Some People Never Learn

I was perusing today’s box scores and I noticed that the Reds batted Billy Hamilton lead off today, in spite of his sub .300 career on-base percentage.  I then looked at some other recent Reds’ box scores and saw that this seems to the normal state of things in Cincinnati.

As usual, the Reds have plenty of hitting and plenty of guys who get on base.  Yet they elect to make their lead off man a guy who rarely gets on base, much lower in fact than the major league average for all players.

Yes, I understand that Billy Hamilton is really, really fast, but I thought that in this Money Ball age, everyone recognized that a dead slow player with a .360+ OBP is going to score more runs by the end of the season than the fastest player in the game with a .300 OBP.  Billy Hamilton in his three seasons as a regular player has not scored more than 72 runs in a season, although he might do so this year, because the Reds have so much hitting behind him in this year’s line-up.  Hamilton has never scored more than 72 runs in a season in spite of his tremendous base stealing and base running because he simply doesn’t get on base enough.

Hamilton and his career .297 OBP should be batting seventh, eighth or even ninth in the Reds’ line-up, at least until he proves he can get his OBP above .335.  Then the Reds might be able to take advantage of all that speed in the lead-off spot.

Aside from the fact that he doesn’t get on base, Hamilton’s also an out-making machine, which is a problem that all low OBP lead-off men have.  Billy Hamilton currently leads the team in outs made, followed closely by Jose Peraza, another player who doesn’t walk much, but has hit near the top of the line-up way too much because he runs well.  Outs are a precious commodity, and no team can afford to give extra outs away and expect to win.

The problem here is really manager Bryan Price‘s fault.  He’s in his fourth season as the Reds’ manager, and he has yet to come anywhere close to .500 season.  That probably has as much to do with his insistence in batting guys who don’t get on base in the lead off spot, as it does the Reds’ meager revenue streams.  At this point, it seems that the last 20 years of statistical analysis must have completely passed Price by or flown right over his head.

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