Billy Hamilton’s Second Half Decline

Coming into 2014, the question wasn’t if Billy Hamilton was going to steal a bunch of bases, the question was how many. I had my doubts he could hit well enough to stay in the lineup. He hit better than I expected and racked up 38 first half stolen bases. Then his production dropped off hard. The number of stolen bases fell to 18 in the second half. While 56 stolen base is nothing to sneer at, people see the possibility of 75+ stolen bases. Will the second half decline continue into 2015?

Hamilton’s 2014 season can be broken down into the two distinct halves.

Half: AVG/OBP/SLG, BB%, K%, SB(SB%),
1H: .285/.319/.423, 5%, 18%, 38 (72%)
2H: .200/.254/.257, 7%, 21%, 18 (69%)

I am just wondering how much playing time Hamilton would have gotten if his production by half was swapped. A leadoff hitter with a .200 AVG and .254 OBP would not have gone over well. The number of second half stolen bases should dropped as the number of chances declined (less hits and walks).

One possible cause for the offensive decline was a couple of mid-season injuries. In June he missed time with a sore elbow and tight thigh in July. Neither seemed to slow him down.

Here he is on June 4 getting to 1B at a 3.9 sec clip (80 speed):

And on September 2, he was under 3.8 to 1B (80+ speed):

He didn’t slow down, so I need to move on.

Here are my thoughts on how to determine his value going into 2015.

  • His center field defense is good enough to almost justify playing him everyday based just on it. I am not worried too much about him completely losing playing time.
  • I looked for any changes from the first half to the second half. The only noticeable change I found was pitchers started attacking him with more and more fastballs as the season went on (68% in April to 77% in September). He has been able to make adjustments in the past and should again.
  • He can’t fall into the dreaded #8 spot in a NL lineup where base runners should not steal with the pitcher hitting.

Steamer’s 2015 projection is almost identical to his 2014 stats with a .252 AVG and 65 stolen base. I see this line as reasonable and his most likely outcome. My one huge reservation is if his bad month, and he will have one, is in April in which he puts up a sub .200 AVG. He would likely move down to the end of the lineup where he will see both fewer plate appearances and stolen base opportunities. His defense should keep him in the lineup as he turns around his season. The key is for him to just stay in the in lineup and not turn into a Rajai Davis clone. In all, I think Billy Hamilton’s 2014 season is near the top of his production. If his bat struggles, like it did at the end of the 2014 season, his stolen base numbers could really drop.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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‘Hit good enough’

RIP Oderous Urungus
RIP Oderous Urungus

“He didn’t slowing down”