like Raines and Henderson, or even a non-leadoff guy like Eric Davis, who could run as fast, or faster than Hamilton, and had that explosive HR power in his bat?

I don't ever expect that from BH, but I'm hoping he does continue to learn and adjust into become a much better, more rounded overall hitter.

Kai Slater
04-22-2014, 09:54 AM
Going back to one of the original points of this topic, I think it would be reasonable to allow Billy some time to grow, learn, and adjust into his role. Let's (me included) not rush to judgement after 20 games to determine what kind of hitter he is. I know teams want to win now but, how will we truly know what he is if we don't give him a chance? If he hits in the 250's or 260's, we'll score a lot of runs.

04-22-2014, 12:51 PM
If you are really committed to Billy learning in the majors then I expect much of this season to be poor, frankly. As concerns OBP & BA anyway. Billy is not going to have a lot of power. His body type seems to me to be like mine (minus my running and athletic ability....thank goodness). That means he has a very, very difficult time gaining weight and muscle, short of illegal assistance. So he is not going to be a slugger at any level. His ability to get hits - in other words the now eschewed BA, is going to be very important for him to get on base at a fair clip since you're right - pitchers are not going to be walking him much since they know the most likely result of a pitch down the middle is still a single. SO, for Billy, his BA is going to be very important. Grounders and liners will be his meat and potatoes, fly balls his bane. I think he can hit .280-.300 and add 30-40 points to his OBP because he is patient. Given that there will be some walks where a pitcher simply cannot throw a strike. I just don't think he will do it this year. If he adjusts and manages to get his second half OBP at or above .300 I'll be pleased with his progress. It's a choice for the Reds. Learn in the majors or AAA? Spotting in off the bench is a role that only makes sense if they have given up on him becoming regular player.

Don Votto
04-22-2014, 01:11 PM
I truly think Hamilton will be in the Vince Coleman (.264/324) and POSSIBLY Otis Nixon (.270/.343) category, once he gets going.

It would be awesome, if for somehow he could get into Juan Pierre status (.295/.343) If Hamilton could work his way to that type of ball player... Katy bar the door--he will be lights out.

I see really no reason to send Hamilton down--stay committed to him, because quite simply the Reds have really no other options at this point... Heisey in center? Is that a permanent solution? No. Heisey (age 30 back-up outfielder) will be expendable when he becomes a free agent in 2017 (and perhaps sooner, depending on where his arbitration numbers put him), by that time... I would assume, the Reds can develop one or two minor league outfielders.

But, I guess you also need to take into account that Bruce can be gone after 2017, which REALLY really cbegs for the reds minor leaguers at A and AA to be on pace (and with some of them... to get on pace) to be ready by late 2015-beginning 2016.

so, well, anyways, my point being--there really is no wiggle room here. Hamilton needs to develop--and unless he COMPLETELY fails (and I mean below .225 batting average through... oh... August... ) and just out and out OVER-MATCHED the Reds just need to keep running him out there.

04-22-2014, 02:46 PM
Heisey is fine as a 4th OFer but when he's over exposed he quickly falls. Bernadina is possibly a better choice in CF at this moment but only viewing it in the short term. I think the real answer is that as fans we have to be patient and just let Billy take his lumps and learn.

04-23-2014, 04:46 AM
Phill Ervin is on the way. He's got all the tools, and a great bat to boot. If BH doesn't become at least a Coleman or O. Nixon, I believe we'll see him sooner rather than later. For now, let's just hope he can get to .250/.320ish obp type numbers. His D has been surprisingly good, if not off the charts. Not easy putting him up in the MLB's and expecting him to start, and excel his first season after only hitting .250 or so @ AAA, but it is what it is. Hope like crap that he get's it sooner rather than later.

04-23-2014, 12:43 PM
YRod, Ervin and Winker are going to replace Bruce and Ludwick. Two of those guys will be flanking Hamilton by 2017. That's 21 million in salaries. 1of them will either sit at AAA or play 4th OFer in 2016 then the Reds will not renew Bruce's contract. Anther guy needs to be ready in 2015 or the Reds can exercise Lud's 9 million option for 2015. If Billy succeeds, then the OF of 2017 will likely be Hamilton CF, Ervin RF and Winker LF. YRod is the wild card and insurance should either Winker or Ervin flop, or Billy gets relegated to a reserve role and YRod is in right and Ervin in CF. I think they put their money in pitching and let Bruce go. I know not everyone will agree with that, I just think it's what the Reds will do.

04-24-2014, 02:23 PM
if he can hit above 240 this season i would consider it a major success because everytime he's on base he will steal and there is no stopping him

04-24-2014, 03:18 PM
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if he can hit above 240 this season i would consider it a major success because everytime he's on base he will steal and there is no stopping him

except for when..........He gets throw out