Billy Hamilton: The Answer…To All of the Questions

Hamilton1On Saturday, Dusty Baker was without his normal center fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, due to a recent thumb injury. His response:

Start the 25-year-old, speedster rookie…Derrick Robinson, of course.

Baker, long regarded as a player’s manager and lover of all things veteran, was just needing to “keep his bench bats fresh” as managers love to say. Unfortunately, starting Derrick Robinson on Saturday, an eventual loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, was not the answer, as keeping Robinson “fresh” hasn’t really been a priority – not when he has started all of four games for the Cincinnati Reds since August 1, getting all of 25 at-bats in 19 games.

ESPN’s Keith Law couldn’t have said it better, when he had this to say on Saturday night:

While Billy Hamilton hasn’t been playing regularly, just like Robinson, his ability to make a difference has shown up on the field plenty of times in just ten games and 16 plate appearances.

On Sunday, Baker made the right choice, starting Hamilton over the still ailing Choo against Pittsburgh…the Reds won 11-3 and Hamilton was 3 for 6 with two runs and two more stolen bases.

Hamilton has reached base eight times in two starts. He has stolen six bases, he has scored four times. The Reds have won both games.

Overall, Hamilton has been on base 12 times (including pinch-running) and he has stolen 12 bases and scored nine runs.

Not only should Hamilton have been starting over Derrick Robinson, it is worth questioning whether Choo should start in left field with Hamilton serving as the Reds’ everyday center fielder until he proves that he CAN’T keep doing what he has been doing since arriving in Cincinnati. Just for argument’s sake, Ryan Ludwick has scored seven runs in 32 games since returning from the disabled list (I understand that runs are a stat that require other hitters to assist in accumulating the statistic, but Hamilton’s ability to advance himself with his speed is a skill that can’t be matched in Major League Baseball at the moment).

Once the Reds clinch a playoff berth, you’ll likely see Baker resting all of his starters, which seems silly considering how “fresh” you’ll want his bat to be when games are so meaningful in the tight National League Central. If and when that happens, the smart decision would be to still put the best available player onto the field. Billy Hamilton was that player on Saturday and he very well could be that player over the rest of the 2013 season…if the club or manager were intelligent enough to make the right call.

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