Well it has been 17 games since our last post here at Riverfront Ramblings. The delay may have been since I have been busy. Maybe it is because we have finally had some nice days and I have actually wanted to be outside and do some yard work. Maybe I realized I am not that great of a blogger. But maybe, just maybe, I have not been that excited about this Reds team. We all know about their struggles to start the year. 3-7 in their first 10 without a lot of offense and a terrible bullpen wasn’t enough to carry me through the early season buzz. They got healthy (a little bit at least) and moved Joey Votto to the 2nd spot in the lineup and that seemed to help a little. The offense went on a 10 game stretch where they scored at least 4 runs. That was neat. They started to play better for that stretch and things were looking up. But as the smoke cleared and things settle down they were still 9-8 over those 17 games. The most inspiring portion of their season thus far and it was still barely over .500. Thankfully 5 of those 17 games were against the cubbies. As the season progresses that is what this team may end up being… A .500 team. That is not going to be enough to get us into the post season. That is the sort of season that will start to make me look forward to the Bengals earlier than I would like.
So what is the thing that keeps me checking the box scores for this team? Billy Hamilton. I know a lot of people have been harsh on the youngster for his lack of getting on base. Yes, I would like to see that rise as well to fill the void that Choo left from last year. Sure I would like to see a few more infield hits and successful bunt attempts. Yes, I would LOVE to see him be the best leadoff man in the major leagues. He has been far from perfect. He has been thrown out trying to steal bases on occasion. Five times to be exact. He has looked helpless and overmatched in some of his plate appearances. But in my blogger opinion, he is the only thing really worth getting excited about when it comes to the offense of this team. (The starting pitching has done well, especially Cueto and Simon)
Before screaming that Billy needs to be sent back to Louisville or pitted at the 9th spot in the lineup lets not forget the plays that he has made. I have never seen a guy go from first to third on a routine ground ball to the pitcher. Billy was running on the pitch and literally never stopped. It was pretty crazy. We have seen him tag from 2nd to 3rd on very shallow fly balls making RF’s look like little leaguers trying to throw him out. And seriously, what about the tagging from third to home on what was essentially an infield fly rule pop up. The most incredible thing about this is the right fielder called off the second baseman and was coming in on the ball making it an easier throw home… and he was still safe. He creates panic in pitchers. Just look at what he did to Francisco Liriano of Pittsburg. He was on base creating havoc when he gave up a home run to Joey Votto… that was Liriano’s first home run to a left hander in like 19 years. A week later again against Liriano, Billy drew a leadoff walk. In the next three pitches to Votto Billy successfully stole 2nd and then advanced to 3rd and then home to score on back to back wild pitches. That was not the first 9 pitches a starter wants to throw.
There is no doubt the kid is fast. Very fast. I wont knock him too much for getting thrown out a few times while trying to steal bases. Most of those caught stealing were on first pitches where everyone in the park knew he was going and the pitchers and catchers were on high alert. Not too many people at any level can successfully steal in those situations. The game I went to in NY was an example of this. Billy came on to pinch run and everyone in the place knew he was running on the first pitch. He got gunned at 2nd with a perfect throw. This will happen in the major leagues until he learns a little more of the art of stealing a base. This will come.
So in a season where I have almost forgot we have a guy named Jay Bruce on the roster, and where Brandon Phillips might be showing his age we need all the excitement we can get. Joey Votto’s lack of power has not been exciting. I don’t tune in to see what he is doing anymore. The fact that arguably the best power hitter this season in Devin Mesoraco is on the DL for the 2nd time says a lot of this lineup. There simply isn’t a lot to get excited for. It is becoming easy to not pay attention to this team. But with Billy in the line up I do catch myself checking the box scores. I check to see how he did. I watch the video replay to see what he can do on the bases. He is the guy that has my interest right now. So until this season swings around a little my battle cry for the Reds will remain: Run Billy Run