In the time it took you to load this webpage Billy Hamilton could have stolen second base. The 23-year old Reds' outfielder is probably the fastest player in the game right now. His speed is a thing of legend. In 2011, he stole 103 bases in 135 games at Single-A Dayton, and then followed that up in 2012 with 155 stolen bases in 132 games between Advanced-A Bakersfield and AA Pensacola. Last year he stole 75 bases in 123 games at AAA Louisville, and 13 in his 13 games in the majors.
For 2014, it appears that he will be the everyday center fielder in Cincinnati. Seeing what Hamilton can do with regular playing time in the majors is going to be very interesting. Looking at Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA (released last week) could provide insight. Here are some relevant statistics from his projection:
This projection is not very optimistic about Hamilton's ability to get on-base, yet predicts he will steal 22 more bases than the league leader in 2013 (Jacoby Ellsbury - 52). Taken together this suggests Hamilton is going to be running essentially every time he gets on base, which is a fair assessment given his minor league statistics mentioned above.
Of particular interest is the projection for 10.8 BRR (Base Running Runs). Base running runs measures the number of runs that a player's advancement on the bases contributes to his team. It is calculated with consideration for the number and quality of opportunities, is park-adjusted and based on run-expectancy matrices. Essentially, players that are good at taking the extra base on a single to the outfield (e.g., going first-to-third), or tagging-up and advancing on flyballs will have large BRR contributions. Hamilton's projected 10.8 BRR is really high, especially considering the fact that he is only projected to get 487 plate appearances. For reference, here are the 10 highest BRR projections (PECOTA) over the last 3 years:
Hamilton's projection for the coming season is double that of the 10th highest projection from the last 3 years. That is remarkable.
Now this is just a projection. But for the sake of some fun let's assume that he actually performs to the level of that projection. Where would a 10.8 BRR season rank? Looking at data from seasons between 1950 and 2013 (including players with at least 350 PAs), a 10.8 BRR season would rank 47th. So in his first full season in the major leagues Billy Hamilton is projected to have one of the 50 best baserunning seasons (by BRR) since 1950.
Adding to how impressive this achievement could be, there are only 7 seasons in the top 50 that are from the player's first full season (i.e., with 350 or more PAs). Maury Wills, Vince Coleman, Dick Howser, Willie Wilson, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, and Kenny Lofton are the seven. Moreover, there are only 11 players that have more than one season in the top 50. Four of these 11 are players that had a top 50 BRR season in their first full season and 3 of them are in the Hall of Fame (4 if you count Tim Raines, which you probably should).
The list is very impressive:
|Player||# Top 50 BRR Seasons|
There is no doubt that Billy Hamilton will be an exciting player to watch in 2014. He has already accomplished some incredible baserunning feats in the minor leagues, and has the potential to do some special things in the major leagues. If he can match (or exceed) his BRR projection for 2014, he will join some remarkable baserunning company. If he can consistently perform around this projected level throughout his career, he could assume a place with the game’s greatest baserunners.
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Chris Teeter is a Contributor to Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @c_mcgeets.