Billy Hamilton could be seen coming for more than a full season as the Cincinnati Reds’ top prospect clearly was a dangerous figure with the bat and on the bases in the minor leagues. I don’t know that anyone could have suspected the immediate impact he would have had on Major League Baseball within the first few weeks of his first September call-up. What he has done with stolen bases begs a question I never thought I would have the privilege to ask. How does Hamilton compare to Hall-of-Fame legend and stolen base king Rickey Henderson? Could he be better?
Because Hamilton only has a handful of games under his belt at this point we need to travel back in time to the year 1979 when a 20 year old Henderson made his MLB debut with the Oakland Athletics. Hamilton has stolen 10 bases in his first 9 games at the MLB level. It took him only eight games to have his first multiple stolen bases game and it was actually in his first MLB start. It was an extra inning game but only one of the four he got that night came in extras.
So how does that compare to Henderson? It took the legendary figure 28 games to compile 10 stolen bases and the 28th game was also the first in which he stole more than one base. With that comparison Hamilton takes Henderson to the cleaners. We all know how good he was though so what if we look at his first full season in which Henderson stole 100 bases for the first time. That year it still took until his 27th start before he reached 10.
What about the minor leagues? Henderson played parts of four seasons in the minors while Hamilton compiled parts of five seasons. If we just take the first four seasons of Hamilton to compare to Henderson’s minor league stint, the plate appearances are very close with Henderson having 1665 PA’s to Hamilton’s 1711. Over that time Hamilton still beats Henderson 320 SB to 249.
No matter which way we compare it, Hamilton is off to a much better start early on that Henderson was in 1979. I think that means more than a little bit towards how amazing this young man can be. The final factor of course is the secret ingredient for Henderson. He stole bases for an incredible 25 seasons at the MLB level after starting at age 20. Hamilton is 22 currently what he does over the next couple of decades or even if he stays healthy and successful that long is something we’ll have to just wait and see on.