Reds prospect Billy Hamilton is the fastest man in baseball

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Reds minor leaguer Billy Hamilton is, by nearly all credible accounts, the fastest player in professional baseball.

And the 21-year-old shortstop is a pretty good prospect too, ranking among Baseball America‘s top 50 both last season and this season.

Last year Hamilton stole 103 bases in 135 games at low Single-A and was caught just 20 times, which is an incredible amount of running … until you look at what he’s done so far this year.

Hamilton has played 23 games at high Single-A and he’s stolen 29 bases. Seriously, he has 29 steals in 23 games. Oh, and he’s also hitting .398 with a 1.072 OPS. Hamilton is on pace to swipe 182 bases at an 83 percent clip, which is beyond absurd. And for his pro career he now has 194 steals in 270 games.

Also fun: There’s a Hall of Famer named Billy Hamilton who played in the late-1800s and was one of the fastest players in baseball. His nickname was “Sliding Billy” and he led the league in steals five times with 111, 102, 111, 100, and 97 bags, finishing with a total of 914 to rank third all time behind only Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock.

When the modern Billy Hamilton makes the majors in a year or two I’m going to be extremely disappointed in everyone if the “Sliding Billy” nickname doesn’t stick.

UPDATE: Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus has a bunch more crazy Billy Hamilton facts.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.