Yunel Escobar may have 'attitude problems' but he also has a track record of being a very good player

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Yunel Escobar made his big-league debut in 2007. Since then a total of 27 players have accumulated at least 1,000 plate appearances while seeing at least two-thirds of their starts at shortstop. Here’s how he ranks among those 27 shortstops in OPS:

Hanley Ramirez      .935
Troy Tulowitzki     .849
Derek Jeter         .813
Jimmy Rollins       .796
Jose Reyes          .787
YUNEL ESCOBAR       .771
Miguel Tejada       .760
Stephen Drew        .760
Rafael Furcal       .758
J.J. Hardy          .751

Escobar has the sixth-highest OPS among all shortstops during that time, behind only Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, and Jose Reyes. If you’re curious the man he was traded for, Alex Gonzalez, ranks 14th with a .737 OPS.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not suggesting that trades should be analyzed by OPS (you should read Matthew Pouliot’s in-depth analysis of the deal). However, what I am suggesting is that most of the mainstream analysis of the Escobar-for-Gonzalez swap yesterday didn’t really go beyond “Escobar had a bad first half” and “the Braves were sick of his attitude” while guys like Jon Heyman of SI.com and Buster Olney of ESPN.com deemed it a huge win for Atlanta.
Perhaps that type of shallow analysis shouldn’t be surprising at this point, because it’s prevalence is one of the driving forces behind why blogs and non-mainstream baseball outlets have thrived so much recently. Still, it seems odd that so many people are willing to take Escobar’s “attitude problem” as gospel and focus on three months of poor play while brushing aside the fact that he’s been one of the half-dozen best-hitting shortstops in all of baseball during his four-year career.
He’s also six years younger than Gonzalez, every bit as good defensively, and under team control for three more seasons. I think the Blue Jays did well to get a 27-year-old shortstop with an outstanding glove and track record of good hitting for a 33-year-old shortstop they signed for $3 million this offseason, but I’m open to the notion that the trade makes some sense for the Braves too. However, calling the trade a steal for Atlanta because Escobar rubbed people the wrong way in a career-worst first half ignores the previous three years of his career and 10 years of Gonzalez’s career.

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.