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Top of the ninth inning, bases loaded, no outs.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were threatening to swipe a win away from the Arizona Diamondbacks, who led 6-4 entering the final frame on Aug. 31. LA outfielder Matt Beaty was up against Arizona’s Archie Bradley, and he hit a sharp, low line drive towards the 3-4 hole.

First baseman Christian Walker dove to his right and snagged the ball on a short hop with his backhand. He rose to a knee and delivered a strike to shortstop Nick Ahmed at second base, who turned the double play as Chase Field erupted in the background. Bradley got the next hitter out and Arizona won its sixth-straight game 6-5.

Walker has never known to be a plus defender in the past, Ahmed noted on the Sports Info Solutions Podcast. But the 2018 Gold Glover discussed with host Mark Simon about how that has changed this season.
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“He is incredibly improved and underrated defensively,” Ahmed said. “Going back to spring training and the offseason, he was always picking my brain about defense and his footwork and hands. He has made every routine play, picked balls out of the dirt for us and he’s made phenomenal plays. He is a Gold Glover in my eyes.”

That is high praise from someone who has had stout defender Paul Goldschmidt to throw to for most of his career. But, Ahmed may not be wrong, as the numbers suggest that Walker could be a dark horse to contend for the award.

Walker is third among National League first basemen in defensive runs saved with five. This stat measures how many runs a defender saves his team compared to an average player. He only trails Goldschmidt and Cincinnati’s Joey Votto who each have six. There is a real possibility that Walker could end the season on top of that list.

The D-backs first baseman is also third at his position in the NL in UZR/150 (ultimate zone rating per 150 games). This metric may look alien to some, but Fan Graphs has a simple explanation for it.

Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is one of the most widely used, publicly available defensive statistics. UZR puts a run value to defense, attempting to quantify how many runs a player saved or gave up through their fielding prowess (or lack thereof).

It takes into account range and errors among other aspects, and in this category, Walker trails just Goldschmidt and Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo.

The increased awareness of defensive metrics helps Walker’s chances immensely but there are some that aren’t as favorable. He has a solid fielding percentage of 99.3%, the sixth-highest mark in the NL, and also has more errors than other contenders like Goldshmidt, Rizzo and Votto.

But, his ability to make plays on harder to get to balls makes him one of the best defensive first basemen in the NL and has helped the D-backs in some big moments like in that win over the Dodgers. That makes him a good candidate to be nominated for a Gold Glove this season.

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Angels manager Brad Ausmus has only been on the job for a year, but the club “would consider” firing him to hire Joe Maddon after the season, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (subscription link). That would require the Cubs to move on from Maddon, whose contract is up, while the Angels would likely need to make the 65-year-old a substantial offer. The first part of that equation looks like a real possibility, but it appears the second would pose a problem. Angels owner Arte Moreno likely doesn’t want to pay two managers, per Rosenthal, who adds it’s very doubtful he’d be willing to match Maddon’s current salary of $6MM. Notably, though, there is quite a bit of history between Maddon and the Angels. He spent 31 years with the organization in a variety of roles before his managerial career began with the Rays prior to the 2006 season.

Recent speculation has linked longtime Giants executive Brian Sabean to the Marlins, but the 63-year-old told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle that he isn’t going anywhere. Although Sabean’s contract is about to expire, he and the Giants are in talks to keep him in place for what would be his 28th year with the organization in 2020. “We’re in the process of sorting that out as we speak,” Sabean said. “I’m quite sure my Giant career will continue in some form or fashion. I’m not interested in looking to go anywhere else. We’ll see how it develops in the next month or so.” While Sabean was at the helm of the Giants’ baseball department during all three of their World Series wins this decade, he has taken on a lesser role since the team hired Farhan Zaidi to steer the ship last offseason. Sabean spent a large portion of this season scouting, which is his passion, Schulman notes.

The Diamondbacks have shut right-handers Luke Weaver and Zac Gallen down for the season, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Weaver sat out all of June, July, August and most of September with forearm and UCL injuries, but he made a successful two-inning return last weekend to cap off his 2019. He and Gallen, whom the D-backs acquired at the trade deadline, figure to slot in near the top of the club’s rotation in 2020. Fellow righty Taijuan Walker could join them if he overcomes the arm problems that have essentially shelved him for two straight seasons. Walker could, however, take the ball for the first and only time of the season in Arizona’s finale on Sunday, Piecoro relays.

The Athletics just designated catcher Beau Taylor for assignment for the second time this year, but that doesn’t mean his days with the organization are over. On the contrary, chances are “good” that the A’s will try to re-sign Taylor in the offseason, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Judging by the glowing reviews of Taylor that prized young catcher Sean Murphy and manager Bob Melvin offer in Slusser’s piece, he clearly has the respect of the A’s players and coaches.

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The Milwaukee Brewers will test you. Look at their roster, look at their pitching staff, and tell me how they’ve put together this September run. They were supposed to crumble like an MVP with a broken kneecap.

It’s easy to fall in love with this Brewers team right now. I maintain that it would be a supreme bummer to see a Brewer squad sans Christian Yelich reach the promised land, but dang it if they aren’t the most fun team in the league right now.
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Take a look at Craig Counsell’s speech after clinching a playoff berth, and tell me you don’t wish he were your boss/husband/dad:

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Counsell’s leadership skills are off the charts. He’s generous with credit, from the owners to the GM to the training staff. Listen to the cheer let out in that room when he mentions the trade deadline acquisitions. You’d think they traded for Robin Yount. No, sir, that cacophonous howling was for Drew Pomeranz, Ray Black, and Jordan Lyles.

Brent Suter got a shout out. Suter has pitched all of 17 ⅓ innings on the year – great innings, like, double-take great – but Counsell makes a special point to thank the training staff and, implicitly, laud Suter’s efforts in coming back from injury.

Counsell credits the player development staff, which, uh, heck yes, specifically for their work with Trent Grisham, the former top prospect tasked with filling the shoes of Christian Yelich. Grisham’s star had faded, but a return to a unique golf grip helped get his swing back on track to the tune of .250/.345/.450 across 165 plate appearances.

It’s not that the Brewers don’t have stars – they have stars. Yelich should probably win his second consecutive MVP Award. Ryan Braun might be the most celebrated superstar in franchise history by the time it’s all said and done. Keston Hiura will get some consideration for the Rookie of the Year award for his .300/.365/.576 effort.

But Counsell understands organizational relationship dynamics. His understanding of system coherence bleeds through that speech. He knows the big guns will get their due. He knows that confidence matters in this game, and as in all workplaces, he understands the importance of recognizing and appreciating the efforts of his employees. Those aren’t hollow words on Counsell’s part. He sees the big picture with this team.
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Brent Suter is not Clayton Kershaw. He’s not Max Scherzer. But he’s 4-0 with a 0.52 ERA at the most important time of the year. Part of what makes Kershaw and Scherzer so incredible is their ability to perform the way they do year-in and year-out. Counsell has created an environment of belief where players without those preternatural abilities can perform like superstars.

I don’t know how else to explain an 89-win team with a +9 run differential.

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Longtime Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph was non-tendered by the team last week and delivered a heartfelt tribute to O’s fans and the organization on Twitter, but it is still possible that he could be back in orange and black next spring.

The non-tender means that the team decided not to go through salary arbitration with him, but that does not disqualify the Orioles from trying to sign him to a contract on their own terms.

If Joseph’s lengthy tweet seems to indicate that he doesn’t expect that to happen, well, who knows? He has been a very valuable part of the club in spite of his spotty offensive production and would seem to be someone who could still help with the development of the organization’s young pitchers.
Orioles nontender infielder Tim Beckham, catcher Caleb Joseph at Friday’s deadline


Orioles nontender infielder Tim Beckham, catcher Caleb Joseph at Friday’s deadline
Nov 30, 2018 | 8:20 PM

“What I WILL NEVER FORGET is the way the fans, staff, and my teammates embraced me and my family,’’ the last paragraphs of the Tweet read. “To each and every one I came in contact with as an Oriole and all of its affiliates I want to extend my sincerest gratitude for the love and support you showed us over a decade.

“I married my wife and had two kids while being an Oriole. Baltimore will always have a special place in our hearts. This isn’t ‘goodbye,’ but hopefully ‘see you later.’
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“Thank you Birdland.”

Joseph has been in the organization so long that — during his lengthy stay at the Double-A level — he was light-heartedly known as “the mayor of Bowie.” He finally got his chance to play regularly at the major league level when Matt Wieters had to undergo elbow surgery.

His ups and downs at the plate are well-documented, but he was always a solid defender behind it and will land somewhere as a dependable backup if he does not end up re-signing with the O’s.

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Drayton McLane wanted to change things for the Astros and early advice told him that pitching was the key. To accomplish this, McLane decided to make his front three guys Doug Drabek, Pete Harnisch, and the big arm of Greg Swindell.

Swindell started his career in the Indians organization and quickly found himself pitching against major league players. “It was a dream come true. I never thought I would be called up after only three weeks. It was all a blur pitching for the Waco Pirates, Liberal BeeJays, and then the Indians.” Swindell would quickly dominate the competition with 72 wins and an ERA of 3.60, which was fairly low for the Steroid Era.

Astros fans were excited to see the new owner seemingly dedicated to returning to a playoff-contending team. Swindell was equally excited to join the Astros. “Growing up in Houston and then playing for the home team was fun!” But fate had a different plan for Swindell. His ERA ballooned past 4.50 and suddenly he found himself battling an injury. “I wish I would have pitched better from a personal basis. We had really good teams, the start of what was to become a contender. I just couldn’t get over the hump.”

In 1996, giving up on Swindell, the Astros released him. It was a huge mistake. He would join a few other clubs before his luck changed. In 1999, joining many other former Astros, Greg Swindell was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks. This crew of former Astros players would take a World Series victory out of the jaws of the Yankees and Swindell was almost perfect. “It was a dream come true. From start to finish, the chemistry was there. The ownership wanted to win. It was awesome.” In typical Astros fashion, the team gave up on a pitcher right before they turned into one of the best in baseball.

Currently, Swindell is now working with the Longhorn Network. “I spend my time working for the Longhorn Network, baseball games, and loving Texas living my life at fifty years old.” It is not his only passion. “My son is autistic and I just try to raise awareness about Autism and try to help families cope.” If you are interested in donating in the name of Swindell’s son, Autism Speaks does amazing work and every dollar helps!

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The Astros announced their new-look coaching staff for the 2019 season Wednesday — including a series of hires necessitated by the loss of three coaches being hired away by other organizations. Last season’s first base coach, Alex Cintron, will shift to the role of hitting coach — a role he’ll share with Troy Snitker (the son of Braves manager Brian Snitker). Houston also announced the hiring of Don Kelly as the new first base coach and Josh Miller as the team’s bullpen coach.

Cintron, 40 next month, is entering his third season as a coach at the Major League level — each of which has come with the Astros. A veteran of nine Major League seasons as a player, he’s previously worked as the team’s first base coach and as a Spanish translator/advance scout/assistant coach on A.J. Hinch’s 2016 staff. He’ll pair with Snitker to comprise a duo of hitting coaches. Snitker, somewhat remarkably, is just 29 years of age and is moving up from Double-A Corpus Christi, where he served as the Hooks’ hitting coach.

Kelly, too, should be a familiar name for baseball fans, having spent nine seasons in the Majors himself. From 2007-16, the now 38-year-old Kelly played every position on the diamond (including pitcher) while serving as a super-utility player — primarily for the Tigers. His playing career ended quite recently, but he’s already spent two seasons on the Tigers’ pro scouting staff prior to taking this role — his first as a coach.

The 39-year-old Miller was Houston’s minor league pitching coordinator in 2018 — his third season in that role. He’s also worked as a scout for the club and as a minor league pitching coach.

Houston’s coaching staff took a hit this offseason, as three of their coaches took a promotion to join a new organization. Former assistant hitting coach Jeff Albert was hired by the Cardinals as their hitting coach, while bullpen coach Doug White was hired as the new pitching coach for the division-rival Angels. Hitting coach Dave Hudgens, meanwhile, was hired by the Blue Jays as the bench coach under newly minted manager Charlie Montoyo.

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We missed an installment from good ol’ Kenny Rosenthal yesterday. He’s back today in full force (unlike another great rumor source, Buster Olney, who posted nothing really new in his blog today).

The A’s, once considered the best bet for Barry Bonds, are no longer interested in the indicted slugger. Rosenthal thinks it’s likely that Bond’s trial will start after Opening Day, causing him to miss time regardless of the verdict. And then there’s the whole prison issue.

The Rangers spoke to the Mariners at the GM meetings regarding the availability of Ben Broussard. Talks didn’t really go anywhere, since Broussard is a non-tender candidate. The Mariners might not be too keen on offering Broussard a raise over the $3.55 million he made last year, in which he managed just 264 plate appearances.

Teams, including the Dodgers, might be more interested in Aaron Rowand over Torii Hunter because of one year and $30 million. Rowand is seeking five years, $60 million, while Hunter wants six and $90 mil. Hunter is far more proven a commodity, though, and is more athletic than Rowand. The negative in Hunter’s corner is that he’s two years older than Rowand.

He mentions that the Cubs are interested in Luis Castillo and Kaz Matsui, both switch hitters, to play second base next year. The Astros and Mets are also in on Castillo, while the Rockies would like to re-sign Kaz — though they have a number of internal candidates, including Ian Stewart.

The Padres are considering offering arbitration to Mike Cameron and Mike Barrett. Barrett seems like a no-brainer. He’s a Type A free agent, and would probably be worth a one-year deal. He could be pricey, though, as Ivan Rodriguez and Jorge Posada are making $13 million or more. Cameron also makes sense. The Padres still need a center fielder for 2008, and they’d do well to sign Cam to a one-year deal should he accept arbitration. Otherwise, the supplemental pick would be nice.

Reggie Sanders will consider retirement if he can’t land a deal with the Dodgers, Giants, or Padres. Sanders missed most of the 2007 season with hamstring problems.

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The Red Sox may not be able to land Mets closer Edwin Diaz by the trade deadline, so they’re turning their attention to other relievers on the market. San Francisco closer Will Smith is the reliever who has “most intrigued” the Red Sox over the past week, Sean McAdam of tweets. The Red Sox have also shown interest in Diamondbacks left-hander Andrew Chafin, per McAdam, and Blue Jays right-hander Daniel Hudson, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link).

Smith would clearly give the Red Sox the stable game-ending option they’ve lacked this year, but it doesn’t appear the team will be able to swing a deal for him. They’ve found the Giants’ asking price for Smith to be prohibitive, McAdam reports. Smith isn’t signed past this season – one of the reasons the Red Sox aren’t aggressively pursuing him – though it’s no surprise the Giants want a haul back for him. They’re still in playoff contention, for one, and Smith’s eminently affordable ($4.225MM) and highly effective. The 30-year-old has logged a 2.72 ERA/2.77 FIP with 12.82 K/9 and 2.14 BB/9 in 46 1/3 innings this season. He has also converted 26 of 28 save opportunities.

Meanwhile, either Chafin or Hudson could help improve the Red Sox’s setup situation. This is the latest in a growing line of solid seasons for the 29-year-old Chafin, who has pitched to a 4.17 ERA/3.69 FIP with 11.05 K/9 and 3.19 BB/9 across 36 2/3 frames. He also ranks second among all relievers in infield fly rate (24.2 percent), has held left-handed batters to a subpar .272 weighted on-base average, earns a relatively meager salary ($1.945MM) and comes with another year of arbitration control. Unsurprisingly, Chafin’s drawing plenty of interest from around the league – not just Boston – Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports.

Hudson, 32, would be the easiest reliever in this trio to acquire. He’s had a productive year, though peripherals don’t quite back up his above-average run prevention, and would be a pure rental for his next team. Nevertheless, Hudson’s the cheapest of the group ($1.5MM salary) and has been popular in the rumor mill leading up to the deadline. The hard-throwing journeyman has notched a 3.00 ERA/4.21 FIP with 9.0 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 over 48 innings. Righties have mustered a weak .276 wOBA off him.

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Joel Payamps career is a case study in patience and perseverance. Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 17 year old Amateur free agent by the Rockies back in 2011, he toiled 4 years in the low minors for that organization, the last two of which did not go well. Consecutive seasons of 6+ ERA in 2013-14 resulted in the Rockies releasing him. After not pitching at all in 2015, he was signed by the Diamondbacks as a Minor League Free Agent at the end of 2015. Since joining the DBacks organization he has steadily progressed, appearing in both AA Jackson and AAA Reno each of the last three seasons before earning a brief callup to the majors in 2019.

Sometimes described as wiry and lanky, standing at 6’2” and 200 lbs, Payamps throws a Fastball, Sinker, Slider and Change. If used as a reliever, he’ll mostly use the 4 Seamer and slider. His 4 Seamer averages 93 MPH, maxing out at 96. He may be able to add a little to that velocity working strictly as a reliever. His command has been inconsistent, but when he has it, he strikes out a lot of batters and can dominate.

The year did not start off Well for Payamps. In his first start on April 6th he took a comebacker off his foot which caused him to miss two months with a fracture. But when he returned in early June he was lights out. In his 41 IP at Jackson he walked just 2 while striking out 39, and allowed just 2 HR, good for a 2.17 FIP and a promotion to Reno.

Upon arriving in Reno in mid July, his success continued. In his first 4 starts, 22.2 IP, he allowed just 6 earned runs, 2.38 ERA. However the K/BB ratio fell to just 12/10. He then got roughed up in his two subsequent starts allowing 9 runs in 9.2 IP on 11 hits and 2 homers. Ironically he struck out 10 and walked just 3 during those two starts. Overall it was enough to earn him a callup to the big club in August.

Making his major league debut on August 21, he came on in the 6th to relieve Mike Leake with the Dbacks down 5-0 to the Rockies. He pitched 3 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, all singles, walking one batter and striking out three. In his second appearance he pitched a scoreless 8th inning in a 4-0 loss to the Brewers.

The two mop up appearances were all he would get in 2019. He was sent back to Reno and made one more appearance there on August 30th, his last of the season. He was not added to the MLB roster in September, which was somewhat of a surprise to me at the time as I had projected him to be among the September Callups . I’m not quite certain what happened there.
Whats Next in 2020 ?

As a member of the 40 man roster, he’ll likely start the year in Reno, and could be called up to either relieve or spot start as needed in 2020. He has an intriguing arm, and while I don’t think he will ever be more more than a very back end rotation option, he still has some upside as a reliever in my view. I wouldn’t mind seeing him get a shot at the 2020 bullpen in spring training. He has the stuff, but will need more consistent command to be successful.

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Major-league baseball player Steve Finley had a career full of accolades, and upon meeting Meaghan Hunt at a dinner with mutual friends, knew their relationship would go into extra innings.

When Steve eventually realized that Meaghan was the person with whom he wanted to grow old, he took the gentlemanly step of calling Meaghan’s mother to ask for her blessing. He received her enthusiastic approval, and set out to plan the proposal.

One of the greatest moments in Steve’s life was winning the 2001 World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He asked Meaghan to join him in Phoenix for the team’s celebration of the win’s 10th anniversary. There, he joined his greatest achievement of the past with an achievement that will last a lifetime: He asked Meaghan to be his wife, and she accepted.

As they delved into wedding planning, the couple searched top venues across Southern California, and from their very first visit had a good feeling about The Grand Del Mar. “It felt right,” Meaghan explains, “and was more private than any of the other venues we looked at. It was warm and inviting, and the staff was excellent.” It was also meaningful to begin their marriage in the city where they lived, as well as where Steve first rose to fame as a member of the San Diego Padres.

The outdoor ceremony was staged amid the property’s stunning environment of sage-rimmed vistas surrounding a Moroccan pavilion. White irises in tall hurricane vases sat at the foot of a rose petal-lined aisle and around the altar. A string quartet played arrangements of contemporary love songs during the processional.

The colors of the event were established by snowy white flowers with cool touches of green set against fabrics in striking black. Bouquets of celery-hued cymbidium orchids interspersed with coal-centered Star-of-Bethlehem were carried by the bridesmaids, whose midnight-colored dresses featured sleek halter necklines. Even the flower girls were darling visions in black, their formal cinch-waist dresses accented with charcoal tulle.

Meaghan carried a creamy bouquet of gardenias finished with an off-white ribbon. Her golden locks fell in curls toward her bare, sun-kissed shoulders, and her flowing A-line dress played to her tall, sleek frame. The bride’s ensemble was spiked with a black sash above the waist to coordinate with the gowns of her ladies in waiting.

Classical guitar music set the mood for the reception, a touch not lost on the number of guitarists in Meaghan’s family. As guests entered the hall, they were met with mood lighting lent from four stone fireplaces as well as floating candles. The tables were set with ebony linens and surrounded by chairs that continued the sultry color scheme. Vanilla calla lilies and orchids filled glass centerpieces of alternating shapes.

The couple’s multi-tiered cake rested on a lush green stage of horsetail reeds and orchids. “As the cake topper, we had a bobble head of me riding a horse and Steve in his Diamondback baseball jersey,” Meaghan proudly adds. “It was a fun touch to our wedding cake.”

After a five-course dinner, guests moved into the salon, where a DJ kept the group dancing well into the early hours of the morning. Philly cheesesteak sliders were served as late night snacks. Thanks to the venue’s award-winning kitchen, the meals were, in a word, memorable.

Meaghan praises her wedding planner’s guidance throughout the planning: “I was surprised that the planning process was so easy.” Steve has few illusions that any groom will be the primary planner of a wedding, but he offers this nugget of advice to men: “Be involved in the parts of planning that really mean something to you. Be a positive supporter of the rest.”

The groom goes on to reflect with astonishment how smoothly the day went. “Usually something goes wrong somewhere with a wedding of this size and number of moving parts, but everything went off perfectly without a hitch.” When asked what he’d do differently, had he the chance, he replied simply, “Nothing.” In other words, they knocked it out of the park.