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).

Video

2011

2012

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Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2004 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, contact him via email here or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

20 Responses

  1. MK

    Looks like he is shortening his swing. Has a little less movement back to the catcher than he had in Dayton. Still reverts back occasionally which means it is still a work in progress.

  2. WallyP

    I am a big Hamilton fan for the obvious reasons (speed) . I watched him quite a bit in Pensacola. Here is my take on the photos and on his improvement. Billy unlike most players in both the minors and majors has the ability to create havoc on the bases. A bunt a walk a infield hit all could produce Billy on 3rd base. I noticed his swing in AA get shorter and the wrapping of the bat especially from the left side has not been part of his game. My feeling is that Billy can and will be a successful hitter in the Bigs. He has the bat speed and he just needs to continue his hard work . It is the reason why I firmly believe Billy should be in the minors another full season. Billy is not a polished hitter, by no means. He tends to get long from the left side and over matched at times. Thats OK the learning curve sometimes exposes the good the bad and the ugly, but he is on his way in becoming a solid major league player

  3. Scott R

    I’m no expert at this, but the very first thing I noticed is that he is standing further back in the batters box. Look at where his center of gravity is, its about 4-6″ back now. That to me is as dramatic difference as the narrower stance, step in and the higher hands. What’s also interesting is that he’s doing it from both sides of the plate.

  4. Jon Ryker

    Well, given that his hitting numbers aren’t anywhere near the top of the prospect list, I’d say his speed, and more specifically, his base-stealing tendency, has a whole hell of a lot to do with how valuable he is perceived to be…..he is the next Vince Coleman….nobody ever said Coleman was a good hitter….he hit well enough to use his speed very effectively….

    • RobL

      Of course is speed is a major reason his value as a prospect is high. But you have to get on-base to use that tool. He had over an over .400 OBP at both stops this season. That is being a good hitter, and that has attributed to his rise in prospect status. On top of that, many prospect evaluators have said that his swing has made good improvements this season which will help him hold up against top pitching. And last, Hamilton has played on national TV twice this year; the Futures game and AFL championship game. He tripled in each of those games against guys throwing mid-90′s fastballs. So he has shown up when people were watching.

      He may only be as good as Coleman, but if he gets on base more than Coleman, he’ll be better. Right now he’s getting on base more, and his swing is improving.

      • Jon Ryker

        Guys who are particularly prolific base stealers don’t have to get on nearly as often to score a lot of runs….they score a much higher percentage of times they get on….provided the team they’re on makes contact when they’re on base….that’s why it’s valuable, and why people who get fixated on obp miss some important aspects of effective offense in baseball.

      • Doug Gray

        You are right and you are wrong. Yes, those guys don’t need to be on as often to score. But by not being on as often, it means that they are creating fewer opportunities for say the #2 and 3 hitter to score because them making that out means the #4 or #5 hitter isn’t coming up with runners on now.

      • RobL

        So, if he doesn’t need to get on base to score alot of runs, then how many runs would he score if he does get on base? A ton of runs? Sounds good to me.

        I do agree that obp is somewhat wasted on the back end of the lineup due to the pitcher’s spot. But it means everything at the top of the lineup in front of your best hitters. You can’t drive in runners that aren’t there.

        In tangent,it is always better to not make an out than making an out. Higher pitch counts, turning over the batting order are good things. I just don’t have a problem sacrificing some OBP for a little more slugging in that 7 spot.

      • Jon Ryker

        That’s like criticizing the guy who hits 50 HRs and K’s 100 times by saying he’d drive in more runs if he K’d less….Yes, he would….so what? What stat-oriented arguments miss about stolen bases is the amount of mistakes they cause the pitcher to make for the hitters behind them and the amount of additional fastballs they get….they also ignore game situations…..statistically, the team that scores first wins a pretty large portion of games…..having the capability of turning a first-inning infield hit into the first run of the game matters disproportionately…..also, having that capability against good pitchers to score runs without lots of hits or homers, and to turn one run in 8 innings against a front-line starter to 2 runs and 7 innings from that guy because they have to hit for him in the 7th because they’re not ahead is particularly valuable in post-season setups….in short, speed allows you to beat good pitchers….power really doesn’t….stat-oriented arguments always underestimate, or more often, completely ignore this central premise of balanced offense…..those who know only steroid-era baseball have no experienced with it….they’re about ready to get an increasing dose of balanced offense….sit back and enjoy! it’s a much more entertaining game….

      • Doug Gray

        Couldn’t I argue right back that steals cause good hitters to take quality pitches because they are given the take sign so the base stealer can run? Of course I can. There is very little that true “stat oriented” arguments miss. I think you just have too many conversations with people who aren’t really all that stat oriented.

      • Jon Ryker

        You couldn’t really sensibly argue that….Joe Votto would never get a take sign….period….a few more take signs would help phillips…..Truly good base stealers like Coleman and, I think, hamilton didn’t need take signs….the whole building knew they were running and they ran anyway….they didn’t take 12 pitches like stubbs….as more of these truly talented base stealers are developed, you’ll see the use….I have the advantage of having lived through a period of very balanced offense before the steroids warped the game and the talent pool…..stats which take game context out are inherently limited in determining the effect of offensive tactics…indeed, the steroid era was largely devoid of offensive tactics….that’s changing….you’ll enjoy it.

      • Doug Gray

        They may not need them, but they certainly got them. Joe Morgan had to take pitches to let guys in front of him run and he was one of the better hitters around for a really, really long time.

        I really think you lack the understanding of how much baseball I have studied and watched.

      • Jon Ryker

        He also walked a ton doing it, and scored a ton of runs. Actually, that team makes my point. They had an HOF middle of the order, and still ran a ton in front of them. You may have read books and watched some old taped games, but you clearly didn’t follow the game on a daily basis before the steroid era. I don’t blame you. You’re not old enough. However, you should respect where your blind spot is. You weren’t big on hamilton from the beginning, because his power didn’t project…..either everybody else in the profession is wrong, or you were missing something……Me, I’ve been around long enough to know that good teams have to beat pitchers that don’t walk people and don’t hang sliders at the perfect moment…..that means, speed and execution……you’ve got that, you’re chances improve substantially…you don’t have that, and you’d better hope they have a series of off nights in their playoff series against you……this Reds team has provided two straight examples you’ve missed…..until they develop that capacity, they’ll likely win a bunch of games and go home earlier than they like….I don’t think Choo is enough of a threat to solve that problem….

  5. MK

    The fact that he does use the bunt really helps the OBP. Not only does it obviously put the ball in play, but pitchers are less likely to put the ball down in the zone early in the count trying to take the bunt away. This should lead to more opportunities for a base on balls.

    • The Duke

      He also feints a bunt somewhat often as well. Making the infield always play him in is going to lead to more balls escaping the infield that would otherwise be a routine grounder.

  6. Terry M

    Doug,

    Do you still have prospect guides ? I found your address and will make payment if you have any. Let me know and I will send it out on Wednesday.

    Thanks
    Terry M.

  7. Twill

    Aside from the swing changes, it looks like he is developing his body somewhat, he will always be thin, but it looks like he has more strength in his wrists and more body control overall. I assume from playing baseball year round and simply “becoming a man”