Readers, I am running out of steam. This season is drawing to a close and I am tired. I’m also running out of players who’ve played anything like a full season (hooray injuries!). I do still have Billy Hamilton, though.
First, let’s start with this, if you don’t think this has been a successful rookie season for Hamilton, then we disagree strongly. His fantastic fielding combined with his adequate hitting have made him worth (so far) 3.6 fWAR. That puts him as the 8th most valuable center fielder in baseball. That’s good.
But I’m not here to talk about the whole player. I’m here to talk about the bat.
The bat has been okay. An 88 wRC+ isn’t great, but it’s not a disgrace either.
A lot of things look good about Hamilton. His BABIP is around where it should be. His power has been, over the course of the season, a bit better than we might have expected. The problem is his walk rate. His 4.8% walk rate is well below the league of average of 7.6% and lightyears away from his Double-A peak number of 16.9%.
Put simply, he needs to walk more. The best way, it seems, to do that, is for him to stop bunting. Hamilton has bunted 48 times this year. If you remove those 48 plate appearances, his walk rate is 5.3%. So, while bunting less might make some difference, it’s not solving the whole problem.
Much of Hamilton’s plate discipline is around the league average. The only place he deviates significantly is in the number of pitches he makes contact with.
Looking at all the numbers, I have a hard time putting my finger on what Hamilton needs to do. As far as I can tell, it seems he needs to swing less. This because he seems to be good at putting the bat on the ball (he does strikeout less often than the league average). If he does swing less, he may find himself swinging at more favorable pitches and he may also find himself walking down to first base a bit more.