CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Cleveland Indians third baseman Giovanny Urshela has a career Wins Above Replacement of 0.0.
With just 85 big league games in his career, there is no expectation that a young, defensive-minded third baseman would have much to show with a cumulative statistic like WAR. That does not mean Urshela has never changed a game by himself.
In the 5th inning, the Indians had just tied the San Francisco Giants, 3-3, rallying after Giants starter Matt Moore lazily flipped a ball over the head of first baseman Jae-Gyun Hwang.
Gorkys Hernandez singled to start the inning off for the home team, immediately threatening to change a “brand new ballgame.” When Moore attempted to bunt Hernandez into scoring position with no outs, Urshela wound up about 30 feet from the batter’s box as Moore fouled off the first attempt.
When Moore laid the bunt down, Urshela cut off Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin, picked and fired to Francisco Lindor at second, who wheeled to Jose Ramirez covering first for a double play. The third baseman reportedly told his good friend that he was throwing to him regardless.
Manager Terry Francona called the play “a game-changer,” and with the team’s recent struggles, the second-worst team in baseball nullifying the few breaks the Indians have received in recent memory just an inning later could have been a lot worse. Instead, the Indians tacked on and won, 5-3.
For Tomlin, the play greased the wheels of what was an efficient, effective start for the righty.
“It changed the game either way,” he said. “That play got me out of a jam in a hurry, it allowed me to kind of relax a little bit and get back to work. If that play’s not made, or if I’m making that play, I’m probably going to first and there’s still a man on second. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Tomlin did have that chance, but revered the opportunity to pass on making a play.
“It didn’t surprise me. I was estatic about it. He’s a really good defender at third base, there’s no doubt about it,” Tomlin said. “To throw it like he threw it, off balance, to hit (Frankie) was unbelievable.”
It should not be surprising at all that Urshela was able to make the play. He is known mainly for his defense, and the Urshela-Lindor-Ramirez infield combination presents the Indians with the team’s best defensive look.
Urshela’s Ultimate Zone Rating is 4.3 in 710 innings in his career, and though the metric needs a large sample size to really draw conclusions, the 25-year old is already four runs better than the average third baseman.
With only four games at third this season, Urshela accrued 4.1 UZR in 81 games in 2015, just below an “above average” rating for a cumulative statistic. Urshela hasn’t met the three-year mark suggested to make true readings on a player’s defensive prowess, but his UZR/150 sits at 8.5, placing him 32nd among third baseman who have played 700 innings at the position in the Statcast Era.