Billy Hamilton is a player that catchers wish never existed. His blazing speed on the base paths can give catchers on opposing teams headaches.
The Cincinnati Reds are much appreciative of his speedy skills.
According to MLB stats going into Friday, for a player who has 37 stolen bases and is on pace to have at least 50-60 total this season is nothing short of average. His base swiping might be third-most in major league baseball behind LA Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon and Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who both have over 40 stolen bases so far, but it doesn’t show Hamilton having a lack of footing to compete with the league leaders.
Hamilton is far from perfect too. In fact, he leads the majors in caught stealing with 13. The centerfielder has attempted to steal base 50 times which means he’s been successful 74% of the time going from base to base.
Billy is undeniable when breaking records, which he proved in 2012 when playing for the Reds Single-A Affiliate, the Bakersfield Blaze. On August 22, Hamilton stole his 147th total base for the Blaze, which broke a record that was held by Vince Coleman in 1983, who played for the Macon Peaches and stole 145 bases that season.
It was a minor league record for teams affiliated with major league baseball teams and had been held by Coleman for almost 30 years. And in that game on August 22, Billy stole four bases. That season he stole bases like it was a cakewalk and witnessing history in the modern day was exhilarating to watch him get close and break the record.
Now it pins a question into our heads: What if Hamilton stole over 140 bases in a major league season? Seeing that no one in major league history has accomplished that feat it’s highly unlikely.
Henderson the man to catch
One man, however, has gotten close to that possibility. The Man of Steal himself, Rickey Henderson, stole 130 bases in 1983 when he played for the Oakland A’s. On top of that, he has stolen over 100 bases three times during his career.
The legendary Hall of Famer is single handedly known as the best base runner in ML history with his 1,406 career stolen bases, also a ML record.
Although he is known for his lightning speed, Rickey had his flaws. He wasn’t the perfect speed machine, who was caught stealing 335 times. There is no doubt the stolen base-caught stealing ratio was an incredibly high percentage. So in theory, it isn’t right to say he’s not as good as people thought he was. Henderson, in fact, was the king of the bases.
Is it safe to say Billy Hamilton is on the same path as Henderson was in his career? No not yet but there is a chance. Henderson stole 33 bases in his first season of his career with the A’s but in 89 games. The next season Rickey stole 100 bases.
It’s safe to say however Billy Hamilton might not steal 100 bases in a season right away but not to give up hope that he will some day accomplish something as rare as hitting .400 in a season.
Every time Billy is on base, it’ll be in the back of a catcher’s head that he cannot run on him. And going for records will not be easy for the young outfielder when the back stoppers attempt to threw him out on every stolen base try.
The Reds leadoff man is a leadoff hitter for a reason: He leads off to get on base, steal a base and create runs just moving off a ground ball or a hit or even sometimes just swiping third base.
Hamilton’s on-base percentage might be a factor in his career and with a .314 OBP so far this season it will need some work. On the plus side, his slugging percentage for a #1 guy in the lineup is .421 which in today’s lead-off numbers is a decent number.
His hitting and getting on base isn’t a problem, staying on base is something that can be worked on fixing the kinks.
Hamilton's future prospects
Will Billy Hamilton be one of the greatest stolen base runners of all-time? Most likely. Will time tell if that can incorporate into his daily routine of getting on base? Most definitely.
No question Billy Hamilton will become a special player and a player Cincinnati will latch on for long term. For a guy who could potentially be a legitimate lead-off hitter for a handful of seasons is strong deal and investment to keep around.
A potential National League Rookie of the Year is certainly viable argument to keep Hamilton in Cincy Red.