Why is Asdrubal Cabrera batting cleanup for the Indians?

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Asdrubal Cabrera is hitting .243 with eight homers and a .397 slugging percentage in 90 games this season after slugging .423 in 143 games last season, but he’s been the Indians’ cleanup hitter since Nick Swisher was demoted from that role three weeks ago.

Since moving into the cleanup spot Cabrera is 15-for-66 (.227) with one homer and a .364 slugging percentage in 16 games. So why does he continue to bat fourth? Here’s how manager Terry Francona explained it to Dennis Manoloff of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Cabby’s got a pretty good track record. He’s going to get hot. And if you move Cabby too soon–say, down to sixth or seventh–you won’t get the most out of it. So I want to keep him where he is. To be bluntly honest, if he doesn’t get hot, we might not be good enough. I’m not trying to put all that on him, but the reality is, we need Cabby.

Cabby hasn’t swung the bat as well as he’d like, but he handles it. Putting a younger player there, you could mess some things up. And some of the other guys are doing pretty well right where they are.

Cabrera’s “pretty good track record” now includes a .413 career slugging percentage. As for the other stuff about how “he handles it” despite not hitting well and how “you could mess things up” by putting a young hitter there … that’s some textbook manager-speak.

In general batting order gets way more attention (and criticism) than it should, but with the Indians fighting the Tigers (and now the Royals) in the AL Central a game or two could make or break their season and it’s tough to see how putting Cabrera in position to get the most RBI chances is helping.

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.