Neftali Feliz has a great start. And somehow this is a problem.

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If a team had a new starting pitcher show up, throw high heat and exhibit good control over multiple innings, most people would think it was awesome. It’s only when the guy closed games the season before and got a bunch of saves that this somehow becomes a problem. Case in point: Neftali Feliz, who had a nice start yesterday:

Even as he paced himself, Feliz’s fastball regularly clocked between 94 mph and 96. His slider locked knees. His changeup, which at one point he threw two pitches in a row, elicited weak swings.

“His mound presence, his use of his other pitches,” Ryan said, continuing the litany of Feliz praises.

Yet Gil Lebreton of the Star-Telegramechoed by Buster Olney — calls this a “dilemma” because it might mean — gasp! — that instead of pitching 69 innings out of the pen, it may cause the Rangers to use him for 200 innings as a starter. And everyone knows that 60 ninth innings are way, way more important than 200 innings that occur between the first and eighth. I mean, that’s just science!

Dear Lord. Once — just once — I would like to get every baseball writer on the planet under oath for half a second and make them go on the record with an answer to one simple question: “what is more valuable: an excellent starting pitcher or an excellent relief pitcher.”  Pending the answer to that question, I will decide whether to pay any attention to that person ever again.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, I am being a bit unfair here. Lebreton does, at the end of the piece, opine that Feliz should be a starter and that filling out a bullpen should be secondary.  So yes, he would pass my little test.  I still take issue with this being presented as a “dilemma,” however, which is how his story is couched.  If the writer is allowed to opine in his article as Lebreton opines here, and if he agrees that a starter is more valuable than a closer, he should probably be more critical of the Rangers for even suggesting that this is a “dilemma.”  Because to the extent there is still uncertainty on what to do with Feliz in the Rangers’ mind, it is unreasonable uncertainty. To the extent there is not uncertainty, articles about Feliz’s role are kind of pointless.

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.