Liriano and Johnson: A tale of two surgeries

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As a Twins fan Francisco Liriano has made me well aware that coming
back as strong as ever from Tommy John elbow surgery is far from
guaranteed, but Josh Johnson of the Marlins is proving to be one of the
operation’s biggest success stories.

Johnson tossed a complete-game Sunday against the Blue Jays and is
tied for the NL lead with a dozen Quality Starts in 14 tries. He’s now
13-2 with a 3.16 ERA in 28 starts since returning from Tommy John
surgery in the middle of last season and has basically improved his
performance across the board since going under the knife:

                  IP    SO/9     BB/9     GB/FB      MPH
Pre-Surgery 169 7.6 4.1 1.35 91.8
Post-Surgery 185 7.8 2.4 1.65 94.2

Johnson was a really good pitcher before the surgery, nearly winning
the ERA title as a 22-year-old rookie in 2006, but since coming back
his strikeouts are up slightly, his walks are down 40 percent, he’s
inducing 20 percent more ground balls, and his fastball has picked up
another 2-3 miles per hour. Meanwhile, take a look at the same pre- and
post-surgery comparison for Liriano:

                  IP    SO/9     BB/9     GB/FB      MPH
Pre-Surgery 145 11.0 2.4 2.24 94.8
Post-Surgery 147 7.9 4.1 1.01 91.2

Liriano also nearly won the ERA title as a 22-year-old rookie and
was basically as good as a starting pitcher can be, going 11-3 with a
2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121 innings while inducing over two
ground balls for every fly ball. However, since the surgery his
strikeouts are down 30 percent, his walks are up 70 percent, he’s
inducing as many fly balls as ground balls, and his fastball velocity
has dropped 3-4 mph.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.