Beginning Saturday evening, the Louisville Bats will be the opponents of the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs in 8 of their next 12 games. Much of the success of the Louisville Bats this year has to be credited to their pitching staff which has the 2nd best team ERA in the International League. But, the Bats currently have the worst hitting team in the International League with their team batting average at .201, just barely above the Mendoza line. Outfielder Felix Perez (.275) is the only player hitting over .240 with old friend Jason Donald next at .238. Louisville has scored the fewest runs, they have the fewest hits, the fewest RBI’s, the lowest on base percentage and the lowest slugging percentage in the league. However, even with the poor team offensive numbers, they can score runs in other ways, mainly because of one man.
At the top of their batting order is 22 year old switch hitting outfielder Billy Hamilton, the #1 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization. In case you don’t know him, Billy Hamilton was the 2nd round draft pick (57th overall) of the Cincinnati Reds in the 2009 player draft. He began last season playing in the California League where he hit .323 and stole an amazing 104 bases in just 82 games. But he didn’t stop there. He was promoted to the AA Southern League where he played in 50 more games. In those 50 games he hit .286 and stole an additional 51 bases giving him a 2012 stolen base total of 155 in 132 games. Everyone has heard the baseball phrase, “a walk is as good as a hit”, but in the case of Billy Hamilton, quite often a walk will turn into a triple because he is going to run and he is going to run often.
It could be advantageous to the Ironpigs that they are facing Louisville while they are in the midst of a team hitting slump. The lack of hitting has also affected Billy Hamilton as he is hitting just .213 in 75 at bats this year, but even with the low average he still has stolen 14 bases in 15 attempts this year which easily tops the International League in both categories.
I have mixed feeling going into the upcoming 8 games against Louisville. As an Ironpigs fan I always want to see our team win. But at the same time, as a baseball fan, I want to see Billy Hamilton run. Maybe we can win and throw him out a few times when he tries to steal. That would be perfect.