Mark Sheldon had a piece up on Billy Hamilton yesterday afternoon. It is titled “Red hammering home art of bunting to Hamilton” and as you can probably tell, focuses on Billy Hamilton working on his bunting skills. On the surface, that is great to see that Hamilton is working on his game. I have said it before and I will say it again, Billy Hamilton works his butt off at improving his game. He has been that way since I first began hearing reports on him back in 2009 and I have continued hearing them all the way up through the system. I really want to stress that I am not getting on Billy Hamilton here.
But is bunting really something that should be hammered home? Last season, no one bunted for a hit 13 times in the game. Hamilton, between Louisville and Cincinnati had 24 bunt hits in 51 attempts. That includes 4 sac bunts, which is hilarious to think about because no bunt by Hamilton should be considered a sac bunt. So, excluding the sac bunts, Billy Hamilton hit .511 on bunts. That means that when he swung the bat, in 2013, he hit .235 between the Majors and minors. It means that when he didn’t get a bunt down and swung the bat, he struck out 20.5% of the time.
Let’s just assume that Billy Hamilton attempts 70 bunts in 2014, which would be an incredibly high number and easily lead the league (by comparison, league leader in bunt hits Leonys Martin went 12-30 on bunts last season and only two others even had 10 bunt hits in all of the Majors), that makes up about 10-12% of his likely plate appearances. In roughly 90% of his other plate appearances Hamilton will be swinging away. I know that Reds fans, or at least some of them, have a confusing amount of love for the bunt, so perhaps this is why the article was written, but the numbers flat out show that almost all of the time Hamilton spends in the batters box is going to be with the intent of actually swinging the bat. Swinging the bat is where he struggles.
Hamilton is criticized for his lack of wrist strength, which concerns scouts because it leads to struggles against stuff on the inside half of the plate, and his switch hitting where he still struggles to find consistency. I would rather see an article written about Hamilton working on improving those things, which will be far more useful to getting on base, than working on bunting the baseball, which he is already pretty darn good at. Sheldon did write this in the article:
Before taking a break for Reds Caravan last week, Hamilton was already at the team’s Spring Training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., to work on his hitting, but namely the bunting.
So while it does note he was there working on hitting too, there was, at least according to this quote, more emphasis put on bunting. When looking at the overall picture, that seems to be a bit backwards to me for what Hamilton needs to be working on.