Diamondbacks insider Nick Piecoro and Jay Dieffenbach talk about the upcoming baseball season. The lineup appears to be solid. What about the pitching staff? Video: Cheryl Evans/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke gave up three runs in five-plus innings against the Chicago Cubs. He believes he is making progress toward Opening Day. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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USA TODAY Sports’ Jorge L. Ortiz breaks down the key headlines to watch during the final week of spring training.
USA TODAY Sports
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USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale poses these questions that will be answered in the MLB regular season.
USA TODAY Sports
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USA TODAY Sports’ Jorge L. Ortiz recaps the championship between USA and Puerto Rico at Dodger Stadium.
USA TODAY Sports
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Shot Clock: Why isn’t Paul Goldschmidt playing? Will Cardinals draft QB Mitchell Trubisky? Kurt Warner also had a Super Bowl jersey stolen? The Shot Clock tackles the burning topics in Arizona sports.
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Diamondbacks left-hander Robbie Ray gave up two runs in five innings, walking one and striking out six, vs. the Royals on Tuesday. (Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports)
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Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke gave up one run in five innings against the Netherlands on Saturday.
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Diamondbacks right-hander Shelby Miller struck out eight in 3 1/3 innings vs. the Mariners but wasn’t efficient with his pitches.
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Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray gave up two earned runs — both on a first-inning homer — in four innings against the Brewers on Thursday.
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Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke comments on his side session to minor leaguers at Salt River Fields on Mar. 13, 2017. By Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks lefty Patrick Corbin gave up three runs in 3 1/3 innings against the White Sox but came away sounding upbeat. Video: Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Right-hander Taijuan Walker struck out eight in four scoreless innings for the Diamondbacks on Friday vs. the Brewers.
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Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke’s fastball was in the upper-80s on Wednesday at Salt River Fields.
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Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller lasted 2 2/3 innings against the A’s, giving up six runs, on Tuesday. Scott Bordow/azcentral sports
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Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Taijuan Walker gave up just one hit in three scoreless innings against the White Sox on Sunday, Mar. 5, 2017. (Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports)
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Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin, who is vying for a spot in the rotation, gave up two runs in three innings against the Padres on Saturday in Peoria.
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Diamondbacks right-handed Shelby Miller talks about his impressive outing vs. the Cubs. Miller struck out six in three innings.
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Diamondbacks right-hander Archie Bradley tossed three scoreless innings in his second start of spring training.
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Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray was upbeat despite walking three in 1 1/3 innings on Wednesday. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale breaks down the story lines to follow as spring training heats up.
USA TODAY Sports
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Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker talks about his outing on Tuesday against the Texas Rangers in Surprise. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Here are some longtime favorites about America’s favorite pastime.
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The MLB is changing up the intentional walk in an effort to improve the pace of play.
USA TODAY Sports
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The Brewers by position: Bullpen
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USA TODAY Sports has released its projected win totals for the 2017 MLB season.
USA TODAY Sports
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USA TODAY Sports released its annual list of players to watch for in the upcoming season.
USA TODAY Sports
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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke about his frustration with the MLBPA, which he said rebuffed the league’s efforts to make any of a number of rules changes at Tuesday’s Cactus League Media Day at the Biltmore. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
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The Diamondbacks’ Ken Kendrick discusses the team’s lawsuit with the Maricopa County Stadium District over over Chase Field maintenance costs at spring-training camp on Friday.
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo discusses star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and his new team’s foundation at Cactus League Media Day at the Arizona Biltmore on Tuesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
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The Diamondbacks had their photos taken on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 at Salt River Fields.
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Cubs manager Joe Maddon discusses how difficult it is to win back-to-back championships in the MLB on Tuesday at Cactus League Media Day at the Arizona Biltmore on Tuesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
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Cubs manager Joe Maddon discusses how to prepare for this season in regards to overworking and injuries after last season’s championship run at Cactus League Media Day at the Arizona Biltmore on Tuesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
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The Arizona Diamondbacks hosted fans to celebrate the start of spring training and the 2017 season at D-Backs Fan Fest at Salt River Fields on Monday. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
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Diamondbacks closer Fernando Rodney tosses a bullpen session at Salt River Fields.
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There are several MLB teams looking for new stadiums, while at least two are happy with their old-school dwellings.
USA TODAY Sports
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Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker throws his first official bullpen session of spring training at Salt River Fields on Tuesday. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller tosses his first bullpen of the spring at Salt River Fields on Tuesday. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Ron Gardenhire, Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach, annouced on Tuesday that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the team’s spring training complex at Salt River Fields. Manager Torey Lovullo also spoke. Video: Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo on what he sees in his team and pitcher Shelby Miller heading into the first days of spring training at Salt River Fields. Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
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D-Backs pitcher Archie Bradley, sporting facial hair that he has not shaved since October 31st, reports to spring training camp in Scottsdale. (Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports)
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D-Backs skipper Torey Lovullo press conference at spring training camp in Scottsdale. (Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports)
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D-Backs pitcher Patrick Corbin reports to spring training camp in Scottsdale. (Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports)
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Diamondbacks right-hander Archie Bradley talks about the excitement of getting spring training started, saying “I couldn’t sleep last night.” Video: Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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The Diamondbacks have faced tough seasons and payroll limitations, and it might cost them a beloved franchise player. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
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Proliferation of young talent in the game provides an abundance of inexpensive options to stock a roster.
USA TODAY Sports
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Are the Arizona Diamondbacks right to sue Maricopa County over Chase Field? Columnist E.J. Montini says no.
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With the longest championship drought in American professional sports, the Cubs have seen a lot change since they last won the World Series, in 1908.
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What is in store for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017?
Zack Greinke on his spring start vs. Cubs
Key MLB story lines as spring training concludes
MLB’s regular season will answer these spring questions
USA wins its first World Baseball Classic title
USA Baseball, Trubisky to Cards, Kurt Warner’s stolen jersey
D-Backs’ Robbie Ray says he’s ready for start of season
Zack Greinke on his start vs. Netherlands
Shelby Miller strikes out 8 vs. Mariners
D-Backs’ Robbie Ray on spring start vs. Brewers
Zack Greinke comments on his throwing session
Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin after spring outing vs. White Sox
Taijuan Walker after latest dominant start for D-Backs
Zack Greinke on his diminished velocity in start vs. Mexico
Shelby Miller discusses latest start
D-Backs’ Taijuan Walker on his latest strong outing
D-Backs lefty Patrick Corbin after spring outing vs. Padres
Shelby Miller on his outing vs. Cubs
Archie Bradley on strong outing vs. Padres
Robbie Ray on his spring training debut
Spring training story lines to watch
Taijuan Walker throws two innings in spring debut
Some things about Spring Training season just haven’t changed…
MLB changing intentional walks for 2017
Just the FAQs: Brewers at bullpen
Projecting the 2017 MLB season
MLB’s 100 Names to Know for 2017
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on rule changes, MLBPA cooperation
Diamondbacks’ Ken Kendrick discusses team’s lawsuit
D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo on Goldschmidt, team’s core
Behind the scenes at Diamondbacks Photo Day
Cubs’ Joe Maddon on why it’s difficult to repeat
Cubs’ Joe Maddon on this season’s preparation
A look at Diamondbacks Fan Fest 2017
Closer Fernando Rodney throws bullpen session
Baseball stadiums on the way out or in danger of extinction
Taijuan Walker throws bullpen session at Salt River Fields
Shelby Miller throws bullpen session at Salt River Fields
D-Backs bench coach Ron Gardenhire diagnosed with prostate cancer
D-Backs manager Lovullo on getting started, Shelby Miller
D-Backs pitcher Archie Bradley talks about his beard
D-Backs skipper Torey Lovullo press conference
D-Backs pitcher Patrick Corbin reports to spring training camp in Scottsdale
Diamondbacks’ pitcher Archie Bradley: “New year. New team. New everything. We’re excited.”
D-Backs near crossroads with Goldschmidt
The best MLB lineup realistic money can buy
Montini: Diamondbacks’ lawsuit is one big error
Cubs, coffee and cars: How things have changed since the North Siders last won the World Series
Back when he was still playing, Burke Badenhop didn’t think his interest in pitch data was anything unusual. To him, it was information any pitcher would find useful. Why wouldn’t you want to know exactly how much your fastball moves?
“Every pitcher’s dream is be able to play catch with themselves,” Badenhop said. “This was as close to that as possible.”
His stuff in decline late in his career, Dan Haren knew he would need to adapt, to find new ways to get hitters out. As he began digging into numbers and having success, he realized not only was he good at it, he also enjoyed it.
“I found it fun my last couple of years,” he said. “You’re really putting together the puzzles of how to get guys out.”
Badenhop’s curiosity and Haren’s ingenuity perhaps foreshadowed their new positions in the Diamondbacks’ front office, the former in a still-being-defined role in the club’s analytics department, the latter in position in which he’ll help pitchers devise plans of attack.
They also represent the latest in a new hiring trend with major league teams. For decades, front offices were populated almost entirely by former players who embodied the game’s old-school mind-set. Then came a wave of analytical minds, Ivy Leaguers and business-world types who embraced baseball’s data revolution.
MORE: Diamondbacks/MLB preview coverage
The latest is a sort of blend of the two: ex-players with a fluency in numbers, guys who serve as bridges between the old school and the new school and whose on-field experience lends credibility to their messages.
“I think it’s the next generation of player,” Chicago Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer said. “A lot of these guys are coming up in baseball and that dialogue is normal to them. I think we’re going to see more and more of that because the more these guys are exposed to the information, the more that subset is going to gravitate toward it. I think that’s the first wave of those guys. I think we’re going to see a lot more.”
The list of ex-players who fit the description grows by the year. The Red Sox have Brian Bannister and Dave Bush. The Rays have Jeremy Sowers and Cole Figueroa. There’s Tommy Hottovy with the Cubs. And Haren and Badenhop joined the Diamondbacks this past offseason, brought in after the front office was overhauled.
Many of them have unusual titles. Bannister is the Red Sox’s vice president of pitching development and assistant pitching coach. Hottovy, a lefty who pitched parts of two seasons in the majors, is the Cubs’ director of run prevention. Haren is the Diamondbacks’ pitching strategist.
They each seem to be tasked with different responsibilities, but it’s becoming increasingly clear front offices value their contributions. In many cases, the ex-players help connect the front office to the clubhouse.
“They’re perfect conduits to get a message from high theoretical guys down to guys who are just used to grinding it out on the baseball field,” said San Diego Padres manager Andy Green, who, in his own way, is another such ex-player in that he’s numbers savvy. “Unless that message gets translated where a guy speaks both languages, it usually ends up falling on deaf ears.
“It can be the perfect game plan laid out by the front office, but if it doesn’t run through one of those conduits, it tends to, one, not be understood or, two, not be implemented at all or maybe even spurned altogether.”
RELATED: Scouts break down 2017 Diamondbacks
Bannister is perhaps the first to transition into such a role, and his success has been far reaching, including helping turn Rich Hill from a journeyman into one of the better starters in baseball by convincing him to use his curveball more.
Hottovy is an example of how a conduit can work well. He helps put together game plans for Cubs pitchers, and he says his experience as a pitcher has helped him connect with players.
“It’s some instant credibility,” he said. “That being said, you can play 20 years in the game, but if you can’t answer the questions that players are asking now when it comes to analytics and data and stuff, then you’re going to lose credibility there. It helps that I’ve played, but it’s even more important for me to be adept and ready for the questions I might get asked, and I’m not too proud to say I don’t know everything.”
Haren is hoping to have the same kind of impact. He believes part of the appeal his role might have to pitchers is in the fact that he isn’t giving them an opinion – he’s giving them facts based on the way they’ve performed or the way hitters they’ve faced have performed. And he’s coming at them from the perspective of someone who managed to get hitters out using the same data, doing so with somewhat pedestrian stuff.
“If a guy is throwing 97 (mph) and I’m throwing 85 and I’m successful and the person throwing 97 isn’t successful, what’s missing there?” Haren said.
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Badenhop will work with the Diamondbacks’ new analytics director, Mike Fitzgerald, likely in a role that involves targeting potential player acquisitions. He’s also expected to be involved in the club’s ventures into the sports science world. He sees his position – and those like it – as less about players getting smarter than as a logical result of a data-heavy world.
“The hierarchy of what a front office is and what player development staffs look like, it’s been pretty standard for a decent amount of time,” Badenhop said. “Maybe, with all the data in the game, it’s time for a shakeup. Maybe these roles are going to become more prominent.”
Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.