As Craig noted in his morning roundup, last night Andre Ethier hit a game-winning grand slam against the Brewers for his 11th walk-off hit since 2008.
Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com’s amazing Play Index, here’s the walk-off leaderboard during that time:
Andre Ethier 11
Kurt Suzuki 5
Miguel Tejada 5
Alfonso Soriano 4
Jorge Cantu 4
Jose Lopez 4
Kevin Youkilis 4
Mark Ellis 4
Prince Fielder 4
Robinson Cano 4
That’s pretty stunning. Ethier has more walk-off hits than any other two players combined since 2008. He had six last season alone, which is more than anyone else has from 2008-2010, and also had three in 2008 with two already this year.
Ethier is a very good player and off to a spectacular start this season, but obviously much of that walk-off success is due to opportunity. Last night, for instance, Ethier came up in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and one out in a tie game. He basically had a walk-off hit served to him on a silver platter and, to his credit, took advantage with a grand slam to dead center.
“I don’t know what it is, for some damn reason I keep getting up there in that situation,” Ethier told the Los Angeles Times. “I can’t figure it out. I don’t know who else has that many opportunities to win games like that. The hairs stand up on your neck a little because you can feel the energy, you can feel the excitement in those situations.”
However, he hasn’t been particularly great in “close and late” situations in general since 2008, hitting .279 with a .486 slugging percentage compared to .294 with a .526 slugging percentage overall. All of which, in a way, makes what Ethier has done even more amazing. “I’ve managed some pretty good players, but the opportunities he’s had and as many times as he’s done it, I don’t remember anybody being as heroic as he’s been,” manager Joe Torre said.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.