There was a time when baseball enthusiasts of all fandoms were anxiously awaiting the call-up of Billy Hamilton.
Everybody wanted to see just how fast he really was and if he could replicate his 2011 and 2012 seasons in the minors when he stole 103 and 155 bases, respectively.
The speed has been as advertised and according to MLB’s Statcast, Hamilton has run up to 30 feet per second, or roughly 20.45 miles per hour.
He’s street-legal on some roads.
Now 29 years old, he has amassed 299 stolen bases in seven years at the MLB level, which amounts to 43 steals per year. He enters the offseason with a $7.5 million mutual option for 2020 that carries a $1 million buyout after being picked up off the waiver wire by the Atlanta Braves, so there’s a good chance he will be entering free agency this winter.
So why is he on the list of outfielders the San Francisco Giants should avoid?
To answer that, let’s first take a trip down memory lane. There was once someone on the Giants roster with a very similar skill set by the name of Brett Butler.
During a 17-year MLB career, Butler spent three seasons with the Giants from 1988 to 1990. His approach was simple; slap the ball in play, then run.
That approach led him to a .290/.377/.376 line and 558 steals over the course of his career.
Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t play as well in today’s home run-centric game, and Hamilton has just 21 career home runs. So in order to make full use of his speed, he needs to get on base where he can be a disruptive force.
The problem is, he doesn’t get on base enough. Hamilton’s career line currently sits at .242/.297/.326. Put another way, Hamilton’s career on-base percentage is lower than Butler’s career batting average.
Even in his best season, Hamilton was a .260/.321/.343 hitter. That’s simply not enough offensive production to be an everyday player in today’s game.
Can Hamilton fly down the baseline? Yup.
Could he effectively patrol a shrinking Oracle Park outfield? For sure!
But knowing that he does not effectively use his best tool to produce runs, is he worth pursuing in free agency? Ultimately, no.