July 16, 2012
Tater Trot Tracker
Billy Hamilton Breaks the Tracker
If you've been paying attention to the minor leagues at all this summer, you probably know the name Billy Hamilton. A 21-year-old shortstop in the Reds system recently promoted from Bakersfield to Pensacola, Hamilton is known for one thing: speed. And I don't mean that in the way that, say, Tom Cruise is known for being crazy or Nigel Tufnel is known for going to eleven. No, Billy Hamilton is known for speed the same way Michael Jordan is known for basketball, Tiger Woods is known for golf, or Aquaman is known for the seas. Billy Hamilton is the new king of speed.
Sam Miller wrote about Hamilton back in April and nothing has changed. Through 82 games for high-A Bakersfield, Hamilton got on base roughly 159 times (with 10 of those times either a triple or a home run). In those 159 times on base, he stole 104 bases. Adding in his five games in Florida, Hamilton has stolen 109 bases in 412 plate appearances. His success rate is sitting at 83% right now (109-for-131), which I'm told isn't great for A-ball. Considering that every person and their dog in the stadium knows that he's going to steal second (and maybe third) every time he gets on base, though, I think we can cut him some slack.
With his blazing speed, I've been sitting on pins and needles all season, waiting to see something special in a Billy Hamilton tater trot. On Sunday, I was not disappointed.
In a game between Pensacola and the Jacksonville Suns, Hamilton hit a flyball into rightfield. Jacksonville's rightfielder made an ugly dive at the ball, nearly tripping the centerfielder in the process. The ball got away from the pair and Hamilton was off to the races.
Thank heavens for the video at MILB.com or else we might never have seen this masterpiece. The camera is not on Hamilton as he rounds first base, so we can't say exactly what this trot time was at that point. He touched second base at 7.58 seconds, however. A large percentage of big league tater trots aren't even to first base by that time. Somehow, Hamilton seemed to turn on the jets even more between second and third, touching the hot corner at 10.55 seconds. But he didn't stop there. Despite slowing down in his last two or three steps coming into home plate—an almost Usain Bolt-style move—Hamilton still completed his tater trot in 13.8 seconds.
Last week, Hanley Ramirez took 30.3 seconds to complete a tater trot. The camera didn't show him touching second base, but Ramirez was only a few steps past the bag when the 17-second mark was passed.
Up until now, the single fastest trot timed by the Tater Trot Tracker was a four-base single hit by Peter Bourjos last spring. In that trot, Bourjos rounded the bases in 14.02 seconds. I detailed that trot in this post, but Hamilton's inside-the-parker blows Bourjos out of the water. A difference of 0.22 seconds in races like these is remarkable. Bourjos might have been a full step or two behind Hamilton. It's amazing.
I still can't get my jaw off the ground. If you didn't believe it before, please believe it now: Billy Hamilton is really, really fast.