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Previewing Crucial Billy Hamilton vs. Russell Martin NL Wild Card Game Matchup

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Previewing Crucial Billy Hamilton vs. Russell Martin NL Wild Card Game Matchup
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The 2013 MLB postseason gets underway on Tuesday night, with the Cincinnati Reds facing the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Wild Card Round. The winner advances to play the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Divisional Series.

With teams allowed to change their rosters following this one-game playoff, both rosters will likely be heavy on position players and thin on pitchers.

That means speedy Reds rookie Billy Hamilton is all but assured of a place on the roster at least for this one game, and he'll be one to watch if he makes an appearance.

The 23-year-old swiped a minor league single-season record 155 bases between High-A and Double-A in 2012 and followed that up with 75 thefts at Triple-A this season before making his big league debut on Sept. 3.

Hamilton saw just 19 at-bats after his call-up, but made seven appearances as a pinch runner. All told he went 13-of-14 on stolen base attempts, proving his dynamic speed. Here is a look at each steal, who was pitching and how easy they are to steal on, and who was catching and how easy they are to steal on.

2013 Billy Hamilton Stolen Bases
Date Steal/CS Pitcher SB v. P Catcher CS%
9/3 SB (1) Seth Maness, STL 2-for-2 Yadier Molina 43%
9/4 SB (2) Edward Mujica, STL 2-for-4 Yadier Molina 43%
9/6 SB (3) Paco Rodriguez, LAD 8-for-10 A.J. Ellis 44%
9/7 SB (4) Brian Wilson, LAD 1-for-1 A.J. Ellis 44%
9/14 SB (5) Alfredo Figaro, MIL 4-for-5 Martin Maldonado 30%
9/18 SB (6) Brad Peacock, HOU 12-for-13 Carlos Corporan 24%
9/18 SB (7) Kevin Chapman, HOU 1-for-1 Carlos Corporan 24%
9/18 SB (8) Josh Fields, HOU 2-for-4 Carlos Corporan 24%
9/18 SB (9) Jorge De Leon, HOU 1-for-1 Carlos Corporan 24%
9/20 SB (10) Mark Melancon, PIT 3-for-3 Russell Martin 40%
9/22 SB (11) Jeanmar Gomez, PIT 7-for-9 Russell Martin 40%
9/22 SB (12) Stolmy Pimentel, PIT 1-for-1 John Buck 29%
9/23 SB (13) Frank Francisco, NYM 2-for-2 Travis d'Arnaud 21%
9/25 CS (1) Daisuke Matsuzaka, NYM 5-for-6 Juan Centeno 20%

Baseball Reference

The lone time Hamilton was caught stealing was against a 23-year-old September call-up in Juan Centeno, who was 1-for-5 on the season in catching runners. He did display a terrific knack for gunning runners in the minors though, throwing out 34 of 61 (56 percent) runners on the season.

As you can see by the video, it still took a perfect throw and tag to nab Hamilton for the first time and is a good indication of what it will take for Martin to have a chance of catching Hamilton should he get on base.

What we're more concerned with here, though, are the two stolen bases highlighted on the list above, as Hamilton has actually squared off against Martin twice this season and been success on both stolen base attempts.

The first came on Sept. 20, against All-Star setup man Mark Melancon. The pitch was a fastball slightly down, and Martin may have had a chance to get him had his throw not been slightly off line.

The second came two days later against another right-hander in Jeanmar Gomez. Hamilton got on base with a bunt single, then took off on the second pitch of the next at-bat. The pitch was a fastball and Martin made a great throw, but Hamilton got a great jump and was safe by a decent amount.

The three best catcher among qualifiers as far as throwing out runners this season were A.J. Ellis (44.4 percent), Yadier Molina (43.5), and Martin (40.4). Hamilton was 6-for-6 on the season against that trio, stealing two bases against each of them, so at this point it may be as much about luck as it is about skill when it comes to nailing Hamilton.

However, it's worth noting that the only left-handers Hamilton stole on this season were relievers Paco Rodriguez and Kevin Chapman, both of whom are not particularly quick to the plate.

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With that in mind, the X-factor here could be Pirates starter and left-hander Francisco Liriano, who has done a nice job keeping the running game at bay throughout his career. Would-be base stealers are 77-for-104 (74 percent) over the course of his eight-year career.

On the year, runners have gone 7-for-11 against him, but the four he's caught have been no slouches on the bases.

Shin-Soo Choo (20 SB) and Norichika Aoki (20 SB) were both caught stealing, while smart veteran base runners Alfonso Soriano and Elvis Andrus were picked off of first base.

If any duo in baseball is capable of slowing down the potential impact Billy Hamilton can have on the bases, it would appear the Martin/Liriano duo would be a prime candidate. In the end slowing him down is really all you can hope to do.

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