Another Look at Billy Hamilton’s Tag

During Wednesday’s Cards/Reds game, Billy Hamilton tagged from third and scored on a fly ball to short right.  This fact caused a juuust a minor ripple in the Twitterverse.  I tip my hat to Hamilton for having the cojones to attempt to score on that ball.  But let’s not trip over ourselves creating the Legend of Billy Hamilton.  He scored only because Jon Jay was caught by surprise.  A better approach to that ball by Jay and Hamilton’s out.

When you watch that highlight, you’ll notice a couple of things.  The ball was in the air for a long time.  Jay had to run a long way to get to it.  And, most importantly, Jay settled underneath it.  A couple of screen grabs to illustrate:

Jay approaching

This is the end of Jay’s run towards the ball.  At this point Kolten Wong is still thinking he’ll have a play, but Jay calls him off.  Notice Jay’s moving full speed towards the infield.

jay settling

This is key.  Jay’s called Wong off, who is exiting the pattern.  Jay has run in far enough and he’s settling under the ball.  He doesn’t appear to know Hamilton is tagging; more importantly, he doesn’t expect Hamilton to tag.  If he did, he’d approach the ball differently, with his weight going forward instead of sitting back on his heels.  The difference between a guy coming in on a ball expecting to make a throw and a guy coming in on a ball not expecting to make a throw is obvious.  Look at Carlos Beltran closing on Michael Young‘s fly ball in NLCS Game 1.

beltran NLCS game 1 money

Isn’t that Jay standing next to him?  Why yes, yes it is.  Here’s Jay after he caught the ball Wednesday.

jay oops

Is it a little artificial to compare a catch in the 10th inning of a playoff game with a catch in the 9th game of the regular season?  No, I don’t think so.  In both situations there’s a runner on third and one out.  Your job as an outfielder  is to prevent that run from scoring.  Jay has to know Hamilton’s fast; I’m sure it was covered in the lead-up to each Cincinnati series this season.  If he’s standing on the bag the prudent thing is to assume he’s going.  Come up throwing.

This isn’t all on Jay.  If his teammates aren’t yelling ‘TAGGING’ at him while he’s approaching the ball, so he can adjust, they’re not doing it right. Jay’s throw was strong enough to get Hamilton (albeit it up the first base line); if he attacks that ball anticipating Hamilton going, Billy’s either out or scampering back to third when he realizes the throw will beat him home.

So yes, it was an aggressive play.  Billy Hamilton is not the second coming of Cool Papa Bell though.  And, I’m quite sure he won’t be able to try that again this season on a ball that short, now that the cat’s out of the bag.  I’m certain the Cardinals are one team that will make sure of it.

Thanks to everyone who voted in the #PadresPA chase.  I did not advance into the Top 10, but that’s OK; I had a blast.

  • stlCupofJoe

    This was a very good article!

    However, despite being one of Jay’s biggest supporters in the entire nation, this one is all on Jonny. Before the pitch, he needed to play that exact situation out in his head and be ready to make the throw home from no matter where he was in the field. Heck, even if he was in the infield dirt, he needed to be ready to make that throw.

    Jonny is normally a very heady player which makes up for the fact that he lacks some of the physical tools, but this was not a very heady play. You better believe he won’t make this mistake again.

    • West Coast Redbird

      Thanks! I did soften the blow a little in the post, but I agree – Jay was to blame for that run.

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