Billy Hamilton came into the 2012 season as one of the Reds top prospects, but after his 2012 season split between Bakersfield and Pensacola he established himself as one of the minor leagues top prospects and the Reds top one. While everyone gets excited about the speed, and it is otherworldly, it wasn’t the stolen base record that boosted his stock in the prospect world, but his vast improvement at the plate. His walk rate went through the roof, he showed a better average and at the plate he just looked better even without the numbers to back it up.
With the improvement in the numbers and the overall look at the plate, particularly from the left side, I wanted to look at the changes that Hamilton has made from 2011 to 2012 from both sides of the plate. First, let’s look at the left side.
Pre-swing there are four things that stand out to me. First is that his feet are closer together in 2012. That in turn makes the second thing that stood out which is that he is a little more upright in his set up. The third thing is that his hands are a little bit higher. The difference is minimal in the hands, but it is there, causing a slightly different angles in his arms. The fourth thing is how much further back in the box he stands.
These two frames were taken at the point in which Hamilton is about to take his step forward. In 2012, he actually takes a step backward to bring his feet closer together before he then steps toward the pitcher to begin to transfer his power forward. In 2011 though he didn’t step backward, instead he implemented a toe-tap which keeps him more spread out. His hands and elbow are also slightly higher in 2012 than in 2011, carrying over from the set up we saw earlier.
These two frames were taken at the point in which his front foot fully landed after his step. While both are spread out quite a bit, Hamilton has his feet closer in 2012 than he did in 2011. Just like the previous two points of emphasis, his feet are closer together at all points in his swing from the left side.
Now let’s take a look at Hamilton from the right side, which is his natural side.
While the angles are slightly different here, we can see several differences in his pre-swing set up. Like from the left side, his feet are closer together which in turn also has Hamilton stranding a little more upright. Also like the left side, his hands and elbow are slightly higher.
Hamilton used the step back before the step forward in both years, but again he has his feet closer together in 2012 than in 2011. His hands and elbow are similar points at this point in his swing, making up for the slight difference in his pre-swing set up.
These two frames were taken at the point in which his front foot landed on the ground. Hamilton again has his feet closer together at the final point, but is still a bit spread out. Both of these pitches were on the outside part of the plate, so he seems in a funny position at this point but it was simply a matter of where the pitch was. His elbow is lower in 2011 here, but that is just a matter of his swing being slightly further ahead in this frame and not an actual difference in the swing mechanics.
It seems that from both sides of the plate, the biggest difference made for Hamilton was to bring his feet a little closer together and to get him more upright in his swing and set up. While you can’t see it above, particularly from the left side, Hamilton just seems to be more balanced at the plate (which could also be related to his increase in walk rates – perhaps being more upright from both sides of the plate helped improve his ability to pick up pitches ever so slightly quicker?). The numbers certainly show that he improved at the plate and while I am no hitting coach, I know what I like to see in a hitter when he swings the bat and Hamilton being more upright looks much better than when he isn’t. Be sure to watch the videos below to see it in action (and because I get paid for the ads that run during/before the videos).