The problem with batting Hamilton 7th or even 9th, ala TLR, is that is means one less AB for him per game. I love the thought of him starting a game, changing the entire mentality of the defense from the first pitch, and I want that mind game being played as often as possible during a game.
I think Billy leading off is not about Votto so much as it is about Phillips, assuming he will bat second. Our biggest headache with BP has always been his tendancy to hit into the DP. I do not think this will be as much of a problem with Billy on first.
To start, with Billy's pure speed, there less of a a reason for Dusty to call for the hit and run. BP won't have to chase low pitches to protect the runner. Second, there are going to be a lot of second pitch pitch outs, so BP can be patient because he is not going to fall behind in the count as often. Finally, I think BP can sit dead red because pitchers/catchers have a tendancy to stay away from their soft stuff when they expect the runner to go.
I predict BPs walk rate is gonna go up, and Votto is gonna have a fair number of at bats with men on first and second (BP walks either before or after Billy steals) or men on first and third, or just BP sitting on second after a single where they tried to throw Billy out at home.
BTW.. if Billy has the same 544 plate appearances as Stubbs had last year (for arguments sake, put all at bats from the lead off position), even if we say he gets caught 20% of the times he steals (and thus eliminating a potential RBI for Votto) he would only need to have an OBP of a measly .287 to provide more total ducks on the pond than he had last year.
As a teenager, going to Reds game at Riverfront, my very favorite thing was watching Joe Morgan absolutely disrupt the rhythm of the game, time after time. My dad would always comment on the imaginary line that Joe had off of first and when he hit it, he was off to the races. The stadium was absolutely electric waiting for Joe to run, and I have no doubt it added to the numbers of Bench, Perez and Foster, who followed in the order.
IF Hamilton can get on base, you bat him lead off and let him stress the heck out of the infielders. Ten pick off throws to first followed by an errant throw and Hamilton is suddenly on 3rd. The key question remains if he can get on base.
Hamilton, you would have to think, would be an almost automatic run any time he reached in front of Votto and Phillips. They're probably our best contact hitters as well, and Billy can probably score relatively frequently on a single, more so than other base runners.
The idea of batting him lower in the line up, in front of Cozart and etc, is that you give a hitter who would have an average chance of driving in a run with any other base runner, you would basically turn them into all star level RBI guys. The problem is, however, Billy doesn't appear to have much XBH power, and hitting lower in the order, would be hitting with runners on more often than leading off. He would also have less opportunities to steal bases and other wise run wild with runners on in front of him.
I think it all balances out that you have to bat him lead off, all things considered.
I'm now balding from watching Stubbs lead off so much. If he plays (starts) for Dusty, he will bat leadoff. I'm not opposed.
I'm really looking forward to watching a Red steal home. No more exciting play in the game IMHO. ;)