Goldman: Billy Hamilton and the psychology of an all-around offense

From SABR member Steven Goldman at Baseball Nation on September 20, 2013:

It has been observed many times that the best kind of baseball is always that which was played when you were 12 years old. I refuse to accept that because that would require me to be besotted with some cross between the 1982 Cardinals and 1983 Orioles, with a bit of the Gorman Thomas-era Brewers thrown in. Pass. For me, the best baseball was played just after that, when the game’s players became versatile. There were high-average hitters, low-average power hitters, and players who could combine either of the above with high-volume base-stealing. It was a game that had room for anything to happen on offense. The Reds, who begin a key series with the Pittsburgh Pirates this evening, are on the verge of achieving that kind of everything-bagel offense now that Billy Hamilton has been given a chance to play, and just in time.


The all-around offense of the ’80s had always been possible, but managers largely hadn’t allowed it to happen. You had the odd Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, and Bobby Bonds, but mostly your basestealers and your home run hitters were neatly divided into separate piles, George Case on the left and Ted Williams on the right. Had players like Ryne Sandberg, Eric Davis, and Rickey Henderson come along in earlier decades, their basestealing would likely have been restrained in favor of a conservative one-base-at-a-time approach. When Earl Weaver came around in the ’60s preaching the gospel of the three-run homer, the revelation was his emphasis of on-base percentage, not the value of the sudden scoring stroke. Managers had thought of little else since the advent of Babe Ruth nearly 50 years before.

If Baker plays Hamilton, the Reds have a chance to get away from all of that. His team has a lot going for it on offense — terrific on-base threats in Choo and Joey Votto, an all-around power threat in Jay Bruce, who has 41 doubles and 30 home runs, a second baseman who thinks he’s having a good year because he has a lot of RBIs — but they lack an East Side Jogger. In a way, Hamilton would be the least-surprising player on the field, if only because if he gets on it’s inevitable that he’s going to run. But teams have known that throughout his career and they haven’t been able to catch him anyway. At the very least that’s a psychological advantage.

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Originally published: September 20, 2013. Last Updated: September 20, 2013.