Author: Matthew Pouliot

Michael Roth

An Angels prospect got catfished


As the ace starter for back-to-back College World Series champion South Carolina, Michael Roth was a big name in the college baseball world before being drafted by the Angels last year. A big enough name to make him a catfishing victim, it turns out.

Roth told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times about his experience, which started with a text message from someone in the summer of 2010:

That started a stream of flattering texts and alluring phone calls from a woman Roth never had met, including the requisite visits that inevitably were canceled at the last minute.

Roth said he sensed something fishy within a few weeks. He played along for a year, in the process discovering that three of his college teammates also had been in touch with the same woman, who claimed her name was Hope Porter.

Roth apparently never figured out the real source behind the Porter identity, and he’s long since moved on. He also indicated that while he does feel some sympathy for Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, he feels Te’o was pretty gullible for letting it go so far.

The 23-year-old Roth was the Angels’ ninth-round pick in last year’s draft. While he was an excellent college pitcher, pro scouts didn’t think too highly of his stuff and he’s viewed as a long shot to reach the majors and stick.

And this is why Team USA won’t ever win a WBC

J.P. Arencibia

Of the 223 players with at least 350 plate appearances in 2012, J.P. Arencibia ranked 169th in wOBA. Among those players born in the United States, he’s not one of the top 100 hitters. Maybe he’s in the 100-150 range.

Yet there was Arencibia getting what may well have been the biggest at-bat for Joe Torre’s team in Friday’s game against Mexico. Team USA was down 5-1 with two on and none out in the bottom of the fifth. A right-hander was on the mound for Mexico. Arencibia is right-handed.

The U.S. is carrying three catchers. Joe Mauer was DHing, but there was little danger in batting for Arencibia and putting in Jonathan Lucroy afterwards. That would actually be an upgrade. Lucroy is a better player than Arencibia.

Of course, Buster Posey and Matt Wieters are also better players than Arencibia. They’re not here. A.J. Pierzynski, Alex Avila and John Jaso are better players than Arencibia. I’d probably argue for Chris Iannetta, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Ellis, too.

Which is why Team USA is never going to win the World Baseball Classic as its presently constructed. It’s not just that many of the country’s best players don’t want to play. It’s that those in charge do a lousy job of picking the players that do. And then it does an even worse job of employing the players who are picked.

Gio Gonzalez is Team USA’s second best pitcher. He’s not even going to be used in Round 1, since it’s such a given that the team is going to advance to Round 2 (except that’s hardly the case). Eric Hosmer, starting for the ailing Mark Teixeira, is the wrong fallback to the wrong choice to play first base in the first place. Don’t even get me started on Heath Bell.

Willie Bloomquist was on the provisional roster, for crying out loud.

And there was Arencibia. He’s not one of the United States’ five-best catchers. It’s arguable whether he’s in the top 10. Yet there he was starting against Pool D’s toughest opponent in Friday’s opener. Because he’s handled a couple R.A. Dickey bullpen sessions. And then he was left in to take a crucial at-bat in the fifth, even though Dickey had already been pulled.

As I’m writing this, Team USA is still in the game against Mexico. Maybe it will come back. Maybe it will still advance to Round 2.

But winning the tournament? That’s not happening. Team USA wasn’t designed with any thoughts of winning the World Baseball Classic. It’s just there to get taken down by a more interested team.

Italy does it again, drubs Canada 14-4 in eight innings

Mario Chiarini, Mike Costanzo

Pool D underdog Italy claimed its second win in two days Friday, spanking Canada 14-4 and closing in on a spot in Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic.

Mario Chiarini delivered a hit to the gap in the bottom of the eighth to invoke the mercy rule in the contest.

It was Italy’s second celebration in minutes. Mike Costanzo previously hit a shot to left that was initially ruled a game-ending homer, only to be corrected to a ground-rule double on replay.

First baseman Chris Colabello went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer to lead the Italian offense. Catcher Drew Butera, who had a two-run homer against Mexico on Thursday, drove in two more runs today. Nick Punto and Chris Denorfia both had two-hit games from the top of the order.

Canada failed to sustain its rallies in the game. Michael Saunders knocked in two runs, but he was the only player with a multihit game. Joey Votto, who barely pushed a homer foul in the first, went 0-for-2 with two walks. Justin Morneau was 1-for-2 with a walk.

Despite going 2-0, Italy still hasn’t clinched a spot in Round 2, though the blowout today will definitely help its case in any sort of tiebreaker. It will face Team USA in its Pool D finale. Team USA, which still hasn’t played its first game, gets Mexico tonight.

Gold Glove awards set to add ‘sabermetric component’

Rays Baseball

The much-maligned Rawlings Gold Glove awards have long been decided by the managers and coaches around the league, even though such people are left with little enough time to watch other teams when they have to deal with their own for 162 games per season.

That’s changing now, if only slightly. Rawlings announced that it’s adding a “sabermetric-based component” to the process:

As part of the multi-year collaboration beginning with the 2013 season, SABR will develop an expanded statistical resource guide that will accompany the Rawlings Gold Glove Award ballots sent to managers and coaches each year. In addition, SABR will immediately establish a new Fielding Research Committee tasked to develop a proprietary new defensive analytic called the SABR Defensive Index™, or SDI™. The SDI will serve as an “apples-to-apples” metric to help determine the best defensive players in baseball exclusively for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award and Rawlings Platinum Glove Award selection processes. The collaboration also installs SABR as the presenting sponsor of the Rawlings Platinum Glove Award. …

Beginning in 2013, the managers/coaches vote will constitute a majority of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners’ selection tally, with the new SDI comprising of the remainder of the overall total. The exact breakdown of the selection criteria will be announced once the SDI is created later this summer.

One imagines this new addition will ensure Derek Jeter fails to add a sixth Gold Glove to his current total. Ideally, it means that offense, always a huge factor in the actual voting, will begin to mean less. As is, it’s far too difficult for below average hitters to win Gold Gloves.

Give Rawlings some credit here. This is the second big, positive change in the last few years after the 2011 switch to break up the outfield spots (previously, it was typical for three center fielders to win Gold Gloves in each league). Not only will they add data to the voting, but they’ll give that same data to the managers and coaches, which could then be used to make better choices.

Jordan Lyles is probably losing his rotation spot

Jordan Lyles

Jordan Lyles threw a complete-game shutout against the Brewers in his final outing last season to finish 5-12 with a 5.09 ERA. Now, that doesn’t sound very impressive, but he was just 21 years old and that he was an Astro explains the win-loss record. He entered camp this year penciled in as Houston’s No. 3 starter behind Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris.

Unfortunately, Lyles’ position in the rotation is now very much in doubt. He gave up six runs in two-thirds of an inning in his start against the Braves on Friday, elevating his spring ERA to 25.20. In three outings, he’s given up 20 hits and 15 runs — 14 earned — over five innings.

The Astros do have rotation alternatives, so Lyles will probably be Triple-A bound barring a massive turnaround in his next two starts. Philip Humber and Erik Bedard were the favorites for the last two rotation spots entering camp, with Alex White and John Ely next in line. They also have Edgar Gonzalez and Dallas Kuechel available as fallback options.

Count on Houston looking at any out-of-options starters placed on waivers later this month. The Blue Jays’ Brett Cecil is an obvious possibility. There are also guys like the Dodgers’ Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, the Royals’ Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen and the Rays’ Jeff Niemann available in trade talks. Rick Porcello, too, but the Astros don’t have the closer the Tigers are looking for and probably wouldn’t want to give up prospects for him.