Billy Hamilton’s rookie season has been Topic A for many Reds fans and Redleg Nation has reflected that prominence.

Jason Linden projected that Hamilton would hit .255/.315/.330 in his season preview and Jason revisited the young center fielder’s season in May, June and September. Regarding stolen bases, Brian Erts set the context for our expectations in his detailed analysis of history’s greatest base stealers. We’ve written about Hamilton’s place in the batting order. Back in April, I suggested eighth. Ben Rubin put forward the idea that Hamilton bat ninth. And recently, Nick Kirby wrote about Hamilton’s second-half struggles.

As the Reds’ dismal season draws to merciful conclusion, scant few of the organization’s players are in legitimate discussion for postseason awards. One of those is Billy Hamilton, who has been considered a leader in the race for NL Rookie of the Year most of the season. In July, John Ring wrote about the Reds history with the NLROY award, suggesting that Hamilton might be the first player in a Cincinnati uniform to win it this century.

Hamilton’s main competition is Mets’ pitcher Jacob deGrom. Today, we have posts from two writers who agreed to take opposing sides of the NLROY debate.

First, Ben Rubin takes the side of deGrom:

For much of the season, Billy Hamilton has been the presumptive frontrunner for NL Rookie of the Year. But a new candidate has emerged in Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, who has been red-hot of late. Combined with Hamilton’s recent struggles, deGrom’s late-season emergence has turned this into an actual race. But questions remain regarding whether deGrom, called up part-way through the season and missing significant time due to injury, has pitched enough innings to be considered a legitimate contender. Sources ranging from mainstream national press like Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) to Jesse Borek (blogredmachine) think so.

Obviously, as Reds fans, we all want to see Hamilton win. Bringing home a ROY trophy (and maybe a Cy Young as well) to the Queen City would go a long way to sooth the hurt of what has been a shocking and disappointing season. But what does the competition look like? Does deGrom actually have a chance to steal the award in the last weeks of the season?

Bryan Price thinks not. When asked about the race, Price responded “A guy…[who] plays every day and is playing Gold Glove defense, there’s no question he’s the Rookie of the Year to me.” (Rosecrans)

But is he right? How often do the voters choose a pitcher vs. an everyday player? Since the ROY award was split between the two leagues, in 1949, the National League has chosen a pitcher only 20 times. However, two of those have been in the past 3 years, and of the 25 men who have finished in the top five for the past five years, 11 of them have been pitchers.

This may very well be a function of the post-steroid “era of the pitcher.” However, because it so difficult to compare across eras, it makes sense to compare in this era, and it seems recently the voters have been much more willing to give pitchers the benefit of the doubt. So the question is how deGrom compares to those recent winners and runners up.

It is also a safe assumption that although many at this site would prefer to see pitchers evaluated on the advanced metrics that more closely measure a pitcher’s contribution to the game, more than likely the Rookie of the Year voters will be influenced primarily by W-L record, ERA and on the counting stat of strikeouts. Here are those stats for the winners and top 5 finishers from the past 5 years:

Table3

But the question is not whether deGrom is a legitimate ROY candidate but whether he is good enough to win. The BWAA voters select their first, second, and third choices, and winning the award is based on a points system that assigns decreasing numbers of points for lower ballot positions. So, in order to be considered a potential winner, deGrom would have to be capable of garnering not just votes but first place votes.

Of the 11 pitchers above, Miller, Ryu, Teheran, Worley, and Collmenter received no first place votes; their totals come entirely from second and third place votes. Garcia received about 3% of the first place vote, and Hanson received 6%, so they were probably not viable 1st place candidates either. So the four who were legitimate contenders for the award were Fernandez and Kimbrel (who won) and Miley and Happ (who finished 2nd). Check out the numbers when we break it down that way:

Table2

Note: I excluded Kimbrel from the W-L calculations, since he is a relief pitcher, and reliever W-L is not really comparable to starter W-L. I realize this gives me a sample size of 1 in the winners’ W-L column.

Surprisingly there is not a whole lot of difference between the top 5 qualifiers and the first place vote getters, and Jacob deGrom compares favorably in both categories. His win totals are a bit low as a result of how little of the season he has played, but his ERA plays well in both groupings, and his strikeout totals will almost certainly pass the average for both qualifiers and contenders by the end of the year.

Putting him in the conversation with the winners, Fernandez and Kimbrel is a different story. But does he need to be as good as them? Happ and Miley lost the award to Bryce Harper (.270/.340/.477) and Chris Coghlan (.321/.390/.460) respectively. Billy Hamilton’s line as of today is (.253/.295/.358).

Maybe Price is right and the voters will weight Hamilton’s excellent defense, generational speed, and more extensive playing time. If ever there was a case for evaluating a player based on unconventional criteria, it’s Billy Hamilton. But as Reds fans, if we’re honest with ourselves, we probably need to admit that the field is weaker than it was when either Happ or Miley almost won the ROY, and that deGrom is more than qualified to keep that company.

For the record, not only do I hope Hamilton wins, but at the end of the day, I think he should. Don’t be surprised however, if the BBWAA disagrees. *All stats from baseball-reference.com

On the other side, Jux Berg argues Billy Hamilton’s case:

Although it’s not as much of a runaway as it appeared earlier this season, Billy Hamilton deserves to be the first Cincinnati Red named Rookie of the Year since Scott Williamson in 1999. The reason for the debate is no doubt Hamilton essentially hitting “the rookie wall” after the all-star break. The 23-year-old has not homered and has only driven in six runs in the second half of the season while his batting average has dropped from .285 to .256.

But this award is not based on one half of a season. And if you look at what Hamilton has been able to do, he is worthy of the honor.

Speed

Long before he made it to the big leagues, everybody knew Billy’s number one skill was his wheels. And while 56 stolen bases doesn’t sound like a whole heckuva lot historically (Vince Coleman holds the all-time rookie record with 110), in this day and age, it’s a significant achievement—especially when everyone knows you’re going to be running before you take your leadoff. 56 swipes ranks second in all of major league baseball in 2014.

Hamilton’s speed has also played a role in reaching base. His 26 infield hits rank second in MLB. Plus, the simple threat of how fast Billy is has caused catchers, pitchers and infielders to make numerous errant throws this season.

Defense

We’ve seen a marked improvement in Cincinnati’s center field defense from 2013 to 2014. Fangraphs ranked Shin-Soo Choo last in all of baseball in 2013 among centerfielders. Fangraphs ranks Hamilton as the second best defensive centerfielder in 2014. Billy’s only committed two errors this year. Building upon the Fangraphs ranking: If you look at the leaders, once you get past the first three players (Juan Lagares – NYM, Billy Hamilton – CIN, Jackie Bradley – BOS), there is a monumental drop off to where the rest of baseball’s centerfielders check in.

Perhaps the most surprising feature of Hamilton’s arsenal has been his throwing ability. His nine outfield assists rank in the Top 10 in MLB for outfielders.

We’ve also seen Billy pull off a number of highlight reel snags out there, so his style points should be high enough to help his cause.

Another check on Billy Hamilton’s ledger: He came up through the minor leagues at a completely different position. He moved from shortstop to centerfield in two years … and he looks like he’s been playing centerfield since tee-ball.

Offense

Billy “Cool Papa” Hamilton leads all National League rookies in WAR (3.5), games (147), runs (72) and of course, stolen bases (56). His 48 RBI even outdistance the rest of the NL rookie crop.

Hamilton’s plate coverage and ability to use all fields from both sides of the plate has resulted in 140 hits this year, which is good for second on the team.

Good For Baseball

You could make the argument that an award such as Rookie of the Year should be based on more than just the raw numbers. A player’s character and flare should be factored in as well. Billy has brought excitement to every stadium he’s played in. He’s humble both with the media and the fans. He’s always smiling.

It would not be going out on a limb to suggest that Hamilton projects as a future all-star. If you want to celebrate your best young stars, awarding Billy ROY honors would go a long way toward doing that.

There you have it, baseball writers: Vote Billy Hamilton for 2014 National League Rookie of the Year!

17 Responses

  1. SunandSand

    Billy has been aboiut what we expected, but there have been bright spots. Compared to historicals, I don’t think he deserves the award (some other ROY winners didn’t either but there was no competition). While I am happy having him on the reds, he has a long way to go to become an All-Star. His offense is simply sub-par and his baserunner is suspect despite his speed as he gave away an out for every 2 stolen bases!

    Apparently, he is going to start training to bunt better. I see this as a step backwards as a bunt for hit is effectively no better than a walk. In fact, the bunt hit really only works when you have no one on in front of you. I would rather he gets stronger and learns to hit with more authority. This will lead pitchers to respect his bat, leading to more walks (and no need to bunt).

    Billy should be a consistent 3 WAR player, which is great, but ROY may unfairly raise expectations.

    • tct

      Agree about bunting, although I think it should be part of his arsenal but he shouldn’t be doing it more than a couple times per week. His focus should be learning to hit, to slap outside pitches the other way and drive pitches in his wheel house. He doesn’t need to be double digit home run guy to be successful. But I believe that if he’s ever going to be an average MLB hitter, or better, he does need to be an extra base threat. It would be great if he could become a 30+ double, 10+ triple, 5+ homers guy. At the end of July it looked like he was going to reach those marks easily, and he still could with a couple big games, but his power has just disappeared. Driving balls in the gap, slapping balls to the left side, with the occasional bunt to keep the defense nervous and played in so that he can slap it by them easier should be his focus. He will never be a successful player if all he can do is lay down a bunt hit or beat out a grounder.

      • GOREDS

        Right on. I cant see why he could not get stronger at his young age.

    • greenmtred

      Not sure that you’re right about bunt hits v. walks. With a bunt the ball is in play and the possibility of an error (particularly when somebody as fast as BH is running) is on the table. The issue for Billy is OBP, isn’t it? Bunting well may improve that significantly. Walking more would, as well. He should work on both.

  2. BigRedMike

    Hamilton should improve, but, he needs to become a better base stealer.

    His last 60 games at the plate have been really poor. 260 OBP

    If he is going to lead off going forward, that OBP needs to improve to at least 325

    Should be fun to watch him develop

    • SunandSand

      SInce he is cheap, its hard to complain about his production. I dont love him hitting leadoff but the Reds need to make up the difference by having incredible 2-5 hitters (not Phillips and not automatically Bruce either). I am fine with Votto and/or Frazier batting 2nd but you need a real 3 or 4 hitter in LF! This should be easier to get as you dont need LF defense with Billy in CF. Less likely but possible is an offensive SS and a decent LF.

  3. WVRedlegs

    The New York media will make sure that the ROY is Jacob deGrom. Look at the list of BBWAA voters in last year’s HOF vote. A large block of voters from New York and New England. Another large block of voters from the San Francisco Bay area and the third largest block is Chicago area. Not one from Cincinnati. The closest voter was from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Not many Midwestern voters, other than Chicago area. Most are either on the East Coast or the West Coast. That does not bode well for BHam and his chances for the ROY award.
    Unfortunately, in a What-Have-You-Done-Lately world, deGrom is the winner.

    • wvredlegs

      Sorry, I misspoke on the ROY voting. It is a different committee that votes for NL ROY. Paul Daugherty and somebody from the Columbus dispatch are eligible voters for NL ROY.

      • wvredlegs

        For clarity after I muddied the waters, for the ROY award, Cy Young award, Manager of the Year award, and NL MVP award, there are 2 eligible voters for each team. 30 total voters.
        Cincinnati reps (last year) were for:
        NL MVP: John Fay and CTrent.
        NL CYA: Hal McCoy and Mark Schmetzer.
        NL MOY: John Fay and John Erardi.
        NL ROY: Daugherty and Hunter from Columbus.

      • WVRedlegs

        I forgot to add that the voters vote for up to 3 players. First, second, and third. It is a 5-3-1 scoring system, meaning 5 points for 1st place votes, 3 points for 2nd place votes, and 1 point for 3rd place votes.
        Good Luck Billy Hamilton.

  4. RedMountain

    Perhaps you all have not noticed that Hamilton is becoming more selective at the plate and thus his OBP is rising. Perhaps you forget that he has been playing hurt for most of the season. Is it possible that a rookie who has unbelievable speed still needs to learn the pitcher’s moves? Aside from last year when he was also injured, he has hit at a .300 pace throughout his career. Is he learning on the job? Absolutely. He has shown he belongs in the majors, which is more than most on this site thought before the season began.

    • tct

      What? Why so defensive man? I haven’t heard anything about Billy playing injured. What did he hurt? What did he hurt last year? I didn’t hear about any serious injuries last year either. He hasn’t been on the DL all year. He had a couple of minor injuries early in the season. One was his finger, and that’s when he started wearing that big mitten on his hand when he is running the bases. I can’t remember what the other one was, but this was back in April and May and his hot streak came after this, so he looked healthy in June.

      You then go on to blame his AAA numbers on injury as well, and then say he has been a .300 hitter everywhere else, which is not true at all. He hit .209 in his first year in rookie ball in 2009. He hit .278 in Dayton in 2011 and .286 in Pensacola in 2012. I would never judge a player just on his batting average. I’m just pointing out that you are making him out to be something he isn’t. He has plenty of good qualities and lots.of talent. There’s no need to exaggerate his production and make excuses for his struggles.

  5. Tom Reed

    I hope the young man from Mississippi wins the ROY award. Either way, he’s an important part of the Reds future. As regards personnel, left field is the major concern in the offseason which it has been in the last few years. We need a good hitter, preferably from the right side, to hit in the middle of the order. At shortstop, Cozart certainly fills the bill on defense. He reminds me at lot of Eddie Miller who was the Reds shortstop in the 1940’s and was named the ‘vacuum cleaner’ because of sterling defense, although he wasn’t much of a hitter. The eighth position in the lineup has rarely been noted for offense. We can’t always expect to have a hitter like Barry Larkin at shortstop.

    • tct

      The thing about Cozart though is that even with his great defensive production, he has been a below average player overall because of his horrid offense. There are 32 shortstops with 300 or more PA this year and he ranks 20th in fWAR despite being in the top 3 in defensive WAR. His wRC+ of 58 is the worst of those 32 and Segura and Evreth Cabrera are the only other ones who have a wRC+ under 70. Cozart has the worst wRC + among qualified players in baseball. If his defensive ability slips just a little, he will be replacement level if he continues to hit like this. You can sacrifice some offense for good defense at shortstop for sure, but Cozart’s offense has gotten so bad that he is giving back most of his defensive value. I’m not saying they have to replace him. They could give him a couple months at least next year to see if he can get his power back or get his average up. But I would love to see the reds get a good shortstop prospect for one of their pitchers in the off season. They are hard to come by, but they do get moved sometimes. See Addison Russel this year.

      • Dale Pearl

        Cozart is a bench player/late innnings defensive replacement at best. If he starts opening day the message should be sent and bat the guy ninth in the order.

  6. Dale Pearl

    Hamilton deserves it. A person who pitches and often doesn’t even hit at all shouldn’t even be considered at all. Unless you put up sick numbers like Fernando, Gooden, Maddux, or Clemens it should be a no brainer. Consider in that if a pitcher only started at the all star game he is only to impact what 15 games or he is a starter only 30 games? Is it fair to consider that person in the same category as someone who can impact 150 or 160 games?

    And in the DH and pitchers get the biggest payout with the least amount of effort.

    • Thegaffer

      So, a player that is average for 150 games is better than a pitcher that is above average for 30 starts? Pitchers have won plenty of ROY. Scott Williamson won it for the Reds out of the bullpen, with 19 saves.