A World Baseball Classic Roundup, Astros Style
By Cody Poage
Following three previous unsuccessful attempts, Team USA finally came out on top in this year’s iteration of the World Baseball Classic by besting Puerto Rico 8-0. And the Astros had their fingerprints all over this tournament.
Simply put, the Astros were well represented in the most recent World Baseball Classic. Some even played a vital role in this year’s tournament. See the case of Luke Gregerson as Team USA’s primary closer and pitching effectively in the role. Carlos Correa‘s monster home run from earlier this week was another stellar moment.
There was also the lack of playing time for Alex Bregman. Or Jose Altuve being moved to third base for a game with Texas Rangers’ Rougned Odor manning second. Right or wrong, there were plenty of unhappy Astros fans disappointed over that development.
Anyway, it was quite a series to watch. While the final between the USA and Puerto Rico didn’t produce much in terms of drama, the preceding games leading up were simply fun to watch. It made me remember how much fun baseball is when we are stuck in the doldrums of Spring Training.
So, how did the Astros do as a group in this year’s tournament?
Overall, the Astros representatives in the Classic did fairly well. You just have to remember that the statistics don’t provide a true representation of their talent. After all, Spring Training coincides with the tournament, which is when most players become game ready for the upcoming season. The sample sizes are just too small to make much of a determination one way or another. Of course, you probably already know that much.
Case in point with Jose Altuve, who posted only a .545 OPS in 27 at-bats. His at-bat total though did lead the Venezuelan national team. I am probably reading too much into this, but his playing time did illustrate how well others view him in the sport. And while it was strange to see him play third base earlier in the tournament, this development did demonstrate that Venezuela’s decision makers wanted him in the lineup consistently.
Altuve’s right-hand man, Carlos Correa, had a terrific Classic as he put up an 1.250 OPS in 24 at-bats. He also hit a team-leading three home runs for Puerto Rico. And the Astros familiar newcomer, Carlos Beltran, finished his World Baseball Classic with a .997 OPS in 23 at-bats. Not too shabby if I may say so.
The lone Canadian representative, Kevin Chapman, wasn’t an Astros representative for long. As you may recall, Chapman was placed on waivers and surprisingly claimed by the Atlanta Braves. The left-hander only appeared in two games and allowed two earned runs in two innings of work for Canada.
Like Team Canada, Team Japan only had one Astros representative: outfielder Nori Aoki. And the veteran did not have a great showing in the tournament as he posted a .697 OPS in just 22 at-bats. Like I said earlier though, these small sample sizes don’t factor much, if at all, into the grand scheme for the upcoming season.
Team Colombia only had one Astros representative as well in right-hander Dayan Diaz. The 28-year old had a good showing in the Classic as he picked up a save while not allowing a single run in two innings of work. He was the lone Astros representative that was a non-roster invitee.
Lastly, the Astros had two representative from the tournament winners, Team USA.
One was reliever Luke Gregerson, who functioned as the team’s closer the past few weeks. The other was promising young third baseman, or shortstop if you want, Alex Bregman. In fact, Bregman’s playing time was a sensitive topic for Astros fans as manger Jim Leyland kept the former LSU Tiger on the pine for much of the time. Literally, Bregman had just four at-bats. At least he picked up two hits though.
Gregerson had a much more notable Classic as he earned three saves and pitched four scoreless innings. Let’s not forget that he closed over former Astros in Mark Melancon and Pat Neshek. I hope this positive showing translates well for Gregerson’s 2017 season.
Next: Astros Spring Notes: The Band is Coming Together Again
Overall, the Astros representatives had a decent showing for the Classic. While some did not play as well, or much, compared to their teammates, the fact that no known injuries came about is definitely a positive. And this tournament probably helped these guys ramp up for a promising season.
**Statistics courtesy of WorldBaseballClassic.com**