Balance of power tilts towards NL this winter

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Just not the power itself, because that’s mostly AL bound. But a review of the players switching leagues so far this winter definitely favors the NL, mostly because that’s where the pitching is going.

AL to NL
Cliff Lee – Phillies
Zack Greinke – Brewers
Shaun Marcum – Brewers
Javier Vazquez – Marlins
Kerry Wood – Cubs
J.J. Putz – Diamondbacks
Matt Guerrier – Dodgers

Carlos Pena – Cubs
Orlando Hudson – Padres
Lance Berkman – Cardinals
John Buck – Marlins
Jason Bartlett – Padres
Bill Hall – Astros
Lyle Overbay – Pirates
Ty Wigginton – Rockies
Jose Lopez – Rockies

NL to AL
Pedro Feliciano – Yankees
Hisanori Takahashi – Angels

Adrian Gonzalez – Red Sox
Adam Dunn – White Sox
Josh Willingham – Athletics
Mark Reynolds – Orioles
Tsuyoshi Nishioka – Twins (from Japan)
Russell Martin – Yankees
Miguel Olivo – Mariners
Alcides Escobar – Royals

The AL’s top imports so far are a pair of former Mets relievers and it could enter 2011 missing a full quarter of its top 20 starting pitchers. Lee and Greinke were certainly among the top 10, and Marcum belonged in the next 10. Next is Andy Pettitte, who still might opt to call it a career. Also, there’s Carl Pavano. I wouldn’t really put Pavano in the top 20, but he did go 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA for the Twins last season. He and Lee tied for the AL lead in complete games with seven.

All of that pitching making its way out of the league would seem to be good news for the offensive imports. Gonzalez, Dunn and Reynolds could combine for 110 homers next year. The AL hasn’t lost a whole lot offensively. I hesitated to even include Berkman, who has spent his entire career in the NL outside of two unproductive months with the Yankees. Pena could bounce back and Buck was an All-Star last season, but the hitting side of things definitely favors the AL.

The rest of the winter should belong to the AL as well. The Yankees, Angels and Rangers all appear to have more money to spend than any NL team. It’s unlikely that Adrian Beltre will switch leagues, and bats like Derrek Lee and Adam LaRoche may make their way to the AL. We could also see AL contenders make plays for Carlos Zambrano, Wandy Rodriguez, Ricky Nolasco and others in trade talks.

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.