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Going after Billy Hamilton is a bad idea

Hamilton can do a couple of things well, but neither of those things are of particular use to the Giants.

Milwaukee Brewers v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After non-tendering Gorkys Hernández on Friday, the Giants will have to find someone to replace him. Matching his production shouldn’t be terribly difficult. In 296 games wearing the orange and black, Hernández amassed as much WAR as Shohei Ohtani did between April 3 and April 8 of this year. What will be difficult, perhaps even impossible, is to replace Hernández’s reactions to bad strike calls.

If it helps Gorkys feel any better, the guy who threw that bottom pitch was also non-tendered. In fact, lots of serviceable players were non-tendered Friday. That’s good news for the Giants because a lot of the players other teams cast off would have been defacto all-stars in San Francisco.

One of the non-tendered players is Billy Hamilton. If you remember from last year, Bobby Evans and the Giants were hot and heavy in trade talks with the Reds. Rumors swirled around a potential deal for a full month before things fell through. Apparently, the Reds’ asking price was too high. Considering that just this Friday, the Reds cut Hamilton for nothing in return, the asking price was probably “a baseball player.”

Hamilton is a free agent now, which means there’s been some butts scuttling about the Giants picking him up as a depth option. Under the old regime, the Giants would have pounced on Hamilton like this dog on that pile of leaves. While I’m highly doubtful that Farhan Zaidi has any interest in Hamilton, it’s still worth pointing out why picking up Hamilton isn’t a good idea.

First, I’d like to play a game. All you have to do is match these players to their career hard-hit rate.







Madison Bumgarner

Zack Greinke

Billy Hamilton

Tim Lincecum

Jeff Mathis

Neifi Perez*


Here’s a picture of Neifi Perez and Greg Maddux doing a miming exercise to put some space between here and the answer.

Florida Marlins v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Here’s the answer:

Madison Bumgarner: 30.3

Jeff Mathis: 25.8

Zack Greinke: 23.1

Neifi Perez: 19.5

Billy Hamilton: 18.7

Tim Lincecum: 10.3

That’s right. Billy Hamilton’s hard-hit rate is worse than two pitchers who have reputations for being good hitters but are each about 50 percent worse than average by wRC+. It’s worse than a light-hitting catcher who wouldn’t have a job if pitch framing hadn’t been quantified. It’s worse than one of the most dreadful hitters in Giants history, a man whose name evokes a deflated rubber chicken strung up against a wall. The only guy who Billy Hamilton beat out on this list is the type of pitcher that makes you think bringing the DH to the National League wouldn’t be so bad.

Billy Hamilton can’t hit relative to his peers. In five full seasons, Hamilton hasn’t had an OPS over .664, and remember, he plays half his games in an extreme hitter’s park. Hamilton’s projected .629 OPS next year is only higher than Aramís García’s projection. Remember, García isn’t a lock for a full-time job next year. Hamilton being projected to only outhit a possible third-string catcher is frightening.

Hamilton is attractive because of the defense and the zoomies, but ahem, the Giants already have their centerfielder of the future. Hamilton is one of the few outfielders that’s a better defender than Duggar, but Hamilton is also one of the few players that’s going to have a lower OBP than Duggar.

The Giants need someone who can play center because currently their options are “Hope Steven Duggar doesn’t get hurt.” Something that works in Hamilton’s favor is scarcity of viable center fielders on the market. AJ Pollock can be had for most of the remaining money on the payroll, and he’ll command a multi-year deal while being north of 30. Adam Jones could possibly be had on a one-year deal, but his defense ain’t what it used to be. If the Giants were to somehow wrangle Bryce Harper, he can theoretically play center, but that’s a pretty big if.

Even the cheaper options on the market are cheap for a reason. Chris Owings can play up the middle in both the infield and outfield, but he was well below replacement last year. Matt Szczur wasn’t good enough for the Padres. Otherwise it’s looking like a reunion with Austin Jackson, Denard Span, or Rajai Davis.

Huh. Maybe Hamilton isn’t such a bad idea after all. A platoon of Duggar and Hamilton in center. Think of all the, uh, defensive runs saved, and the, um, directional outs above average.

No! No, snap out of it, me. There has to be someone out there that can play a competent center field and not be completely lost at the plate. Maybe the Cubs actually want to trade Ian Happ. Or Zaidi also wants to kick the tires of Jackie Bradley Jr. I know the Mariners just got Mallex Smith, but Jerry Dipoto loves to trade. He treats his roster like he’s playing Out of the Park Baseball.

Despite the dearth of readily available options to play center, I don’t see Zaidi going after someone with such a limited skill set. Maybe if the Giants were looking for a complementary piece for a mostly complete roster, but this team needs major help offensively. Hamilton can help a team win, but he won’t help the Giants.