The Cincinnati Reds have announced that young phenom Billy Hamilton is on the Wild Card roster. Hamilton’s addition should come as no surprise and he can have a major impact on a game without ever getting an at-bat. Hamilton might be the best and most effective base-stealer in the game even though he has only 13 games and 22 plate appearances under his belt in the Major Leagues.
Thirteen. That is the number that counts here as in 13 stolen bases that Hamilton accrued in his limited playing time. Hamilton has the ability to turn a game in the Reds’ favor just by stepping onto the base paths.
In the world of sabremetrics the stolen base has become less than popular. Some say the risk of getting thrown out exceeds the reward in getting the extra base. Of course, that depends on the situation. When Dave Roberts stole second base in the 2004 ALCS against Mariano Rivera and the New York Yankees he pushed the win expectancy up for the Boston Red Sox and kept them alive for one more game and everyone knows how that series turned out. Sometimes, the stolen base has a positive effect on the outcome of the game. Even the notion of the stolen base can have an impact and force the second baseman or shortstop to play closer to the bag expecting a throw from the catcher. The first baseman will play closer to the bag to receive the throw from the pitcher in an effort to keep the base runner close.
There are a ton of variables that an efficient base-stealer can bring to a game and Hamilton, despite his limited MLB experience, might be the best base stealer we have seen in the Majors since Rickey Henderson retired.
It isn’t just stolen bases where Hamilton can potentially have a big impact. Taking the extra base on a hit or even tagging up on a fly ball can have as big of an impact as a base hit at times.
In a close game, Hamilton can be the Reds’ most dangerous weapon. The Reds will hope they build a big enough lead so that they don’t have to depend on Hamilton’s speed but they know if it is close he is capable of getting the needed run. Billy Hamilton isn’t the Reds’ secret weapon but he might be their most dangerous and might be the most dangerous in the playoffs.