ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is regarded as the best defensive catcher of his generation, but that means little when the basestealer is Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton. When it comes to showdowns vs. Molina, Hamilton wins almost every time."I really don't care who is catching, to be
ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is regarded as the best defensive catcher of his generation, but that means little when the basestealer is Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton. When it comes to showdowns vs. Molina, Hamilton wins almost every time.
"I really don't care who is catching, to be honest with you," Hamilton said. "I'm going to try and go to second base every single time, no matter who is catching or who is pitching. I have the same confidence no matter who is back there."
Since his big league debut in 2013, Hamilton is 24-for-26 in steal attempts against Molina. That is the most steals any runner has ever compiled against him.
In the sixth inning Friday, Hamilton hit a leadoff single and stole second base on the first pitch from Cardinals starter Mike Leake. He scored two batters later on Joey Votto's RBI double to right field that snapped a scoreless tie before a 2-0 Reds win.
Friday's steal wasn't a failure by Molina. According to Statcast™, he had a 1.85-second pop time -- which is from when he received the pitch to the throw reaching its target. It tied for his fastest reaction in the Statcast™ era, with the other play also happening on a successful Hamilton steal on July 29, 2015, when Molina threw from his knees. The Major League average pop time on successful steals of second base from 2015-16 was 2.02 seconds.
On Friday's steal, Hamilton got a 12.3-foot lead and 19.4-foot secondary lead. The 2015-16 MLB averages on successful steals were 11.1 and 20.2 feet, indicating it was Hamilton's speed and not the jump that got him into second base safely.
"With Billy, he's gotten a better understanding of the strike zone," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I don't think you steal bases off of Molina anyway. You steal bases off of pitchers."
"You also have to credit Leake when he's 1.0-1.1 [seconds] to the plate every single time and puts the ball right there where he can just catch it," Hamilton said. "Those guys work together really good. For me, it's not to force anything and not try to run on every single pitch. I had a whole at-bat [in the third inning] where I didn't go. It's something I've learned over the course of the years -- not to run into an out every single time."
The only two times Molina threw out Hamilton were on Sept. 13, 2015, and June 8, 2016.
"He's a threat every time he steps in the box just because he has speed. He's a scrappy little player who is pesky," Leake said.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.