Ryan Braun, Adam Jones, Giancarlo Stanton and Shane Victorino. They are the four outfielders on the United States Team. Braun and Victorino are two of the other players that were on the team in 2009. I am guessing that Braun, Jones and Stanton are probably going to be the starting outfielders for this years United States team. Braun, Jones, and Stanton are all blessed with power and speed while Victorino has exceptional speed.
The corner outfielders, as they should, will be bringing most of the power from the outfield. Braun is going to be the left fielder, he is a former NL MVP and a 5 time Silver Slugger. He has won the NL batting title in 2009 and also was the NL home run leader in 2012. He is right handed with a .313 career batting average and has had 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the same year the last two years. Stanton is probably going to be the starting right fielder. He has hit 93 home runs in 3 years while obtaining a .270 batting average. He has exceptional power and is a 5 tool athlete that, at 23, has just started to show what he can do on the baseball diamond.
Jones is my guess to be the starting centerfielder. He is a better player at this point in his career than Victorino is. I really do wish that Torre had picked a different style of centerfielder who could hit in the lead off spot or second in the order. One player that comes to my mind is Michael Bourn. Bourn is a great lead off hitter who has arguably the best range out of every centerfielder in the league and can steal any base at any time. Another guy I thought could have made the team that made a huge splash last year in the league was Mike Trout. Trout is a 5 tool player that showed he deserves to be in the league. I would rather have Bourn at this point in their careers, especially for 8 or 9 games in a tournament. I think that Trout might have over achieved in his rookie campaign. I’m not saying that Trout will not put up numbers like he did last year but I think that it will be a few years down the road until he does it again. Bourn is also a left handed hitter that is lacking in this lineup.
Victorino is a lot like Jimmy Rollins, who will either hit 1, 2 or 9 when he is playing. I think he will be a backup for this team and a pinch runner. He was a backup for part of the season last year with the Dodgers and I think that being able to come off the bench will be a big asset to have on a team. Another reason I think that he will be the fourth outfielder is because he can play any of the outfield spots unlike the rest of the bunch.
Bloomquist and Zobrist from the infielders section will also be able to play in the OF too in case someone gets injured or if they have some match ups they like. Zobrist will likely play in RF when he is in the OF and Bloomquist is more of a Leftfielder and Centerfielder.
We will talk about starting pitchers for tomorrow’s blog. Also, if you have missed previous blogs about the US WBC Team make sure you stay updated on them.
The starting infielders for the United States team look good both at the plate and with the glove. Joe Torre has definitely put an emphasis on being able to play defense and not just hit the long ball that a lot of managers get caught up in. Mark Teixeira is the teams starting 1st basemen, Brandon Philips is going to be the teams starting 2nd basemen, Jimmy Rollins will start at Shortstop and David Wright will get the job at 3rd base.
Teixeira is arguably the best defensive 1st basemen to have ever play the game. Teixeira has won 5 gold gloves and has a 99.7 fielding percentage. Wright will be the teams starting 3rd basemen and is a two time Gold Glover, which is the least out of the starting infielders. He owns a 95.3 fielding percentage and is a valuable asset to the team because he is another guy who was on the team 4 years ago. Teixeira is a 3 time Silver Slugger and holds a .279 batting average while averaging about 33 home runs per year. Wright, a two time Silver Slugger, is a career .300 hitter and averages about 22 home runs .
Philips is a 3 time National League Gold Glove winner at 2nd base. He has a 98.8 fielding percentage and is known as one of the top defensive 2nd basemen in the league. Rollins is a 4 time Gold Glove winner with a career fielding percentage of 98.3. This is one of the initial questions that I had with the team. Rollins is an aging star that has been a .270 career hitter. He is a speed guy and a lead off hitter which is a plus on this team but my originl thought was why not have Troy Tulowitzki who hits .290 with 20+ home runs and can probably play better defense than Rollins at this point in their careers. The more I thought about it though, Rollins makes more sense. He was there during the last WBC and he is one of the few guys in the starting lineup that is either a 1,2 or 9 hitter. Philips is a player who is more of a power guy with the bat but can also steal 20 bases a year. He is a career .273 hitter and has won a Silver Slugger in 2011.
The backups on this team are Willie Bloomquist and Ben Zobrist who are both very valuable players because of their defensive skills and their versatility. Both guys have played every defensive position in their careers besides catcher. Zobrist, Teixeira, and Rollins are all switch hitters and the rest are right handed hitters. I love this veteran infield and their defensive capabilities, especially the 2 backups whose career batting averages are .260 (Zobrist) and .269 (Bloomquist). They have a lot of power hitters and only one .300 hitter which makes me a little nervous because I am a small ball activist. 3 of their starting infielders are middle of the order hitters but I wouldn’t mind seeing a power hitter who can run being the number two hitter, like Phillips. I really like the defensive aspect of their players and I am curious to see what the lineup is going to look like without a few more 1, 2 or 9 hitters. I do trust Joe Torre and I like most of the thought processes he is going through. Up next, the American Outfielders.
The 2013 baseball season is right around the corner. One thing that I have been waiting to happen for 4 years is the World Baseball Classic. The 2009 United States team finished in 4th place with Japan winning the Championship Game against South Korea. The teams rosters have came out and it is looking like the United States team should be a contender for the Gold Medal, as they should every year. Their lineup should be a tough one to put together with 8 position players who usually hit either 3rd, 4th or 5th. Manager Joe Torre is known as a players manager and I’m pretty sure these guys will fall into place no matter where they are batting. It still does make me wonder how some of them will react to batting in the bottom of the order; since they have been in the heart of it for most of their careers. I also do understand that of course they are going to get the best hitters at each position but it seems that all of their starters are the prototypical 3 or 4 hitters. Their roster does have a lot of great players on it but I am still questioning a few of the decisions that were made, most notably the pitching. Over the next few days I will be going over their catchers, infielders, outfielders, pitchers and a projected lineup of what I think they should do. Since I was a catcher when I played baseball I think it is quite fair to start with the players who are wearing the “Tools of Ignorance.”
The 2009 United States teams catchers are Joe Mauer, JP Arencibia and Johnathan Lucroy. Mauer is the only left handed hitting catcher on the team and I’m sure he will get the majority of the starts. He should because he is a 3 time American League Batting Champion, 3 time Gold Glove winning catcher and a former AL Most Valuable Player. I’m not sure who will get the next amount of starts, Lucroy and Arencibia are both pretty young in their Major Leagues careers and both have concerns about their defensive abilities. They do have a mixture of talent with their catchers. Arencibia is a power hitting catcher hitting 23 home runs last year with the Blue Jays. Mauer is consistently on top of the AL batting charts and has a career .323 batting average. Lucroy hit .320 last season with the Brewers over 96 games. Mauer and Lucroy each only average about 10 home runs a year over their careers.
Defensively, Mauer has thrown out 32% of runners trying to steal over his career but last year he only threw out 14%, which is very below average. His career high is 53% of runners thrown out in 2007, which is astounding. Arencibia and Lucroy have thrown out around 27% of runners in their short careers.
In 2009, the United States had Brian McCann and Chris Iannetta as their catchers. I do think that this years is a better group of players than in 2009. It would have been nice to have Mauer and McCann both on the team but McCann had surgery on his throwing arm in October and won’t be ready until the start of the MLB season. I do think that Mauer is the best catcher in the MLB. He is a very consistent hitter and a valuable asset on any team even with a lack of power. His defensive skills were not up to par last year but I think it was a fluke, especially with the inconsistency of the Twins starting pitchers. He is a very good game manager and a very aware veteran that will be a crucial leader on this years team. This is a solid start for the US team on their way to the Gold Medal.
Last night General Colin Powell came to speak at Central Michigan for Martin Luther King Jr Week. It was required for a class that I go and watch him give this speech. I was a little skeptical to go see him since I have not really been very keen on politics. I also was unsure about what he was going to talk about and how interesting it was going to be. It was still pretty exciting to go see the Former Secretary of State that came to small time Central Michigan. At 75 years old, the man was both hilarious and energetic. He spoke of being the retired former Secretary of State, “One day you are the No. 1 diplomat in the whole free world. The next day, you ain’t…. All the body guards drove away. No one is calling, nobody cares about you.” He went on about a discussion he had with his wife, of 51 years, about how he wasn’t going to be getting up at 5:30 anymore and he wasn’t going to work at 6:30. That he was going to be home from now on. “She froze, and said ‘doesn’t this idiot know how we’ve been together so long.'”
He also talked about more sentimental things, such as the diversity in the United States. He talked about his parents coming into the country from Jamaica 90 years ago. He talked about how after 9-11 we needed to tighten up our security in the airports but advised President Bush not to close off our borders; “we need to let immigrates in because after all that is who we are. If we close off our borders we let the terrorists win and we lose.” He gave us words of wisdom, about how our past is our past its not our present or our future. It doesn’t matter what we did in our past it only matters how hard we work right now and what were trying to accomplish right now. I was very impressed with General Powell after last night. I am hopeful that some of our politicians today as well as in the future take notes from him and try to be the leader that he is. He mentioned the tough times we’re going through and the tough times that we have already overcome. He ended the night with words that sum up our diversity and the power through that diversity. “The world may have changed, but we are still number one. We are still the land of hope and inspiration for all. We affect everyone around us. We are the nation of all nations. As long as we don’t forget and believe in that, we will still be number one.”
I’m trying something new and starting a blog… It will probably be mostly about sports and a few of the thoughts that I will have over the different sports seasons… I’m cannot wait until baseball starts because as most of the people that know me, that is the sport that I feel the most comfortable talking about. I am also really excited to be watching the Red Wings after there long and excruciating lockout. I’ll try to stay on topic but who knows where the road will lead, there might be a few stories and maybe a few life lessons that I’ve learned over the years. Hold on for the ride, lets see where this goes…