Former Major League pitcher and 16-time Gold Glove award winner Jim Kaat called for Sabermetrics to be thrown in the trash can while commentating on MLB Network. Kaat made the quip when the U.S. put runners on first and second in the top of the second inning against Canada in a deciding match between Pool D contestants in the World Baseball Classic. Ryan Braun had doubled and Ben Zobrist had reached base on error, then were advanced a base on a successful bunt by Adam Jones. After giving up the out, Eric Hosmer and Shane Victorino grounded out to end the threat with no runs scored.
The expected runs matrix at Baseball Prospectus spits out 1.44 expected runs with runners on first and second and no outs as opposed to 1.29 with runners on second and third and one out. In one game, the difference of 0.15 runs is unnoticeable, so neither side can claim with any authority that the decision to bunt in that specific circumstance was an extremely good or extremely bad idea.
The bunting would continue for the U.S. After Joe Mauer singled and David Wright walked to lead off the fourth inning, Ben Zobrist bunted towards third baseman Taylor Green, forcing him into committing a throwing error. Mauer scored on the play, putting the U.S. on the board. Wright would score shortly thereafter on a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2.
In the seventh, Eric Hosmer led off with a single to center. Shane Victorino immediately attempted to bunt on the first pitch he saw from Canada reliever Phillippe Aumont, pushing it foul. Down a strike, Victorino took the at-bat normally and ended up striking out.
Update (6:20 PM): Just as I pushed “Publish” on this post, Zobrist attempted to bunt with runners on first and second and no outs. Rather than advancing the runners, he popped out to the catcher. World Bunting Classic.
Free agent right-hander Jeff Manship has reportedly signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The righty was non-tendered by the Indians in December.
Manship, 32, completed his second season with Cleveland in 2016. He delivered a 3.12 ERA, 4.6 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 rate over 43 1/3 innings, a slight decline after posting an 0.92 ERA with the club the year before. During eight years in the major leagues, Manship carries a 4.82 career ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 in multiple stints with the Twins, Rockies, Phillies and Indians.
The right-hander will be joined by fellow MLB transplants Eric Hacker and Xavier Scruggs, each of whom took one-year deals with the Dinos last month. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors notes that each KBO team is allowed up to three foreign players, so Manship will round out the trio when he joins the roster. Any salary terms have yet to be disclosed.
With the Braves on the cusp of formalizing their one-year deal with Kurt Suzuki, the market for free agent catcher Matt Wieters is dwindling. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick references an inside source that lists the Angels, Rockies and Reds as potential suitors for the 30-year-old’s services.
Wieters is coming off of an eight-year career with the Orioles. In 2016, he played through his first full year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and batted .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and a .711 OPS in 464 PA. A return to Baltimore in 2017 isn’t out of the question, Crasnick writes, citing some within the team that would be open to Wieters stepping into a DH role and catching platoon with Wellington Castillo. However, he also points out that the front office appears divided on the veteran catcher, and sees the Orioles as a long shot for the foreseeable future.
The Angels have already been tied to Wieters this offseason, while the Rockies and Reds don’t appear to have made any formal inquiries so far. Both could use a veteran presence behind the dish, as the Rockies are planning to platoon rookie catcher Tom Murphy with 24-year-old Tony Wolters in the spring. The Reds, meanwhile, are banking on a quick recovery for 28-year-old Devin Mesoraco, who missed most of the 2016 season after undergoing shoulder and hip surgery and forced the club to rely almost exclusively on back-up backstop Tucker Barnhart.