Fastest man in baseball on pace for 160 steals

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Five weeks ago I wrote about the fastest man in baseball, Reds shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton, whose stolen base numbers at Single-A were crazy. And since then they’ve stayed every bit as crazy.

Hamilton stole four bases last night, giving him 67 steals in 56 games this season. Minor-league seasons are 140 games, rather than 162 games, yet he’s still on pace for 160 steals on the year. Seriously: One. Six. Zero.

He also stole 103 bases in 135 games last year and now has 232 steals (at an 84 percent success rate) in 303 games since the Reds made him a second-round pick in the 2009 draft.

And what makes Hamilton such an intriguing prospect is that he’s not just insanely fast, he can actually hit too. This year he’s batting .322 with 33 walks and a .410 on-base percentage in 56 games, and while 54 of his 74 hits are singles he has shown some power and … well, he turns almost every single into a double by just stealing second base anyway.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.