Non-Reds fans could be forgiven for not paying much attention to the Reds right now. They are 48-67 and haven't been in contention at all this season. For those watching, we might well be witnessing a very positive movement when it comes to the Reds' rebuild: Billy Hamilton might actually be morphing into the dangerous baseball player many thought he would.
Now, let's not misconstrue things. He's always been dangerous on the bases. Heading into this season, Hamilton had 126 stolen bases in 158 chances. The problem, of course, is that he was a .242 hitter with a woeful .287 on-base percentage. With his skill set, he only really needs to get on base at around league average to be an effective offensive player. If he pushes up to above-average on-base skills, watch the hell out. Now you have a leadoff man that makes every single into a double and maybe even a triple. That leads to more runs for the team and down the line leads to more wins.
Keep in mind, Hamilton still hasn't yet turned 26. He's capable of developing at the big-league level like anyone else. Maybe he's a late bloomer.
Which brings us to the second half of the 2016 season. In 116 plate appearances, Hamilton is hitting .308 with a .379 on-base percentage. I mentioned that if he got on base at an above-average rate, the stolen bases would pile up and so would the runs and team wins. Let's check in on the steals ...
Hamilton has 29 stolen bases and has scored 20 runs in the 26 games he's played since the All-Star break. And the wins? Believe it or not, the Reds are 16-10 in those games.
This shouldn't be ignored as we move forward.
In all, this season, Hamilton is hitting .258 with a .314 on-base percentage. The NL league averages are .253 and .321, respectively. Obviously he's trending upward here, though, with the big start to the second half.
Further, Hamilton's actually getting better on the base paths. Two years ago he stole 56 bases, but he led the majors in getting caught stealing 23 times. This year, he leads the majors with 51 steals but has only been caught seven times. Could Hamilton get to 80 stolen bases this season? It seems distinctly possible. That's only happened one time in Reds history since 1911, when Eric Davis swiped 80 in 1986.
Getting on base at a good or even slightly above-average clip just opens up all kinds of possibilities.
It's still a relatively small sample and we shouldn't assume that all of a sudden Hamilton is an awesome hitter. He could just be on a hot streak. It's just that with his ability to kill on the bases and his excellent range in center field, a Billy Hamilton that gets on base is all of a sudden a huge weapon for the Reds. In the midst of an otherwise lost season, this is one of the most positive things they could see right now.