When Shin-Soo Choo left the Cincinnati Reds in free agency, it was something that was inevitable, yet it was met with much angst from fans due to the inexperience of rookie Billy Hamilton. Many expected a defensive upgrade, but a sizable offensive downgrade from the impressive Choo. Starting the season 0-12 did not exactly bolster fan confidence in the rookie either.
My, how things have changed. Choo has been acceptable for the struggling Texas Rangers, while Hamilton has been the star for the surging Reds. Take a look at these 2014 statistics between the two players:
BA: .255 (Choo); .282 (Hamilton)
HR: 7 (Choo); 4 (Hamilton)
RBI in: 29 (Choo); 28 (Hamilton)
H: 69 (Choo); 78 (Hamilton)
XBH: 21 (Choo); 23 (Hamilton)
K: 70 (Choo); 52 (Hamilton)
R: 41 (Choo); 40 (Hamilton)
SB: 3 (Choo); 34 (Hamilton)
OBP: .372 (Choo); .313 (Hamilton)
SLG%: .387 (Choo); .404 (Hamilton)
OPS: .760 (Choo); .717 (Hamilton).
FP%: .967 (Choo); .994 (Hamilton)
A: 3 (Choo); 4 (Hamilton)
PO: 84 (Choo); 159 (Hamilton)
Salary: $18.5 million (Choo); $500,000 (Hamilton)
Those statistics are quite telling, and give proof that the Reds made the right decision in not re-signing Choo. Perhaps the most telling statistic, however, has been the difference between the two in “clutch” situations this season:
Two outs, RISP:
.238 AVG, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 7 BB, 6 K, .448 OBP, .381 SLG, .829 OPS (Choo)
.310 AVG, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 3 K, .375 OBP, .483 SLG, .858 OPS (Hamilton)
.209 AVG, 0 HR, 20 RBI, 13 BB, 8 K, .400 OBP, .326 SLG, .726 OPS (Choo)
.345 AVG, 0 HR, 23 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K, .369 OBP, .466 SLG, .835 OPS (Hamilton)
The progression of Hamilton over the first three months of the 2014 season has been astonishing. Hamilton has improved from month to month at a shocking rate:
March/April: .245 AVG, 13 R, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 11 SB, 19 K, .280 OBP, .330 SLG, .610 OPS
May: .260 AVG, 9 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI, .301 OBP, 9 SB, 17 K, .351 SLG, .652 OPS
June: .330 AVG, 18 R, 3 HR, 18 RBI, .351 OBP, 14 SB, 16 K, .509 SLG, .861 OPS
Before the acquisition of Choo, the Reds had received very little production from their leadoff spot. And as they saw in their season with Choo, a solidified leadoff hitter can make all the difference in the world. In 2014, that has exactly been the case with Hamilton, who is arguably an All Star. After all, the only leadoff hitters in the NL with more RBIs are Charlie Blackmon (Colorado Rockies) with 44 and Matt Carpenter (St. Louis Cardinals) with 31.
For the Reds, the success of Hamilton is directly correlating to the success of the team as a whole. Take a look at Hamilton’s split in games the Reds have won compared to losses:
In 40 wins: .358 AVG, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 27 SB, .392 OBP, .514 SLG, .906 OPS
In 36 losses: .194 AVG, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 7 SB, .221 OBP, .279 SLG, .500 OPS
While much has been written about the ways Hamilton is changing the game with his speed, he is also providing the Reds with consistency that they were not quite expecting at the top of their lineup. In doing so, Hamilton has provided ample opportunities for other players in the lineup, especially Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco.
As the Reds have seen over the course of June, such success from Hamilton can result in an 18-9 record for the month. And at this rate, Hamilton can help Cincinnati become a true force to be reckoned in the push to the playoffs.