[Edit.: This thought-provoking post was submitted by loyal Nation member, Ben Rubin. You may remember Ben for posting his account from Behind Enemy Baselines at Citi Field in New York. Ben is a Cincinnati native, currently living in Jersey City, New Jersey, where he is a graduate student and adjunct professor of writing. Thanks for your contribution, Ben! – SPM]

I’m a Billy Hamilton believer. He’s developing patience at the plate, has shown a willingness to take walks in the minors and spring training, and will eventually either learn how to lay down a bunt, or stop trying. I expect that Billy Hamilton, the sophomore, can get on base at a league average rate.

But that’s moot right now because Billy Hamilton, the rookie, at least the April rookie, has proved to be a black hole of Patterson/Taveras/Stubbs dimensions at the top of the lineup. The Reds simply can’t afford to let him hit first right now.

As of this writing, Hamilton is hitting .221/.253/.279. League average OBP for the lead-off hitter is .332. Hamilton’s BB/K is one of the worst in the league. In 2012, when Reds fans were screaming about Dusty Baker continuing to hit Drew Stubbs and Zack Cozart at the top of the order, their respective wRC+s were 65 and 83. Billy Hamilton’s is 45.

Hamilton’s performance is understandable because of the pressure he is under. This is his first month in a job so difficult most of us can’t even comprehend what it would entail. Add to that the fact that he’s learning with the eyes of not only Reds country, but the whole country, on him. Plus, the guy he is replacing was the best at his particular job in the entire major leagues.

Look no further than Jay Bruce, or Homer Bailey for examples of players with all the talent in the world, who took some time in the majors to realize their potential. Billy Hamilton will be fine eventually, but in the meantime, Bryan Price ought to do everything he can to limit the pressure while his young star learns on the job.

Slotting him lower in the order would do that. But the case I want to make here is that he should be hitting ninth, not eighth. Hear me out. My case rests on three related points:

1) Batting him lower in the order will limit the total number of PAs he receives, and hence the number of outs he makes. It will also reduce the pressure of the situations in which he comes up, allowing him to relax a little and just see what happens.

2) When he’s on base, Hamilton provides a significant advantage. Hamilton’s particular skills make him adept at scoring. Advanced metrics are much more tentative in assessing this half of the run scoring equation compared to the OBP half. This is in part because scoring percentage is highly dependent on the batter behind him, and therefore hard to isolate. But it has been pretty well established that Hamilton’s base running skills play a significant role in the rate at which he scores when he does get on. Plus, his proven ability to be his own get ’em over, and sometimes even his own get ’em in, could lessen the temptation on a manager to give up outs for bases, which is extra beneficial at the top of the order where the outs he would be saving are presumably those of top level hitters.

3) Then there is the question of his proximity to Votto. Votto himself has attested to the fact that he gets better pitches to drive when Hamilton is on base, and we’ve seen ample evidence. Half of Votto’s home runs this year have come with Hamilton on base. There is no way to quantify Hamilton’s distracting presence on the bases, but assuming it is a real thing, its value is maximized by proximity to the best hitters. This relationship also works the other way. Hitting in front of patient hitters maximizes the value of Hamilton’s skill set. More pitches seen mean more opportunities to steal. And no one sees more pitches than Votto.

At the start of the season, this set of facts presented Reds management with a dilemma: How to capture the advantages of batting him at the top of the order with the reduced costs of batting him at the bottom. Fortunately for the Reds, a solution presented itself when manager Bryan Price moved Joey Votto to second in the batting order.

With Votto batting second, Billy Hamilton could bat ninth, reducing his plate appearances and the pressure that comes with high-leverage at bats and leading off. By hitting after the pitcher and Cozart, Hamilton would less often hit with runners on base and be looked at to deliver RBIs.

Yet, batting Hamilton ninth would offer similar Votto-proximity benefits to batting leadoff. His primary job will remain the same: get on base then get himself around to score. That is putting your player in the best position to succeed.

Billy Hamilton’s ultimate home in the batting order is leading off. His legs give him too many ways to get on base: the infield single, the bunt single, the bloop single (that becomes a double) just over the heads of the drawn in infield to protect against the first two. But if the Reds expect to contend this year, they have to let him learn and get comfortable in a spot where his OBP is not so critical.

Billy Hamilton is an unusual player with a highly pronounced set of strengths and weaknesses. One of the reasons so many of us were frustrated with Dusty Baker was his unwillingness to step outside conventional rules of thumb and manage the team he had. Our greatest hope for Bryan Price was that he would approach situations less hobbled by tradition. He rewarded us first, by batting Votto and Bruce back-to-back, then by moving Votto to the second spot. It is time for Price to show the same kind of creativity with Billy Hamilton.

So if Hamilton hits ninth, who bats first? That’s a question that deserves its own column. In brief, without a prototypical leadoff type player on the roster, the Reds will have to make due. Candidates include other current starters like Todd Frazier or Devin Mesoraco. Even Brandon Phillips would be an improvement over Hamilton. One other option is Chris Heisey.

90 Responses

  1. charlottencredsfan

    Whatever happens, I hope this gentleman will write a follow-up article after the ASB. That will be interesting. Coming into this series, BHam was hot as any Red not named Devin (11 for 31). No one hit Brave pitching this weekend, no one.

    • Steve Mancuso

      And in the 18 at bats before that, he was 1 for 18. And we can’t forget that he’s not walking yet either. His season-long stats, although still a small sample size, are the best we can do. Picking out BHam’s best 31 AB streak doesn’t make him the leadoff hitter. His OBP as of tonight is .253. Agreed that maybe even by the ASB, Hamilton will look better. But until that happens, I’d cosign this post.

      • charlottencredsfan

        I did this a few days ago, I’ll do it again:

        1st 7 games: 2 for 22
        2nd 7 games: 5 for 27
        3rd 7 games: 11 for 31

        Then the Braves:
        2 for 12
        Votto: 1 for 10
        Bruce: 0 for 10
        Ludwick: 3 for 11
        Phillips: 3 for 12

        I’m thinking the Reds brain trust is probably looking at it like I am, BHam showing very good progress until the Braves and they are going to throw this series out of their evaluation as an outlier. He is staying put for now and I say thank goodness.


      • Pete Rose

        Charlotte, I do too. The Reds brass see his progress and are going to stick with him for the time being. If Billy hits .200 in May then send him down for more seasoning – but if he is developing before our very eyes – then great for the Reds in sticking with him. We all want the same results – for the Reds to win – its only a question of the optimum way to get there. And if having a rookie at the top of the line-up whose finding new ways to get on base is the answer – then so be it.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Can’t count the Cardinals series. Can’t count the Braves series. Other than that, Hamilton has almost hit like a weak-hitting (no power, no walk) lead off hitter. You guys are turbo charging the cherry picking just to make a case that they guy can hit 11 for 31? All singles, no walks?

        If you want to make the case for more patience, or that they don’t have another lead-off hitter, fine. But please, don’t try to convince anyone that Billy Hamilton has proven he can be a major league lead-off hitter based on 7 games where he went 11 for 31.

      • charlottencredsfan

        Steve, I really like your writing but you have a tendency to want to put words in my mouth. I don’t know if Billy will succeed, I “believe” he will but don’t “know” that. Did I really say (imply) that BHam has “proven” he can hit MLB pitching. Honestly, is this what I’m saying? If I did, I apologize because what I meant to convey is that I have “confidence” he can “turn into” a proven MLB hitter and he is showing “improvement”. Is any of this clear to you? Do I put words into your mouth?

        Sorry if I’m being rude but I wish you would cease this word twisting. If you are unsure of my intent, ask me. I would offer you the same courtesy. Otherwise it comes off as belittlement. I really don’t care if you do not share my opinion, just quit distorting it.

      • Pete Rose

        Steve, i agree with Charlotte – putting the cart before the horse. Billy’s a rookie and he’s learning, while ultimately improving and succeeding – and in reference to the writer of the opening story stated – ‘when Billy learns how to bunt’? How about Billy’s drag bunt today – hopefully his first of many this year – showing his true potential to improve. he will learn to slap the ball past the drawn in infield and once he does – watch out. He is going to be a genuine asset to your’s and my team – and that is why i want him in there (as do the Reds brass) – because of his potential to improve and become the lead-off hitter the Reds desperately need.

        And to close, the reason the Reds didn’t pay Choo is that its quite possible that $$ may have been ear-marked for another player or two – and that player might just well be Cueto. And I don’t know about you, but I want him pitching for the Reds as long as he possibly can. To take all that time grooming Cueto to be what he has become – quite possibly the best SP in the NL – then to let him go – no way on God’s green earth do I want to see that happen. I want him available to pitch games #1 and #4 and possibly #7 of an upcoming World Series. And you can take that to the bank.

      • Chris Miller

        Charlotte…fan, great argument. One in which I completely agree with. I remember at the start so many Reds fans wanting to dump B Ham right away, then he improves, and they still do, because it’s still not good enough. The kid, after a disastrous start, just finished hitting .286 on the road trip, and that includes the Braves series. As you pointed out, he continues to improve, which is all you can ask for. Even more ironic, and this is where the author and Steve both surprise me. They want to move the kid to the 9th spot, so a pitcher can get more ab’s than he will, and so some UNMENTIONED leadoff hitter can take his place. Strange to write an article like this, but not give a solution to who would fill in for him. Without a doubt, this current team does NOT have a better option at lead off than Billy Hamilton.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Didn’t mean to put words in your mouth. Sorry if I did.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Here’s how flimsy that data is. You claim he has shown progress by breaking his current season into three equal parts. BHam has now played in 24 games, which divides quite conveniently by 3. Here’s his OBP in each of the three eight-game segments:

        1st 8 games (including Cardinals disaster) 7/26 = .269 OBP
        2nd 8 games 8/32 = .250 OBP
        3rd 8 games 7/32 = .219 OBP

        I’m not saying these numbers are worth anything at all. Only that even your claim of progress depends on extremely shaky data use. Moving one 3-hit game into the first segment makes the first segment the best. It’s the peril of incredibly small sample sizes.

      • Pete Rose

        Dude, in his last 10 games Billy Ham is hitting .282 (11 for 39) – and 19 for 74 since the opening series – and now he is learning to drag bunt. Wouldn’t want to be the new kid on the block since I would be expected to know everything a 5 year veteran should know.

      • Michael Howes

        >> Dude, in his last 10 games Billy Ham is hitting .282 (11 for 39)

        but it’s hollow and terrible despite .282. What I mean is only 1 BB and no power.
        So his OBP is .317 in that span and his OPS is .659. That is not good enough to start in the majors no less bat ahead of a great hitter.
        If that’s Hamilton’s hot hitting we are in trouble.
        I wrote it below but I’ll write it again. Among qualified hitters only 10 hitters in the majors have been worse this season. 10! And one of those is Cozart.

        the problem I have and the reason I like the original post is that with Hamilton we have no track record so we don’t know if he will hit. If this was a guy with a .325 OBP for a couple seasons I wouldn’t worry but because he not only hasn’t done it at the major league level I’m worried.

        and to be honest lets not forget, we KNEW Hamilton was not ready for the bigs.
        His OBP at AAA last season was .308. If you can’t do it at AAA why do we think he can do better in the bigs?

      • Pete Rose

        Michael, not sure which stats you are referring to but according to ESPN (pretty accurate stats) Billy is hitting 80th out of 100 for hitters with at least 75 ABs. After taking away his series against the Cards – Billy’s hitting .257. Thus he is clearly demonstrating improvement for a rookie. Now about power – that isn’t up to the lead-off hitter – that’s left up to hitters in the middle of the line-up (like Bruce, Ludwick and Phillips). As they like to say during Red’s telecasts, get them on – get then over – get them in. Billy’s doing a lot better job of ‘getting on’ – now its up to the others to get him over and in.

      • greenmtred

        What you say is true, Steve, but I guess Charlotte’s point (not trying to put words in anybody’s mouth, though) is that BH’s trend is upward. Of course the beginning of the season counts, but his improvement has been steady and relatively fast. I don’t disagree with the suggestion to move him to 9th, necessarily, but I doubt that lineup construction really makes a substantive difference. Particularly if nobody in any slot is going to hit.

    • Pete Rose

      Charlotte, yes one Billy Hamilton scalded a ball down the 1B line today that could very well have gone for a triple. The Braves 1B was quite fortunate that he was johnny on the spot to make the defensive play of the game – or we quite possibly have been hearing “and this one belongs to the Reds” sometime this afternoon. Expert witnesses are called into court on a regular basis – accordingly I have a call into my namesake just for that purpose – he has yet to return the call – but from my understanding he’s a fan of Billy Hamilton.

  2. Shchi Cossack

    The resolution to the Billy Hamilton situation should come in the next 3-4 weeks. Within that time, both Schumaker and Mesoraco should be ready to come of the DL. Through the 1st 2 weeks, Hamilton slashed .140/.178/.209. Through the 2nd 2 weeks, Hamilton slashed .308/.333/.359. If Hamilton continues with his most recent performance over the next 3-4 weeks, he’s the leadoff hitter for the reds until he proves otherwise. If he puts up numbers like he did the 1st 2 weeks, the Reds have almost no choice but to look for another leadoff option once Schumaker returns.

    If the good Hamilton plays, then Bernadina must be DFA’d once Schumaker returns. If the bad Hamilton plays, then Schumaker and Heisey probably take over as a CF platoon and leadoff option with Hamilton optioned to Louisville to complete his development at the plate. Heisey is not an ideal leadoff option, but a Heisey/Schumaker platoon could be moderately effective.

    I think the same timetable is ticking for Phillips. During the 1st 2 weeks, Phillips slashed .327/.353/.429. During the 2nd 2 weeks, Phillips slashed .220/.235/.260. If the good Phillips plays over the next 3-4 weeks, then Phillips will continue to hit in the #3 hole. If the bad Phillips plays, then the Reds have to move Phillips down in the lineup and move Mesoraco up in the lineup.

    With the current injury situation, nothing drastic can be done right now since no other options are really available. I’m most concerned that Frazier’s groin continues to hold up and improve. I’m not against trying Hamilton in the #9 hole, except there are no other better leadoff options than Hamilton right now.

    • Pete Rose

      bernadina hasn’t done squat – maybe its time for him to hit the road. Just saying …

      • Steve Mancuso

        Bernadina has a much higher OBP than Billy Hamilton.

    • greenmtred

      The Cossack again is a voice of reason.

    • al

      I don’t understand the last part, about there being no better options at leadoff. Frazier’s OBP is 80 points higher and he’s been almost as valuable on the bases because he’s not getting caught 35% of the time.


      A quick check of the lineup analysis tool suggests that that lineup would be about 2+ wins better than what we’re currently using over the rest of the season.

  3. Pete Rose

    Hamilton has been hitting .270+ since the 1st series of the year against the Cardinals. And its great to find another voice that agrees with one’s position as they do it in the Court of law all the time – that your prerogative as the host of this website. Right now though, Reds fans should be worried a lot more about Jay Bruce and Joey Votto – as they are not producing like the Reds need and thus have not yet let their presence be known this year.

      • Pete Rose

        Sorry, stand corrected – by the way how’s Jay Bruce and Joey Votto doing for that matter. A bit more concerned about them – and let’s throw in Homer Bailey for good measure as all 3 have had reasonably poor starts to this season. And based on Hamy showing some new tricks – like drag bunting (with no doubt more to follow), I’d be a lot more concerned about the other players. And Billy is going to heat up as the summer approaches. Also just read on the Enquirer’s website Brian Price’s position on the umping today – as he emphatically stated that he’s not going to stand for this horrible umping (especially when the jumbotron in CF clearly showed that the runner was picked off). If the decision had been overturned at 1B with the pick-off – Billy’s SB would have also been contested and over-turned as he was clearly safe. Regrettably Billy was also erased by a poor judgement call. Hopefully the umping will improve along with the replays – just don’t count on it.

      • Steve Mancuso

        The difference is those other three players are proven major league starters based on several years of performance. Billy Hamilton hasn’t even succeeded yet as a AAA player, let alone MLB.

      • Pete Rose

        Steve, completely understand the points you are attempting to make. As it is, the Reds are making a decision based in part on finances and pure economics. Simple as that. The Reds have some major contract issues on the horizon and will need to make some very hard decisions. Like most organizations, they have a budget to maintain and not bust so how about if we, as Reds fans, hope for the best. Billy is showing steady improvement. This nitpicking about certain players borders on the unreasonable and is quite negative and destructive. GO REDS!!!

    • charlottencredsfan

      A lot of this is Sabermetrics. Some guys routinely outperform their counting stats (Homer Bailey) while other are the opposite (Johnny Cueto) but after a while, in these cases, the counting stats are what you have to evaluate. BHam will probably never be valued properly by the Saber guys. I accept it and advise others to do likewise.

      Johnny Cueto is a phenomenal pitcher but I highly doubt the advance stats ever catch up to the ones that really count. Steve pointed out that his FIP was like ~2.95. Is there anyone who watches this guy actually pitch believe his is pitching like a 2.95 ERA guy?

      • Pete Rose

        Charlotte – we are the consenting voices to reason – thanks for your contributing to some semblance of order on this website. Especially when some need to focus on other players (namely a rookie) to take the heat off of their star player who is failing miserably.

      • charlottencredsfan

        I’m rooting terribly hard for all the Reds, whether they fit into my preconceived notions or not.

        I haven’t lost any of my confidence in what BHam is becoming and don’t mind at all being at the tip of the spear. You once asked me what I did for a living. I’m a businessman but first and foremost an entrepreneur, and have been since I was 25. I trust my judgement and don’t need affirmation to confirm it. Always say that I could be wrong and I could but I doubt I am about Mr. Hamilton. Pete, my friend, you are spot on with your evaluation.

      • Pete Rose

        If we need to be patient with Homer, Jay and Joey – established big leaguers – then others will simply need to be patient with Billy Hamilton. And talking about Billy, he definitely has the intangibles that the Reds really need to succeed. Btw, that drag bunt by Billy today was a beauty – looks like he’s been working on developing it as part of his arsenal. And that potential triple was oh so close to determining the game ‘s outcome. Also, an entrepreneur would probably spot potential easier than the staid at heart – as it takes a reasonable degree of intuition to see potential (thus my earlier reference to Billy Bean as personally believe Walt is in the other camp – thus a giant step in faith and out of character for him) – big company guys have all kind of metrics that they measure by (as Jay, Joey and Homer have already established certain #s on their baseball card) and if you don’t fit into their preconceived notions (or metrics) – then you are simply not considered. Only problem is, some want the status quo while others are open to seeing a team’s evolution.

      • al

        First off, a 2.95 ERA is excellent. Second, I’ve watched all of Cueto’s starts, and he’s been great, but do I think he’s going to keep a 1.15 ERA if he keeps pitching like he has been? No. Because that would be ridiculous.

        Two things to look at, BABIP and strand rate. His BABIP right now is .165. He’s pitching really really well, but that is going to go up probably. The baseball field is big, and it’s hard to get that many outs on balls in play.

        Second, he is currently stranding 98.7% of runners. I know Cueto is good at controlling the running game, and that’s why his strand rate will always be a little higher than the normal 75% or so. But 98.7? That’s just silly. What it means is he’s scattered his hits around, and all the research shows that pitchers have almost no control over when the hits come.

        So yeah I would say if Cueto keeps pitching like he is for the rest of the year, a 2.70 or so ERA sounds about right, and I’d take it in a heartbeat.

  4. charlottencredsfan

    Your Hamilton game plan is spot on. Level headed and realistic. It is all about direction as it should be with a rookie. Anyone would be “wise” to not expect a lot from a rookie in the first couple of weeks but at the same time expect to see progress as the season unfolds. Not only am I on your page but I’m guessing Price & WJ are as well.

    My instinct is BHam will never be a great Sabermetrics player but I don’t care as long as he is performing.

    • charlottencredsfan

      Directed at The Cossack.

    • CP (@nomoresalads)

      I like that you are optimistic. I don’t believe anyone is saying give up on B-Ham, just that the Reds (and perhaps B-Ham himself) would benefit from moving him out of the #1 slot. I’m worried right now the Reds are doing him a disservice by keeping him under the microscope.

      B-Ham has made some adjustments since reaching AAA, but it looks like they’re the wrong adjustments. In my opinion, he’s walking the path of BP & Cozart. His one goal should be to get on base. That’s it.

      • charlottencredsfan

        What do you think his goal is? I believe that is his only goal. CP, you are just going to have to wait it out. I know you don’t see the general improvement but I think the people that count do.

      • al

        I think the point you’re missing is about his walk rate. Of course Billy wants to get on base, but CP was pointing out that he’s trying to do it like Cozart and Phillips, by swinging at everything. And following that path is clearly a bad idea, whatever your goal is.

        In the minors his walk rates were usually around 9%, and went all the way up to 17% in his record setting year at AA. That is how he is going to be successful in the bigs, if he ever is. Taking a lot of pitches, being very selective, working counts etc.

        Right now his walk rate is 3.2%, and that will never cut it.

      • charlottencredsfan

        It takes two to walk and if pitcher doesn’t participate, it’s not going to happen. The weekly improvement will probably continue and some point even the biggest skeptics will acquiesce.

      • charlottencredsfan

        By the way, being optimistic has served me well in my life. If BH doesn’t work out, the team is in trouble. Maybe be that is not optimistic but bit most certainly realistic.

  5. ProspectCincy

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Hamilton is only useful in the lead-off spot … otherwise don’t play him at all. Improvement each week; and while I agree he needs to walk more, he’s being thrown a steady dose of strikes. As he continues to improve his hitting; pitchers will be a bit more careful with him; but for now, the mantra is “I have Votto up next, this guy kills on the bases, I CANT WALK HIM”.

    And correct me if I’m wrong, but the Reds have accumulated a total of one hit in the lead-off spot during the six games Billy did not start. It’s not as if they have “options” and Hamilton is costing them the success of someone else.

    • charlottencredsfan

      “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Hamilton is only useful in the lead-off spot … otherwise don’t play him at all.” Exactly, send him back to AAA for more seasoning but we better hope the direction he is going is maintained.

      If BHam doesn’t succeed, the Reds will go nowhere this year unless a major deal(s) is made. Chris Heisey is not the answer and wasting Mesoraco in the lead-off spot is a joke. We know what CH and Bernadina can do and they can’t be Big League grade lead-off hitters. Can BHam? We don’t know yet.

    • Pete Rose

      Prospect – great response, thanks. Now what are the Reds going to do about their clean-up hitter currently batting .224? That is more of an immediate concern – especially with the Brewers looming.

      • charlottencredsfan

        Just like with Billy, Jay was really heating up before the Braves. I give all Reds hitters a mulligan against that Braves staff. They were just out-and-out nasty this weekend. If we struggle against the hapless Cubs, it’s another story. I don’t expect that will happen.

      • lwblogger2

        Yes, Bruce needs to hit better. He’s hitting .224 and he’s slugging .400. There is no precedence however to suggest that he won’t improve on those numbers. He hit .223 as a 22-year-old but still slugged .470 that year. He also had injury issues that season (2009). So, I for one am not worried about Bruce. Hamilton however does concern me. He’s only 23 and he is a rookie. He struggled at AAA and in the AFL and he’s learning to be a lead-off hitter at the Major League level. That’s why people are pointing fingers at him. We are all rooting for him and several of us think he can me a decent to very good lead-off hitter at some point. There just aren’t too many of us outside a handful that think that he can be such a hitter this year. I hope both you and Charlotte are right because the Reds put all their money on Hamilton this year. This is my team and I want to be wrong about thinking that Hamilton just isn’t ready. Unfortunately, both my old-school experience and my more modern Sabermetric mindset tend to not see him getting it done this year.

    • al

      Why wouldn’t he be useful lower int he order? I actually think speed is more useful lower in the order. Votto and Bruce can knock anyone in from first with a double or HR. Cozart, not so much. Votto and Bruce are better hitters and can hit decent pitches. Cozart, not so much. It seems like it might be better to have Hamilton on in front of Cozart. That way Cozart sees more fastballs, and Hamilton can get into scoring position for a guy with little power.

      Also, the improvement every week thing has been thoroughly debunked, so I think we can all put that to bed.

  6. Pete Rose

    Also quite concerned about Manny Parra – and curious why he was even in today’s game. Last 10 days – 3.2 IP – 8 Hits – 4 BBs – 5 ER – 1 HR. Where was Marshall? Twice the Reds have made bad decisions by bringing him into games – Monday night to face McCluch who homered and now today. What pray tell is up with Marshall?

    • lwblogger2

      No idea where Marshall was. Parra did a fine job last year and I think he can this year as well. That said, Marshall is the guy that needs to be the late LH option out of the pen.

  7. Michael Howes

    I think it’s worse than Hamilton in leadoff with Votto batting 2nd.
    The 3 hitters BEFORE Votto in the lineup are Cozart, Pitcher and then Hamilton. Not a single other MVP has to deal with that. And as someone mentioned today (or yesterday) he’s also sandwiched between that and Phillips. Votto and the Reds have little to no chance.

    Even with Votto starting a little slow and it still being early so a handful of players numbers have not regressed, Votto is still one of the top 15 hitters in the game so far this year. The Reds are doing everything to make sure we waste that. He neither has anyone to hit in or anyone to hit him in. Bruce leads the team in RBI. I wonder how many of those 14 are Votto

    Problem is, who goes there?

    I can’t build a lineup with this roster can you?

    #1 ?

    maybe, just maybe you could bat Phillips leadoff and put Ludwick/Heisey 2nd?
    I think this all comes back to letting Choo walk.

    Sign him, put him in LF and let Hamilton bat 9th with Phillips, Choo 1-2

    And while I’m at it, does management *really* think Phillips is going to out produce Mes, Ludwick and Frazier at the plate? He’s not going to. At this point in their careers Phillips will be the worst hitter of the 4. So how bout we help a little by bumping one of them up to take Phillips place?

    Let’s not forget the ole McGwire lineup, which WORKED. The key was not batting the pitcher 9th. Then again I should remember that Leake and Bailey are out hitting Cozart and Hamilton and that Leake probably will out hit them on the season.

    Out of 192 qualified hitters in baseball, Cozart has been the worst and Hamilton 11th worst. So it’s not just bad, it’s the worst!

    • al

      Let Frazier lead off. Problem solved.

      Frazier, Votto, Ludwick, Bruce, Mesoraco, Phillips, Cozart, Pitcher, Hamilton.

  8. bhrubin1

    It’s interesting how many of the responses are defending Billy Hamilton, when my intention was not to attack him at all. My central point was really that his tremendous talents would be wasted by batting him 7th or 8th, and that hitting him 9th would be a creative way to maximize those talents while taking some of the pressure off during the learning curve. Actually if anything, I thought this piece was a defense of Hamilton’s utility in the lineup.

    • charlottencredsfan

      I don’t see criticism but not many buying into the Billy hitting 9th idea. Problem is two-fold, Reds don’t realistically have a lead-off hitter option and BHam is on the ascent not descent. I personally believe the cooler heads (The Cossack) say to wait and see a little longer. If the numbers continue to improve, he stays as the lead-off guy. If not, hello Louisville Very good article and thought provoking but I don’t see BHam as a ninth hitter as viable. Just my two cents.

      • Pete Rose

        I really do not think the Reds have any other viable option to lead off. A team normally wants speed at the top of their line-up – and you got it in Billy. Someone who can go station to station (1B to 3B) on another single.

        And if you want someone other than the pitcher to bat 9th – my vote is for Cozart. If he’s going to be in the line-up he would be your best bet.

        Decent article – just a little off the mark for my tastes. And as for hot heads – my man Pete was always ready to take it to the next level any time it was necessary – and truly liked that about him – Pinella too. Btw, who was the last Red’s manager to win a WS? Why (my man) Lou of course. Even with the Reds increased emphasis on running – that doesn’t mean recklessly (calling out the 3B coach on that one). It means aggressively – and while demonstrating baseball smarts – like Billy has.

      • charlottencredsfan

        The only guy I could see as a potential decent lead-off guy is Skip Schumaker. No real running speed but a heady base-runner with a good OBP. One reason I like Cossack’s idea – Skip returns in ~3 weeks and at that point if Billy isn’t cutting it, BHam is back to Louisville and Schumaker plays CF and leads-off. Not optimal but better than Heisey, BP, Fraz or Mes. We would probably be looking at a third or fourth place finish.

    • greenmtred

      No criticism from me, either. My caveat is that, if it made a difference, it would be psychological (not to be sneezed at). Since nobody is hitting, it hardly matters where in the lineup they don’t hit.

  9. ci3j

    Billy Hamilton is quickly turning into the controversy of the season around these parts. With all the problems the team has had thus far, I find it interesting that many want to zero in on Hamilton. As many know, I am a Hamilton fan, but I try to remain objective about him as well. That said, here are my thoughts:

    1. I do find it interesting that all these posts calling for his demotion in the lineup always follow bad series. After the Cards series, someone (Steve, I think?) posted a very similar article. Now, after the Braves series where pretty much the whole team didn’t hit, here we are again. Where were these posts when Hamilton was hitting?

    2. I have come around on a lot of advnced stats, but I still think Sabermetrics still place way WAY too much emphasis on the value of taking a walk. People have pointed out that BHam, Cozart, and Phillips are something like the worst hitters ever because they have a terrible K/BB ratio. But what about the fact that BHam and Phillips actually, you know, get a hit every now and then? Sabermetrics seems to completely disregard the value of guys actually putting the ball in play and only focuses on their ability to not swing at pitches out of the zone, provided the pitcher actually throws 4 of them in an at-bat, which of course is not a given (especially in BHam’s case with Votto hitting right behind him).

    3. My take on BHam is, thus far, he has underperformed expectations, but he has been far from a disaster. There are a lot of MLB players whose stats after one month are not indicative of what they are capable of. And as far as the argument that “Well, those guys are proven MLB players, Billy Hamilton isn’t.”, that’s a very Dusty Barker-ish, Catch 22 kind of phrase. If you don’t give Billy Hamilton a chance to prove himself, how will we ever know what his “proven” stats are? Sometimes, you just have to go with the unknown. That’s what scouting is for, and there seem to be enough people in the Reds organization who think that BHam is the answer at leadoff that he’s going to be sticking there unless he starts trending into “disaster” territory, which I personally don’t see happening based on what we’ve seen so far. BHam has scored 10 runs this month with 3 games remaining. That projects out to about 70 runs on the season, IF every month plays out exactly like this one. Given his early struggles (he didn’t record his first hit until April 7, and didn’t score his first run until April 9) and the brutal schedule played in April, I would wager that he will probably score quite a few more than 70 runs on the season, probably somewhere between 90 and 100 runs when it’s all said and done.

    4. What is Billy Hamilton’s value to the team? Speed. He has no power. So therefore, would moving him down in the order really be beneficial to the team? Do you want Billy Hamilton coming up with guys on base? He would probably hit into quite a few fielder’s choices and force outs, or else would wind up on base with guys on in front of him, thus completely nullifying his value as a base stealer. Whereas if he comes up with no one on, those hits would put him on base with the ability to turn his infield single into a double or even a triple while Votto grinds out another AB. Based on BHam’s skill set and his position in the lineup (a patient hitter hitting right behind him), I think leadoff is his best position to utilize his particular skillset to maximum effect.

    The Reds are doing ok offensively, really they are. I know it’s hard to believe in light of the most recent series played, but remember just a week ago they were riding a streak of scoring 4 runs in a game cosecutively. I think the lineup is mostly ok the way it’s currently constructed. You could make an argument for hitting Frazier or Ludwick 3rd instead of BP, or even Mez once he comes back, but I think there is very little to gain from hitting Billy Hamilton anywhere else in the lineup besides leadoff.

    • Steve Mancuso

      When was Hamilton hitting?

      Seriously, this post was set to run tonight no matter how many hits Hamilton had in the Atlanta series. You think an article like this appears in a few hours?

      Your #2 point is a ridiculous characterization of sabermetrics. OBP includes hits. Other measures include hits. It would be more fair to say that sabermetrics has made the point that walks are also important. Not that they are all that’s important.

      Billy Hamilton is a leadoff hitter, so his OBP is probably the single most important stat for him. Do his defenders want us to compare him to Shin-Soo Choo in home runs or RBI?

      I’m for giving Hamilton a chance, and from what Ben writes here, so is he. We just want him to figure out how to hit Major League pitching in a different batting spot, not the one that gets the most plate appearances on the team.

      I think you must not have read Ben’s post. It is a 1000-word answer to your point #4.

      A longer article is needed on this, but Billy Hamilton’s speed is of net questionable value so far. He’s been thrown out in 4 of 13 stolen base attempts. Given that a CS means the loss of a base runner and the loss of an out, that % is really near the break even success point for making SB worth the effort.

      • ci3j

        When was Hamilton hitting?
        I’ll let CharlotteRedsFan answer this one: Coming into this series, BHam was hot as any Red not named Devin (11 for 31).

        Seriously, this post was set to run tonight no matter how many hits Hamilton had in the Atlanta series. You think an article like this appears in a few hours?
        No, but it’s easy to “sit on” a post and post it when you feel it is relevant. I’ve no doubt there are tons of posts that have been written but never posted because the information contained turned out to not be relevant in the longer run.

        Your #2 point is a ridiculous characterization of sabermetrics. OBP includes hits. Other measures include hits. It would be more fair to say that sabermetrics has made the point that walks are also important. Not that they are all that’s important.
        If that’s true, then why have people been harping on Hamilton’s K/BB rate? That seems to only focus on walks and strikeouts to evaluate him as a hitter, nothing else. Or is that just a cherrypicking stat?

        Billy Hamilton is a leadoff hitter, so his OBP is probably the single most important stat for him. Do his defenders want us to compare him to Shin-Soo Choo in home runs or RBI?
        Sure, go ahead, and we’ll compare him in terms of stolen bases and defense. They are different players with different skillsets. For me, personally, I want to see how many runs they score and prevent, since that is the name of the game, right?

        I’m for giving Hamilton a chance, and from what Ben writes here, so is he. We just want him to figure out how to hit Major League pitching in a different batting spot, not the one that gets the most plate appearances on the team.
        And who, exactly, is better suited to leading off instead of Hamilton? You want to put Frazier up there? He has a decent OBP, and that’s the most important thing, right?

        I think you must not have read Ben’s post. It is a 1000-word answer to your point #4.
        I did read it, and he makes some good points, but I still feel it’s better to give Hamilton at least one guaranteed AB per game where the bases are empty, which he can only get by leading off. He has the ability to put pressure on the pitcher right from the start, and by extension possibly lead to knocking a starting pitcher out of the game early.

        A longer article is needed on this, but Billy Hamilton’s speed is of net questionable value so far. He’s been thrown out in 4 of 13 stolen base attempts. Given that a CS means the loss of a base runner and the loss of an out, that % is really near the break even success point for making SB worth the effort.
        Sure, I’d be interested in seeing that article.

        Steve, I know from the very beginning you have been against Hamilton leading off, but there really seem to be a lot of people, both here and in the Reds organization, that disagree with your assesment. We’re going to have to see how things ultimately play out, but so far I see no signs that indicate BHam is going to be or should be demoted in the batting order.

      • Steve Mancuso

        The only part of this I want to address tonight is your new insinuation that we sat on the article until Billy Hamilton had a bad series. First of all, we didn’t. Ben sent me the article out of the blue yesterday (or Friday) for review. I asked him to add in a couple paragraphs which he sent me this morning. And we ran the item tonight.

        And Billy actually got a bunt hit today, which makes this a terrible day to post it by your logic. Because that’s a red letter day for our leadoff hitter.

        Second, the claim that criticisms of Hamilton have been timed for the *two* times that Billy Hamilton has had a bad series is pretty funny. Not only have I been critical of his batting lead-off virtually every day, but he’s only really had two or three good games all year. Not terribly hard to find a good time to post a skeptical article.

        The guy has a .250 OBP. How many good series do you think he’s had?

        And I still don’t understand why posting that they should bat him lower in the order to help him build his confidence is some attack on him. You’d think we were trying to strangle him in his crib.

        And I’ve answered Charlotte’s cherry-picked data above.

        If you think we sit on articles until they make sense to post you’re wildly over-estimating our productivity. This is hobby for all of us. We struggle to come up with new posts pretty much constantly. Your insinuation is insulting, but not surprising.

        We’ve got exactly two articles sitting around right now and they are both going up tomorrow. One is the Monday column on the NL Central and the other is an article on BP that I’ve been working on for a few days and finished about 30 minutes ago. Does that count as “sitting on it” if I wait until noon to publish it?

      • ci3j

        Ok, Steve, calm down.

        I was not trying to insult anyone, although you seem to think it’s my modus operandi since you said it’s “not surprising”. Not sure where that came from, but it’s fine if you want to think like that.

        The only reason I made the “sit-on” comment is because you yourself in another thread said you had an article (possibly the BP one?) that you were going to post “when the time was right”. I’m not sure what to make of that, and I’m not going to go hunting for that one comment just to prove my point. Maybe you know what I’m referring to?

        Ok, I’m done with this thread as it’s quickly turning from discussing the Reds to posts bordering on personal attacks.

        Bottom line: Let’s see what happens with BHam. Maybe after Memorial Day we can revisit the topic, since a long held baseball truism is “Stats don’t matter until Memorial Day”. Until then, I plan to lay off on dissecting Billy Hamilton (and Homer Bailey too).

      • Pete Rose

        I definitely agree – everyone one this website wants the Reds to win – so by all means, please keep that foremost in your mind. We shouldn’t be going at each other with all this tacitness. So let’s be respectful of one another’s opinions. We are all Reds fans – and since we don’t have anything to gain financially, we can at the very least respect each other. That would be the Christian thing to do.

      • al

        The problem with your posts is you get so self-righteous about things you clearly don’t understand. Why not ask rather than get all snippy?

        You want to know about BB/K rate? The reason that’s important is those two things (along with HRs) are what changes a players OBP relative to their BABIP. A player with zero walks, zero Ks, and zero HR’s, will have an OBP that is exactly the same as their BABIP. The more you strike out, the lower your OBP is compared to your BABIP, and the more you walk, the higher your OBP is compared to your BABIP.

        Hamilton will not have a lot of HRs.

        We all (should) know that a players BABIP can more around a lot from one year to the next. So, when thinking about whether a leadoff man is doing everything he can to get on base, what then is a good thing to look at? The BB/K rate.

        Billy is currently on a pace to get 16 walks for every 100 strikeouts, which is quite bad, as should be obvious. That’s why his BABIP is .279 and his OBP is .253.

        Todd Frazier on the other hand is on a pace to get 50 walks for every 100 strikeouts. That’s why his BABIP is .266 and his OBP is .330. Hamilton is actually doing better on balls in play, but he’s striking out so much and walking so little, that Frazier ends up with an OBP 80 points higher. Which would make FRAZIER a better lead off hitter for this team.

      • greenmtred

        Again, Steve, your point is well-taken. BH’s value as a baserunner is not limited to stealing bases, though. Hasn’t he scored something like 50% of the times he has been on base (include AAA)? Of course he needs to get on base more, and he is trending in that direction. Maybe he won”t get to an acceptable level, but I think that we need to give him more time. I have no way of knowing, but I harbor doubts that more time in AAA will significantly improve his hitting.

    • CP (@nomoresalads)

      1. Not really. Numerous people were pointing out that B-Ham still wasn’t getting on base.

      2. Advanced stats takes that into account. The problem with free swingers that don’t take walks is that the vast majority of them don’t produce ENOUGH hits to justify not taking walks. Someone like Adam Jones does. Brandon Phillips was once one of the players who could get away with it, but no longer.

      In 2013, there were 104 qualifying players who were above average hitters as determined by wRC+. Only 14 of them had a walk rate below 6%. Hamilton, Phillips, and Cozart all have BB% below 4%. The problem is particularly acute with guys who have zero power, because not only are they not producing enough hits, but the quality of those hits stink too.

      3. Focusing on runs instead of OBP/wRC+/OPS+ is just ridiculous. The problem with B-Ham is what he fails to do for Votto and everyone else behind him.

      4. Pretty incoherent argument but Zack Cozart & the pitcher would be batting ahead of B-Ham. Problem solved.

  10. WVRedlegs

    The Reds are reaping the fruits of Jocketty’s long winter nap. Castellini was there in person today and today’s loss and getting swept by the Braves has to leave a bad taste in his mouth. Add all this to his grimmace after the wild card loss to Pittsburgh and you have to have the feeling that this won’t stand for long. They have to go out and add some offense to this team. They are a team that is 1 or 2 players away from being elite.

    • greenmtred

      How do you know that the lack of activity over the off-season wasn’t dictated by ownership due to cost concerns? And, yes, the right 1 or 2 players ADDED to the current roster would make this team really good, if not elite, but that addition would be the result of subtraction–almost certainly the subtraction of some of the pitching talent that makes the current team relevant. The Reds do not have the money or (cause and effect at work) the spare parts to easily remedy what ails them through trades.

      • WVRedlegs

        I’ve read somewhere a few times that the Reds can afford nice things. So, I have to disagree with you that a remedy for what ails this offense isn’t available through a trade or two.
        I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a big front office staff meeting this morning organizing a scouting search for a SS and a hitter to bat behind Votto and before Bruce.

      • Drew

        Being able to afford it and being able to obtain it are two different things. What leads you to believe that Walt didn’t look for additions this offseason but found nothing worth what it would have cost to get it. I mean would you be willing to give up Cueto for a RH power bat?

      • Pete Rose

        In my book the Reds have that often called for ‘RH’ bat – only problem is he has already been on the DL twice this season – but WILL be back. So it calls for patience. The Reds have been wrecked by injuries so far this year. I see the skies brightening and a solid month of May coming. This team struggled this past week-end facing stiff pitching competition. But they stood tall and just happened to not get the breaks. The 1 run decisions will even out and the breaks will start going the Reds way. That is what being optimistic is all about.

      • greenmtred

        My main point was that a trade involves players moving both ways. Whom do we lose? Probably a pitcher and probably a good pitcher if the expected return is a hitter better than the ones we’re putting out there now (I know, Cozart, but how many good shortstops who can hit are available at any price?) As for the Reds affording nice things, it wasn’t the guy who writes the checks who said that.

      • Reed Tom

        The Reds owner is apparently not in the elite billionaire class so I don’t know how the Reds offense is going to be upgraded except by trades that do not include Jonny Cueto.

  11. JRS1972

    All this fancy book larnin’ and uppity sabermeteriks aside, even the god given eyeball test should tell you it’s stupid to compare an unproven rookie who didn’t hit all that well in the minors to ‘slow’ starts by proven MLB all stars.

    • Pete Rose

      Please bear in mind that sometimes it comes down to pure economics. Sure it would be great if the Reds had some unreal cable TV contract so they could go out and buy whatever they wanted. But quite sadly they don’t – and to check-in with the Angels (great team name by the way – maybe that is intended to tell us something) – a lot of times it simply doesn’t work. Patience often does – as does staying the course when you see improvement.

  12. bhrubin1

    I don’t think this is a glowing pro SABR piece. I’m not afraid to say that my sympathies are primarily in that direction, and I know that will be enough to dismiss what I’m saying in some people’s eyes. But an important part of the point I’m making is that I think the advanced metrics do significantly undervalue Billy Hamilton’s contribution to scoring runs. OBP is a pretty solid stat for documenting the first part of the running scoring equation (home to first), but there is no reliable stat for the other half (1st to home). Advanced metrics don’t have a good way to measure that yet, just like they don’t have a good way to measure defense. And just like FIP and xFIP will always undervalue Johnny Cueto because he’s an anomalous pitcher who gets outs in unusual ways, I think sabermetrics will probably always undervalue Billy Hamilton.

    But that’s different than saying he should bat leadoff right now.

    I think Hamilton deserves a spot on the team as a starter right now. In fact I don’t think he’s the least valuable or even the second least valuable offensive player on the team. The question is, where in the lineup can you stick him that maximizes his strengths and minimizes his weaknesses. The point of this post was really a rebuttal to people who think he should be batting 7th or 8th, because I think his talent is wasted there. 9th gives you an interesting opportunity to create a relatively stress free environment for him to learn to hit major league pitching, while still getting full value out of his speed.

    And ultimately, once that happens, I want him batting first. I think his skill set is valuable enough that he can be an above average leadoff hitter with a below average OBP. But not .253.

  13. ProspectCincy

    Some points to make here …

    (1) Billy Hamilton has been caught stealing four times; two of which he was clearly safe. Reds didn’t challenge the first (Pittsburgh) / Couldn’t challenge the second (Atlanta) so I don’t care for the argument that his speed isn’t worth the risk.

    (2) Anyone who expected Hamilton to come in and hit .320 with a .380 OBP out of the gate wasn’t realistic. This was a work in progress; and it’s in progress. No true CF was signed in the off-season … the plan is to ride Billy for a full season. Each week, he has shown solid progress at the plate, batting average up every weeks end (first week ended in .000 so to be honest, it’s not a big achievement, but it’s something.

    (3) IT’s APRIL. Remember April … the first month of the baseball season. Suggesting Hamilton is not providing value in the leadoff spot is like saying / ohhh / Homer Bailey is not providing value in the rotation. Perhaps we should consider moving him to the bullpen for a bit while he works on his psyche?

    Let’s see how this week shapes up for Hamilton. If he can get the overall numbers to .240 / .275 by Sunday … guess what? PROGRESS!

    • bhrubin1

      1) I wholeheartedly agree. That’s why I think his speed is an essential asset for this team, and they need to find a way to utilize it to its full potential. I think batting him ninth does that. I’m not sure if that last sentence was directed at me, but I wouldn’t never say his speed isn’t worth the risk of trying to steal bases. His talent is at least generational, and maybe historical. He should steal every chance he gets, from any spot in the lineup.

      2) Again, couldn’t agree more. Expectations were way too high for a rookie. That’s exactly why I think he should be moved into a lower stress position while he works out the kinks. He’s worth it. And again, the place is I want to see him hitting long term is first.

      3) This one I disagree on (2 out of 3 ain’t bad, right?). No one is saying he isn’t providing any value, the question is whether his value is maximized in that spot, and whether that spots value is maximized with him in it. I think the answer to both questions is a resounding no…at least for now. The comparison to Homer Bailey is not a good one, because Homer has a proven track record of being excellent after a slow start most years, and also has the peripheral stats to suggest he has been extraordinarily unlucky on BABIP, and especially home run balls. You may not trust those metrics, but there is at least evidence that Bailey’s underlying ability NOW, not in the future, is better than what we’ve seen this month. The other issue is that making a transition from the rotation to the bullpen requires different conditioning, different pitching strategies etc. Because of that, skill in one doesn’t necessarily translate to the other, and a move would be much less easily reversed. On the other hand, a change in lineup spot wouldn’t require a change in approach, and could be instantly reversed at any time, so there is really no cost.

      I think a lot of the push back is based on the idea that this is a demotion for Hamilton, but that’s not the way I think of it at all. It is about putting your players in the best position to succeed and to help the team.

  14. Eric the Red

    Just a small comment…it does seem that Billy is getting a bit of “Welcome to the Show, Rook” treatment. I don’t think he’s gotten a single close ball/strike call in his direction, and he was clearly safe yesterday and probably in Pittsburgh. It’s part of the game, so I’m not complaining, but it is something I’ve noticed.

  15. Whoa Bundy!

    BHam has more RBI’s than BP and I trust him to get a hit more than Cozart. Cozart also has more RBI ‘s than BP.

  16. vanwilder8

    Here’s my best solution: Hamilton hits 8. If he gets on base, then he steals when the pitcher is up and gets bunted to third. Then he scores on basically any ball in play.


    • charlottencredsfan

      You have a point but from how I see it, if BHam is not the lead-off hitter than Heisey becomes the preferable option. At that point, let Billy resume development in AAA.

      With a perfectly healthy team sans BHam, I would go with a lineup like this:
      Schumaker – cf
      MVP – 1b
      Mes – c
      BruuuuuuuuuuucE -rf
      Todd – 3b
      Ludwick – lf
      BP – 2b

      I will make the same point in tonight’s game thread but I would give Cozart the Cub series off. He is looking like the harder he tries the worse the results. Bring him back for the Brew Crew and see if the Old Cozy shows up.

      All this banter makes me excited for tonight’s game, thanks Redleg Nation.

  17. bhrubin1

    I hate it. This was exactly my point in this post. Bunting Hamilton over is the best way to waste his talent. Why give up an out to accomplish what he will accomplish anyway? Not to mention, if you assume a pitcher is an automatic out, he will get erased every time he gets on with two outs. Batting him ninth gives him a better chance to succeed when he does get on. There is literally no spot in the lineup I would not rather have him hit than 8th. I’d rather have him 3rd or 4th than 8th.

  18. brmreturns

    Let me start by saying that I am a huge BHam fan, but I am a bigger believer in numbers and the “eye test”.

    Hamilton’s career slash in the minors = .280/.350/.378. However, if you take out the 1 year he looked otherworldly (2012), his numbers drop to .270/.324/.363.

    I think BHam could be a very good MLB player. But his career numbers do nothing to show me he will be. The numbers get even more suspect if you dig a little deeper. His career numbers above A ball equate to essentially one full season (not counting MLB – trust me, they would only make these numbers looks worse).

    173GP .264/.334/.353 with a 2/1 K to BB ratio. The guy just simply doesn’t/hasn’t hit above low level minor league pitching.

    I think the brass got enamored by his 7-19 performance and 13/14 steals last September against the AAAAstros.

    Additionally, he’s been caught stealing 4 times in 13 attempts (69% success rate); he is more of a hindrance, at the top of the lineup, than a help at this point. Hamilton needs to be moved (to 2,9, or Louisville).

    • Drew

      How about we allow him a full season to season and mature before we overreact. Yes he is going to struggle, most players do, and yes it may mean more losses in the short term but this overreaction after 25 games is sad.

  19. Chris Miller

    I would venture to say that the biggest reason that B Hamilton isn’t walking much, is because he’s had very, very, few opportunities. I would guess that every pitcher who is due to fact him, tells himself one thing, “do not walk this kid, make him hit”. Until BH shows he can make pitchers pay, he’s not going to get walked; not with his speed, and light build. If he continues to hit improve his hitting, as his pace suggests he will, then I expect you will see the walks start to occur. Hey, he did it in the minors, and at every level, it took a bit before his numbers started to increase.

    Hitting him 9th is flat out, a bad idea. No reason to have pitcher hitting more often than BH, and per the one discussion, why would you hit one of your best run producers, in Frazier at leadoff? makes no sense. If anyone wants to suggest something to help. Stop worrying about BH, and think about Phillips, and how his batting 3rd is horrendous at this point.

    • Steve Mancuso

      There are stats that could back up or refute your theory and they seem to support it. BHam has done a good job with keeping his swing rate down, both for out-of-zone pitches and in-zone pitches. His swinging strike rate is low for the Reds. He has seen the highest first-ball strike rate of any of the Reds hitters, by far. So that philosophy – don’t walk him, make him hit is – sounds about right. Maybe once he starts hitting better, he’ll get more walks.

    • al

      Hamilton is seeing right about 50% pitches in the zone, which isn’t particularly high. For example, the pitchers are in the 60s and 70s. If other teams were just throwing it in there to Hamilton, his numbers would be near theirs.

      The big issue is he’s swinging and missing at balls out of the zone.

      Also, what would be the problem with Frazier leading off again? He’s a “run producer?” I assume you still collect tobacco cards? Choo produced a lot of runs and was the best leadoff hitter in the league. Frazier isn’t going to hit 40 HRs, his SLG isn’t so high that it disqualifies him from leading off, and he’s getting on base well this year.

  20. Drew

    Price has made the call to start Hamilton in the leadoff slot, and with it only being 25 games in there is no way he or any sane manager would bump him down at this point especially given the quality pitching we have seen over these 25 games. IF come the ASB he is still struggling, I can see Price maybe adjusting..but after just 25 games..no chance and he shouldn’t.

    • Steve Mancuso

      The Tampa Bay Rays have used a half dozen different lead-off hitters this year. Joe Maddon doesn’t treat the daily lineup as though it’s sacrosanct, necessitating a huge issue to change it. When Dusty Baker was manager, it was like a Presidential press conference every time he made even the slightest permanent change. Huge deal. I was hoping Bryan Price would be more like Maddon, but he seems closer to Baker in this regard. He does get bonus points for being willing to bat JV and JB back to back early in the year when Votto was hitting third. And he moved JV to #2, which Dusty Baker would never have done. But he needs to be more tactical when it comes to the #1 and #3 spot in my opinion. And in terms of 25 games not being enough time, the Cardinals just sent Kolten Wong down to the minors.

  21. MGMcCoy

    To me, the importance of where a player hits in the order is relative to the skills of other players around him in the order. So with that said, the only reason the 1 spot is any better than the 9 spot is due to more PAs over the course of the season.

    Lets say that you started the game with the #2 spot in the order at bat first. leaving the lineup the way it is would see more PAs for our best hitters less PAs for our worst. (positive!!) It would see BH hitting before MVP, yet not starting the game with an out and reducing the number of times BH comes to the plate, therefore taking advantage of the times he does but not forcing the rest of the team to take less ABs due to a sub-par hitter being high in the order. Since we don’t start with #2, Billy batting #9 is perfect!

    Joey is the best in the league at getting on base, he hits a crazy amount of doubles (get-em-over) and doesn’t give away any outs. Why would you not want him having more opportunities to do that? I love him being the #2 guy but if billy is moved to the 9 hole, doesn’t that make the case that Votto should be leading off?

    • bhrubin1

      This. Yes. This was exactly my point.

    • al

      Well, if you use the lineup analysis tool to see how to maximize runs with the Reds players, you would see that all of the highest scoring lineups do have Votto leading off. So yes is the answer.

      But even if you don’t move Votto to leadoff, there is still an argument for Hamilton (or some non-pitcher) hitting 9th. That argument is that you want the pitcher’s spot to be further from your best hitters, so that your best hitters can drive in more runs. If you had Frazier leading off, every time through the order after the first you would have Hamilton, Frazier, Votto, instead of what we have, which is Pitcher, Hamilton, Votto.

      So Votto would get more ABs (by hitting second) and still have more RBI opportunities.

  22. Tony CMH

    This article is spot on. He should be batting ninth until he demonstrates he can get his OBP north of .320. This reduces his AB’s, and he still functions as a lead-off hitter when he does bat. Basically take the opening day lineup and move everyone up a spot with BIlly batting ninth. And that includes batting Votto and Bruce back to back in the 2 and 3 spots when a RHP is starting.

    For those of you that say “He only has value when he leads off”, by batting him ninth, you are essentially batting him as a lead-off hitter, just skipping him when the game starts. And the worst batter on your team should be getting the fewest at bats, which is what would happen with BHam batting 9th.

    I’d love to see how BHam’s numbers compare to the 9th spot for anyone out there that can pull it easily. I know pitchers aren’t great hitters, but when you add in the pinch hitting later in games, I wonder if there’s really much difference between BHam and the 9th spot in the order when a pitcher/pinch hitter is in there,

  23. Dave

    Um, point 1 – reduces the outs he makes by batting 9th? How, by giving more PAs to pitchers who surely make more outs?

    Point 2 – Hamilton helps Votto – agreed. However, with one hitter’s separation, rather than hitting immediately in front of Joey, he’s less likely to be on base for Votto – the #1 guy makes the third out, that’s that.

    Point 3 – It’s not that hard to isolate – just look at the % of fastballs thrown when he’s on (with the base in front of him, especially 2nd, open). It goes way up – Votto has said as much – he sees a lot more FBs when Hamilton is on first. I’d bet dollars to donuts that that changes when there’s a) no Hamilton on base; or b) Hamilton on with a runner in front of him, thus negating the steal.

    Also, we’re having trouble at #1 and #3 right now (datdude isn’t hitting at #3), as well as Bruce hitting .220 at cleanup. Who do we put at leadoff/what is the new lineup? I mean, you want BP, Votto, Bruce, Ludwick? Toss Mesoraco in at 3/4 if he comes back and stays hot, but still…