Matthew Pouliot

Nelson Cruz, Salomon Manriquez

Dominican Republic beats Spain 6-3, moves to 2-0

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Robinson Cano went 3-for-5 and Carlos Santana homered as the Dominican Republic took another step towards advancing in the WBC on Saturday, beating Spain 6-3.

The Dominican team scored five times in the second and third innings off Yoanner Negrin, with Nelson Cruz driving in two of the runs. The Spanish bullpen did solid work afterwards, but the offense struggled until mounting a rally in the ninth.

Spain got its first run of the tournament in the seventh when Engel Beltre tried to bunt for a hit with a man on second. Cano was late getting to it and tried to scoop with his glove and flip the ball in one motion, only to whiff on it entirely. The ball rolled into right field, allowing Salomon Manriquez to score and Beltre to reach second.

The game got more interesting in the ninth, as likely Astros closer Jose Veras failed to shut the door. After Spain scored a run, the Dominicans brought in Fernando Rodney, who walked in a run to make it 6-3. Rodney finally struck out Rafael Alvarez to end it.

Samuel Deduno struck out five in four scoreless innings after drawing the start for the D.R.

The Dominican Republic is now 2-0 in pool play and would clinch a spot in Round 2 if Puerto Rico beats Venezuela later tonight. They should also hold the edge in any tiebreakers if they happen to finish tied with Puerto Rico and Venezuela at 2-1. They’ll next play Puerto Rico on Sunday. Spain is 0-2  headed into its finale against Venezuela.

An Angels prospect got catfished

Michael Roth
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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
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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
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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
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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.