One of the more surprising things last season was just how poorly Matt Kemp performed on the base paths. He was caught stealing 15 times on 34 attempts last season, and that’s just not getting the job done. With that success rate he’s better off not going at all.
But go he will this year, and unlike last year, he’ll have the help of Davey Lopes, who is now the Dodgers’ base running coach. The same Lopes who, as the Phillies first base coach, had that team stealing bases with a great deal of success. Of the regular starters in Philly last year, only Raul Ibanez had a bad stolen base success rate, and that was on a mere 7 attempts. No one ran a ton there, but when they ran, they ran very efficiently.
That’s what Lopes stresses in an article by Bill Shaikin in the Los Angeles Times:
“Some guys think that, because of their speed and ability, they can steal at any time, in any situation, against any given pitcher,” Lopes said. “That’s when you get hurt. “In a sequence of seven or eight pitches, a pitcher may give you one pitch to steal. He may slow down his motion one time. If you’re not ready, you’re going to miss your opportunity.
While watching Kemp steal against the Angels a week ago Saturday, another guy in the press box asked aloud why on Earth the Phillies would let Davey Lopes go. The consensus was that the Phillies, as a rule, don’t pay a lot for coaches, Lopes wanted too much money, so off he went.
I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I suspect we’ll see this year just how valuable Davey Lopes is.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.