Jul 7, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton (6) triples during the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park. The Reds defeated the Cubs 9-3. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Reds' Billy Hamilton reversing that poor start


After the first month of the season, former CttP staff writer Timmy Kennedy examined the early returns on Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton. Those returns were not favorable. Here’s a bit from Kennedy…

Only 21 games into the new season, doubts over Hamilton’s ability to play in the big leagues have surfaced. Whilst his speed is a given, and his glove is good, his bat is a problem. Thus far, in 20 games for the Reds, Hamilton has an abysmal .230/.266/.284 slashline. The amazing .432 OBP of Choo seems a distant memory.

First, was anyone logically thinking Hamilton could replicate Choo’s 2013 OBP? If so, we can now be excused.

Yes, it wasn’t a good start. In fact, for Reds fans, it was painfully poor. Can’t sugar-coat it. Since that post, Hamilton has reversed some negatives.

With the Reds being so banged up, Hamilton is going to have to carry some of the load. I know, being the guy atop the lineup comes with its own pressures, but with a pair of All-Stars on the disabled list, this might be the time for Billy to shine.

And this was downright sick…

A few recent observations of Hamilton’s game…

1. Offensive uptick

Let’s bring back what Timmy said BHam’s slashline was then.

.230/.266/.284

Ugh. That post was on April 24. So what has Hamilton done since then?

.301/.333/.466

And now, for the 2014 thus far…

.285/.318/.424

We’ll get to the OBP in a few. I want to concentrate on his SLG. Seriously…

Sure, Hamilton isn’t a prolific power guy (he most likely never will be), but not to get lost in all the “power” he doesn’t have is the fact that Hamilton’s speed has aided this stat. He has more triples (6) than home runs (5). That’s to somewhat be expected. The fact Hamilton does have 5 home runs is ahead of what both ZiPS and Steamer had for him prior to the season’s start.

Hamilton’s SLG of .424 is third on his own team. Think about that for a minute.

Higher than the disabled Joey Votto (.409). Higher than the struggling Jay Bruce (.415). Higher than the recently disabled Brandon Phillips (.392). Only Devin Mesoraco (.612) and Todd Frazier (.487) are higher.

And Hamilton is not a product of GABP. His home/away splits state quite the opposite.

2. Defensive prowess

One factor that cannot be understated is Hamilton’s defense. Yes, Kennedy did give Hamilton his due here saying his defense was “good”, but I don’t believe the defense Hamilton has provided the Reds was what was expected.

Last season, the Reds suffered with the previously mentioned Shin-Soo exceptionally poor defensive center field metrics (DRS of -17, UZR of -16.9, and UZR/150 of -17.0). Hamilton has vastly rewarded the Reds here.

As compared to other NL qualifying center fielders, here’s how Hamilton stacks up:

DRS: 10 (tied for tops in NL with Miami’s Marcell Ozuna with Ozuna’s CF numbers only)
UZR: 11.6 (tops in NL: #2 is Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez at 4.5)
UZR/150: 23.0 (tops in NL, #2 is Gomez again at 9.5)

I mention Gomez for obvious reasons, and not only because he’s at #2 in two categories. Gomez is arguably the NL’s best defensive center fielder.

His DRS is second on the Reds. Only Zack Cozart (16) rates higher here.

3. Concerns moving forward…

- You would like to see a bit higher success rate in steals (37-for-51, 72.5%). But look at Hamilton’s SB rate from his record-breaking season of 2012 (155-for-192, 80.7%). At this point, you’d be led to believe that it’s straight speed getting it done.

- Can Hamilton sustain a BABIP of .337? Since Timmy’s post, his BABIP is .347! Yes, put the ball in play and good things can happen. During his days in the minors, twice Hamilton posted a BABIP lower than .337. Once was last year with Triple-A Louisville (.310). The other was his first season of organized ball (2009, .291).

That BABIP may fall, but it shouldn’t significantly tumble. The fact Hamilton’s offensive success is so predicated on the ability to get base hits is and should be a concern. It may always be one, too.

- Only within the past month or so has Hamilton surpassed 100 in OPS+ (105) and wRC+ (104). He’s been on a roll as of late. There’s no other way to put it. Actually, since the beginning of June. Since the beginning of that month, Hamilton’s slashline reads as .322/.350/.520.

- The K% has remained the same as his short stint of last year (18.2% to 18.1% for this season), but the BB% has dropped by half (9.1% to 4.6% for this season).

- With comparing of that short stint of 2013, Hamilton’s has seen his LD% (35.7% to 22.6%), and GB% (50.0% to 40.6%) decline. As you can guess, that FB% has increased (14.3% to 36.8%). You might prefer to have Hamilton hit more on the ground considering his speed, but with his recent success, who wants to toy with it? Whatever adjustments have been made to his approach at the plate, they are currently working well.

According to Fangraph’s Value, Billy Hamilton is currently a $17.4M player. That’s based on a fWAR of 3.2, which his fWAR being second on the Reds (Frazier – 3.5). A lot of the fWAR can be associated with Hamilton’s defensive support. Now, the offense appears to be trending in a positive direction.

Tags: Billy Hamilton Cincinnati Reds