Billy “The Fastest Man In Baseball” Hamilton can hit a little bit too

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Billy Hamilton is the fastest man in baseball and when the Reds named him their Opening Day center fielder tons of people got excited to see how many bases he could steal as a rookie despite not being much of a hitter. So far the answer is … well, it turns out he can actually hit too.

Hamilton went hitless in his first 12 at-bats of the season, but since then he’s hit .294 with four homers, 17 total extra-base hits, and a .751 OPS in 60 games. This season the National League as a whole has posted a .702 OPS, so Hamilton has been a well above-average hitter for two months now.

Oh, and he’s also stolen 28 bases in those 60 games, which is why everyone was so damn excited for his arrival in the first place.

Hamilton hasn’t done a good job controlling the strike zone and his on-base skills could definitely still use plenty of work for him to fully take advantage of his amazing speed, but he’s 23 years old with a lifetime .730 OPS through 78 games for the Reds and he’s been on fire this month hitting .356 with eight steals, three homers, and a .967 OPS in 15 games.

What an incredibly fun player.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.