Billy Hamilton is ready to be a World Series-winning weapon for the Cubs as postseason begins
David Ross knows a championship team when he sees one. Having played on two World Series-winning clubs, he knows the ins and outs of a winning team and the intangibles needed to hoist trophies in October.
So when he says a role player on his roster could make a special impact in the postseason, it makes you take notice.
“The kind [of weapon] that wins you a World Series,” Ross said after Sunday’s win over the White Sox.
Hamilton has only spent three weeks with the Cubs and while he’s started just 1 game, he’s flashed the type of impact Ross is talking about.
There’s not much that can rattle or offset an elite, shutdown closer like Josh Hader. When it’s a tight ballgame and Brewers manager Craig Counsell turns to the lefty, he does so with the confidence that, more often than not, Hader will shut the door on the opposition and without being rattled.
But on Sept. 12 in Milwaukee, Hamilton was able to rattle the All-Star closer. And he did it just by standing at first base. The threat of Hamilton taking off and getting into scoring position can unnerve even a seasoned veteran like Hader.
With a 2-0 lead and one out in the 9th, Hader threw 3 pitches to Jason Heyward, each time taking a peek at the speedy Hamilton at first base, who pinch ran for Anthony Rizzo. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Hader threw a fastball that missed its location, leaving it high in the zone and Heyward crushed it for a go-ahead, 3-run home run that sparked a Cubs win over the Brewers.
Hamilton loves being able to help his team in that manner.
“I can just get in there and just make an impact without even just stealing, just being over there getting the guys behind me good fastballs and stuff like that,” Hamilton said. “It means a lot.”
He did it again on Friday against the White Sox. With a full count on Victor Caratini, Hamilton took off and Caratini crushed a sinker up in the zone for an opposite field home run.
“That’s the potential he has,” Ross said. “We’ve had 2 big home runs with him just standing on first and the threat of a stolen base.”
Hamilton shares the optimism that he can be a vital piece for the Cubs in their quest for another World Series title.
“I know I haven’t gotten as many at-bats as I’ve wanted, consistently,” Hamilton said. “But I tell [Cameron Maybin] every single day, for some reason, I feel like in these playoffs, I’m gonna come up big in whatever situation it is, whether it’s at the plate or doing something defensively or offensively.”
And whatever the scenario, when his name is called, you can be sure he’ll be ready. He’s shown it when he comes in as a defensive replacement. Hamilton uses his speed in the outfield to parole center field and track down fly balls that other center fielders couldn’t get. He has a career 75 defensive runs saved and has a 23.6% fielding rate on plays listed as remote (1-10% chance of being successfully fielded), per FanGraphs.
He’s been ready as a pinch runner and he showed his readiness on Sunday when he got the start and hit a home run and stole home.
“I told [Ross] I’m here for whatever he needs me for,” Hamilton said. “I’m ready to make an impact on whichever way he uses me.
“If it’s stealing a base in a big situation or it’s coming in and playing defense and playing defense or whatever I need to, I’m ready for anything he put me in.”