Slumping Hamilton may give up switch-hitting

Speedster's numbers are better from left side than right; Bailey to make rehab start Monday

June 10th, 2018

CINCINNATI -- Reds center fielder hasn't done much at the plate this season and is trying to find ways to simplify things in the batters' box.
"When I come up to bat, you hear things," Hamilton said on Sunday morning. "You just have to let it get out of your head. That's the main part about me slumping. It's not hands, not my stance, I'm just thinking about, 'Oh man, I have to get a hit here. I've got to do this.' All you really have to do is just go up there, relax and just have a good at-bat. Good at-bats [will] get you to the point where you want to be at. That's where I've got to start at today."
Entering the day, Hamilton was batting .191 with a .283 on-base percentage. But he showed how he can affect a game during Sunday's 6-3 win over the Cardinals. He hit a leadoff triple and scored in the third inning. In the bottom of the fourth, after drawing a walk, he went from first to third base on a wild pitch to set up another run. He also made three great defensive plays, including throwing out a runner trying to score in the top of the fourth.

One major simplification would be Hamilton finally giving up switch-hitting -- something he's mulled doing in past offseasons and again lately.
From the left side, Hamilton came in hitting .201, but with a .301 OBP, compared to .167 and .242 from the right side. Over his career, Hamilton has a .248 average and .308 OBP as a lefty and .229 and .265 righty. During the 2017 season, Hamilton showed improvement from the left side while declining on the right.
"I've thought about it, for sure," Hamilton said before the game. "It's already tough to hit in the big leagues, but it's tough to do both sides. It's making it real tough, because one time you're feeling good this way and not feeling good this way. But I just feel like I'd be a way better player if I was able to just focus on one. I feel like I can do both, but even if I just took a break from one side -- not completely throw it out the way, but just take a break from one side -- [I could] really focus on whichever side it is."
According to Fangraphs, among 62 players who've had at least 66 plate appearances as a righty vs. lefty pitching, Hamilton's 37.9 percent strikeout rate is the highest and his .167 average is the second lowest to . His 50 Weighted Runs Created Plus is 4th-worst. And from Statcast™, Hamilton's swing-and-miss rate of 28.4 percent is much higher than it was in '17 (18.3 percent).
"I know if I just did one and really worked at that one side, I'd be a way better hitter than I am," Hamilton said. "But it's just something that I really haven't talked to them about. I feel like if it keeps going the way it's going, I'm going to have to be a man and tell them that I really want to focus on just one."
Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman, who has seen Hamilton play since his Minor League days at Double-A Pensacola, was also asked if it's time for the switch-hitting attempt to end. Riggleman seemed receptive to the idea.
"I saw Billy for the first time back in '12. It occurred to me, 'Man, that right-handed swing looks good.' I had him in '13 and kind of felt the same way that maybe that would be the way to go. But the numbers have not borne that out," Riggleman said. "He's never expressed that to the hitting coaches or myself. ... There are people who feel like he should only hit left-handed. I want him on base. I don't care how he does it."
Hamilton's stolen-base numbers have also dipped. He had 56 or more steals the past four seasons, but he has only 10 steals and 13 attempts through 61 games.
"You have to get on base to steal," Hamilton pointed out. "There hasn't been the chances. You get on base late in the game and you're down a couple of runs, there's no use in stealing that base, because you're down two runs and if you steal one base, that doesn't mean you're going to get two runs."
Riggleman praised Hamilton for being more selective.
"He's playing unselfish in that manner because guys who can steal bases don't want to be held back," Riggleman said. "He's put that restriction on himself and I appreciate that he's being that unselfish. If we could get ourselves to where we're tied, up one or down one more often, we'd see him running more."
Bailey to Louisville on Monday
Pitcher Homer Bailey (right knee inflammation) will make a rehab start for Triple-A Louisville on Monday. It will be Bailey's first game action since May 28 vs. the D-backs. An innings limit or pitch count has not been revealed.
"We're more concerned about the health and quality of the pitches that he's throwing," Riggleman said. "He's a veteran guy. He knows how to manage his pitches and say, 'That's enough for the day.' It's his call, more than anything."