Noah Syndergaard doesn’t think much of the World Baseball Classic

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Noah Syndergaard, like a lot of baseball’s biggest American stars, is not playing in the World Baseball Classic. Today he offered a lot of honesty about why, exactly, he’s not doing it. This transcript from an interview this afternoon comes via Marc Carig:

Reporter: You have some teammates going to the WBC pretty soon. Does any part of you wish you could be there as well?

Syndergaard: Nope. Not one bit.

Reporter: Why not?

Syndergaard: Because I’m a Met. And ain’t nobody made it to the Hall of Fame or win the World Series playing in the WBC.

He’s not going to thrill anyone at the league office with that exchange, but it is honest.

Even if you think the World Baseball Classic is great — and I know a lot of people who truly enjoy it — the only real incentive for playing in the WBC is national pride and, perhaps, the ability to experience something different than the usual stuff one experiences in baseball.

While that impulse may vary from player to player, it’s worth noting that for most American players, baseball has never been strongly associated with international competition. Certainly not to the level which it is felt by players from countries which have a greater tradition of international tournaments. And by players familiar with the concept of having to leave one’s country to play the game at its highest level. When one does that, home probably matters more and one’s pride in one’s home country’s baseball tradition may be more important. That concept is utterly foreign to most U.S. players. When you grow up and play only in the United States you’re just not thinking about baseball in international terms. You’re pretty much only thinking about the World Series and your major league team.

I figure that has always been the case and will always be the case to some degree. The only thing that could have challenged it was if there had been some feeling of humiliation at losing the first WBC. Well, we’ve had three of them so far and the U.S. hasn’t won any of them, so there will never be some Dream Team push to assemble our country’s best players like we saw in basketball once upon a time.

The game went on with the U.S. not putting forth its best effort in the WBC and thus it always will. Syndergaard’s comments may not be the most diplomatic in this regard, but I suspect he is not alone in feeling that way.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.