Pouliot's thoughts: Polanco wasn't the best phit for Phils

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polanco phillies.jpgPhillies sign infielder Placido Polanco to a three-year, $18 million contract with a mutual option for 2013.
Polanco has already had a pretty unusual career, but the Phillies are showing way too much faith that he’ll continue to defy the aging curve. Second baseman have a nasty habit of falling off a cliff in their low-30s, yet Polanco has gotten more durable with age and his defense has held up remarkably well.
On offense, it’s easy to point to his OPS slipping from 846 to 768 to 727 the last three years and say that it’s a steep decline. However, his game hasn’t changed at all. He’s finished with 31-36 doubles, 8-10 homers and 35-37 walks in each of those seasons. Because of his limited power and poor walk rate, his offense is entirely batting average driven, and he’s going to hit .290 some years and .320 others. The Phillies should be content if he matches that 768 mark from 2008, and it’s entirely possible that he’ll have a couple of more years at that level.
The third year is what really hurts the deal. Philadelphia was likely Polanco’s preferred destination. The team is a World Series favorite, and he’s played there before. I don’t see GM Ruben Amaro Jr. felt the need to best every other potential offer, particularly when Mark DeRosa and the superior Adrian Beltre were available. Polanco should be above average defensively and average offensively at third. He’s an upgrade from Pedro Feliz. But I think the Phillies could have done better.
Beltre, in particular, was the best fit for their lineup. Polanco’s addition would work better for the Phillies if the team were willing to drop Jimmy Rollins down to the seventh spot and go with Shane Victorino first and Polanco second. However, they’ll almost certainly start the year with Victorino hitting seventh.
Victorino had a .358 OBP last season. His worst mark in four seasons as a regular is .346. Polanco finished at .331 last season, though he was at .388 and .350 in the two years prior. Rollins, on the other hand, came in at .296 last season and has never topped .350 in a year. Rollins isn’t necessarily a bad leadoff hitter — he did lead the NL in runs scored with 139 in 2007 — but except for when he’s at his best, he’d be more useful hitting in the bottom half of the order.

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.