Billy Hamilton (courtesy Dayton Dragons)

Billy Hamilton Swipes Record-Setting 146th Stolen Base

Billy Hamilton broke Vince Coleman's minor-league steals record with his 146th stolen base of the season on Tuesday.

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Baseball America: The Art Of The Steal

Billy Hamilton is fast and good at stealing bases. Every article about him could probably be whittled down to those points. It would start with that sentence, there'd be all manner of nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and it would end with that sentence. Yes, yes, that's why we're interested in the fellow.

The fast part is easy to understand, but there are a lot of fast players. There are a lot of really, really fast players. Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout probably won't agree to a footrace on pay-per-view, and that likely means they hate capitalism and our freedoms, but it's hard to see how Hamilton can be that much faster than both. Yet neither one of them came close to setting minor-league stolen base records. There's more to it than just being fast.

At Baseball America, J.J. Cooper looks at what's behind the steals, and he talks to people around the minor leagues about what it takes to swipe a bag:

Ever wonder how the relatively slow-footed Joey Votto could steal 24 bags in 31 tries in Double-A one year? If the pitcher is 1.5 seconds or more to the plate, he's practically inviting an average runner to take off on him. A pitcher taking 1.6 seconds to the plate might as well just tell a speedy runner to go ahead and stand on second base.

The article is fascinating, but it's also a good reminder to hold off on those predictions that Hamilton is going to immediately challenge Rickey Henderson's stolen-base record. The major leagues are filled with the catchers who could throw better than their peers, as well as the pitchers who could keep runs off the board, which likely included some skill at holding runners close.

Hamilton should still be amazing to watch, but we don't know just how amazing until he plies his trade against the best anti-theft devices baseball has to offer.


An Incomplete Compendium Of Ridiculous Billy Hamilton Facts

Billy Hamilton is just about the most ridiculous baseball player in organized baseball. Let us detail just how ridiculous with some factoids.


Billy Hamilton Could Get September Call

There are easy ways to get attention on the Internet. For example, one of them is to mention Corgis. D'awww, Corgis. And by using Corgis, I will add 1,000 page views to this article:

That's how the Internet works. From a baseball perspective, there are a few tricks. One is Mike Trout. Everyone is up for a Mike Trout article, even if it says nothing more than "Mike Trout is really good, folks." And another one is Billy Hamilton. Oh, goodness, Billy Hamilton:

2012 21 A+-AA 436 133 28 70 92 .312 .409 .427
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/10/2012.

He's unlike anything the majors has right now. There are other players who steal bases. There are other fast players. But there aren't any fast players who make the stolen base the justification for their baseball existence. Hamilton has other skills, and he's a real prospect. But he thrills the baseball world right now because of the stolen bases.

It isn't just the stolen bases, either. It's the unknown, the grainy Bigfoot-like video that is Hamilton's career so far. He's as good and as fast as we imagine him to be. Even if we've seen a video, or a game or two, we still can imagine him to be as fast as we want because we haven't seen a lot of him.

According to Dusty Baker, that could change:

"Possibly," Baker said. "Speed’s always an asset. Speed kills. I remember the Cardinals with Willie McGee, Vince Coleman and Ozzie (Smith). Man. That was their slogan, speed kills."

Hamilton could be up in a pennant race. He could be a secret weapon for September and the playoffs -- a baseball event.

Or he could stay in the minors.

I'm not saying Bud Selig should step in and make sure the call-up happens, but Bud Selig should probably step in and make sure the call-up happens. Give the fans what they want. And if the Reds fans start talking about "arbitration" and "service time", give them something to make them happy. A player from the Indians, or something.

The service-time question is legitimate, of course, and the Reds would have to decide just how much a September pinch-runner and secret weapon is worth. It might not be worth the millions it costs them down the line.

But as something we want to see? Oh, yes. Please, yes. Help us out, Reds.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to stare at those Corgis for another hour.

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