It’s the bottom of the eighth, the Reds are down one run, and Jay Bruce just walked with one out. Billy Hamilton comes in as a pinch-runner. After several pickoff attempts, he takes second base with ease. Next pitch, he takes third.
Now all of sudden you have a runner on third with less than two outs. As we’ve seen, you don’t have to hit the ball very far for Hamilton to tag up and score.
Now, it’s a tie ball game.
We saw this happen several times at the end of last season, and it can be such a great weapon for the Reds. Almost anytime you want, you can go out there and manufacture a run with Billy Hamilton’s speed. If you need a run late in the ballgame, all you need to do is look at your bench and call on Hamilton to steal a couple of bags and then hope a hitter puts the ball in play.
Despite a recent breakout performance at the plate, Hamilton is not going to get on base enough to make a major difference. If you take his bat out of the lineup and keep him on the bench, you get to deploy this special skill set at the most opportune time.
Almost everyone agrees that at best Billy Hamilton is a .230 hitter and .300 on base guy. First of all, that’s not good enough to be a leadoff hitter on a team with playoff aspirations, and quite frankly, it’s not good enough to be in any major-league lineup.
When you use him off the bench, he gets on base 100 percent of the time. Think about it.
And you don’t just have to wait until late in the game when it’s close. If his replacement gets on in the third or fifth inning, “deploy the Hamilton.” This way you guarantee he gets on base, and then you can use his speed throughout the game.
The way it is now, you can’t be certain Billy Hamilton is going to get on base every game. When Hamilton gets on base, he scores; and when Hamilton scores, the Reds win. But with a .287 OBP in 159 at-bats this year, Hamilton isn’t getting on enough to have a major impact on the game.
We all know he’s one of the most exciting players in baseball, but we’re not going to tune in to see him hit, we want to see him run.
Right now, Hamilton has an offensive WAR of 0.1, so you have to figure any replacement on offense is an upgrade and has a better chance at getting on base; although, the Reds don’t have many options in-house.
Billy Hamilton is an exciting player to watch, and he has a very special skill set. But with him hitting in the .240 range in the leadoff spot, the Reds are not taking advantage of that rare talent in the best way possible, in my opinion. Using him off the bench, you don’t lose any of the excitement generated by the presence of Hamilton. Instead, you increase it by making sure he has the opportunity to make an impact on every game.