A call for moderation in WAR usage

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Jim Caple of ESPN takes what I think is a decent, moderate approach with respect to the war over WAR. Basically: it’s a cool stat that can be useful, but let’s not rely on it too much or consider it an argument-ender.

Of course, because that’s moderate, I expect almost no one to like it. It’s really, really hard to be a moderate these days.

I do take issue with one thing, however. At the outset of the article he notes his displeasure with how often WAR was used in the MVP debate between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera last year, and criticizes WAR proponents for relying on it too much. I agree WAR did become a big talking point in all of that, but it wasn’t because of the statheads’ doing.

I read a lot of baseball writing. I bet I read more daily baseball writing and back-and-forth Tweeting among baseball people than about 95% of even hardcore baseball fans do. I have to. It’s my job. And I can say that my distinct WAR takeaway from the Trout/Cabrera thing was that WAR was brought up by non-statheads as some kind of bogeyman, as opposed to statheads as pro-Trout evidence, on the order of something like 3 to 1.

The dialogue was like this:

Pro Trout guy: “Trout for MVP!”

Pro Cabrera guy: “You and your fancy spreadsheets and stats, thinking WAR is the be-all, end-all. God, Cabrera is doing something amazing! Why do you have to reduce it to WAR, WAR, WAR?!!”

Pro Trout guy: “He’s an amazing defender and a great baserunner. Who said anything about WAR?”

Pro Cabrera: “There you go again! WAR WAR WAR!! Enough with the stats! Watch some games.”

Anyway, if your mileage varies, great, but it certainly seems to me that WAR is used as an insult by those who hate it more than it’s used as an argument-ender by those who like it.

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.