U23 Euros Review: Flashing Leather and Swiping Bags

While the German squad finished a disappointing fifth despite only losing a single game, their comeback win against France in pool play and patient approach against Great Britain’s Nolan Bond demonstrate how well-prepared the team was for the tournament. From its .475 on-base percentage and the superb pitching of Sascha Koch and the German bullpen, Germany had a clear strategy for every game. This was nowhere more apparent than its defence, which committed only two errors and seemed to be perfectly positioned on every play. The same was also true, though, for its baserunning, in which eight of their 11 steals directly led to runs being scored.

Fielding Notes
The strength of execution by the squad from Germany is obvious in the numbers. The club had an incredible .990 fielding percentage, though it turned only three double plays. Shortstop Philip Schulz was exceptional, flawlessly handling 18 chances, including 15 assists, for a range factor of 3.52. He took part in two twin killings.

Marcel Jiménez handled an incredible 14 flyouts in right field, including a remarkable seven putouts against France in the fifth-place game, adding an assist for eight chances. All were handled perfectly, as Jiménez, who showed off excellent plate discipline with 10 walks in six games (second at the Euros), recorded a 2.93 range factor, an unheard number for a corner outfielder. Elias von Garssen (40 chances) and Oliver Thieben (39) were both flawless defenders.

The tournament was fairly well defended for one featuring junior national teams, with an average of just over two errors per term each game and a fielding percentage of .938. That number jumps to a very solid .946 without the neophyte Georgian squad. Several teams turned in incredibly defensive performances, like Spain, which totalled 19 assists against Belgium (who had 14 of its own), while Belgium turned four double plays in a 10-5 semifinal loss to the Netherlands. The Netherlands (.977), the Czech Republic (.973), Spain (.971), and Great Britain (.964) also put in great work in the field.

Kostiantyn Chukhas led a surprising Ukraine team at the bat with .440 average, but the shortstop was no slouch in the field, showing off a focussed approach against Slovakia with 10 assists and a putout. Amazingly, his range factor at the Euros was 6.53 at shortstop, meaning he safely handled almost 40 percent more balls than would be expected at his position.

Teammate Yevhen Zhantalai also showed noteworthy defensive prowess. Zhantalai threw out a sensational six runners from right field, contributing to an outrageous 5.22 range factor, two and half times a normal amount. While Kostiantyn Boiko did make two errors at first base, he handled, by far, the most balls in the tournament, for a resulting 11.82 range factor.

Zhantalai was the rare outfielder with numbers that jumped off the page, but there were a number of players up-the-middle who turned in excellent performances. In particular, middle infielders were hit far more balls than one might expect, but still made the plays, a statistic known as range factor. The 2016 MLB leader at shortstop, Marcus Semien, was at 4.48, while Rougned Odor led third baseman at 4.87.

Great Britain’s Richard Brereton was the leader among infielders at 6.69 while playing shortstop, recording an excellent .968 fielding percentage. Playing to his right was Jonathan Fretheim, who compiled a 1.000 fielding success rate. GB’s Miguel Rodríguez pulled his best Jiménez impression, tossing out two Polish runners in a game that Britain would have otherwise lost.

Two shortstops had flawless records, though each made far fewer plays than Brereton’s 31. Belarus’ Branislau Tatarevich was stellar in his efforts at short and the mound, compiling six putouts and 17 assists, while Belgium’s Robin Roevens, one of the most impressive pitchers in the tournament, handled 16 chances at short without an error. He was involved in three double plays.

The star fielder at second base was from a team that struggled defensively otherwise, but Domas Kamandulis was electric for Lithuania. Not only did the second sacker accrue a sensational 6.26 range factor, but he handled all 29 chances without making an error. In two of his games, Kamandulis recorded five putouts, an incredible number for a second baseman, while against Georgia, the recently turned 17-year old collected four putouts and four assists.

Both of the nations in the championship game featured rangy second basemen. The Netherlands’ Delano Selassa was second best at his position in both range factor (6.12) and fielding percentage (.971). Meanwhile, the Czech Republic’s Voytech Mensik, who had a key hit in the game, had similar numbers at 5.87 and .968.

Russia had an unexpectedly good week in the field. It handled over 95 percent of its fielding chances successful (tied for sixth with Belgium), but also turned five double plays, and was one of only two teams in the bottom half of the standings to control the running game thanks to three different catchers’ excellent work behind the plate.

Running the Bases
Russian and Belgian catchers were impressive, throwing out 6-of-11 thieves apiece, while Croatia’s Andrija Tomic had an even better success rate at 7-of-12 caught. Spain’s José Aleman and Iván Alba caught an incredible 7-of-11 runners who took off, while Czech catchers, led by Mychal Vykoukal, also preventing stolen bases, gunning down four of the meagre six attempts against them. Vykoukal handled 44 chances flawlessly, while throwing out 2-of-4.

Teams also dared not run on nations like Great Britain (3-of-3) or the Netherlands (5-5). Great Britain featured Elon University’s Hayden Platt, who has been tabbed to an All-Conference team two-of-three years at university. Not only was Platt one of the best hitters in the tournament, which we noted in our review, but only one runner attempted to steal with him behind the dish, far fewer than any other regular catcher. Platt was a master behind the dish, impeccably turning 33 chances into outs.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands had Rodney Daal, against whom only three baserunners tried to advance. Like Platt, the Orange receiver was perfect in his fielding, recording 39 chances without an error. Belgium and Austria both relied on a pair of catchers, and the tandems worked well. Belgium had Benjamin Goffaux and Axel Poesmans as a stellar combination, with the former also appearing at second and left without error, and Poesmans nabbing 5-of-10 thieves.

The Austrian side had Samuel Häckl and Michael Jäger working with pitchers, and neither made an error, though they were not the swipe-preventing force of other teams. Each player also donned a third base glove, while Jäger saw time at shortstop and pitcher.

Many tournaments with younger players and inexperienced teams feature a significant number of stolen bases, but as it will now be obvious, this was not a major part of teams’ strategies. Clubs combined for just over four attempts per game, succeeding on a little more than three of those, with the overall success rate at 75 percent. The attempts were spread mostly evenly throughout the teams, Russia (17) taking the most bags and Georgia (1) the fewest, but the only team to take off without being caught was Great Britain, which was 10-for-10.

Teams ran with frequency against Slovakia and were successful on 22-of-28 swipes, while Lithuania (19-of-20) and Georgia (20-of-22) faced regular runners moving into scoring position. Croatia pilfered eight from Belarus, while the latter’s Artsiom Rudzinski swiped four off Georgia. Dominic Golubiewski, who made our list of top hitters in the tournament, took four from Slovakia. Neither players’ feats were as dramatic, though as Pascal Amon’s steal of home for Germany against Slovakia. With those exceptions, though, stolen bases were mostly tactical.

After an in-depth look at fielding and running statistics, we continue our look at Europe’s Under-23 squads tomorrow with a final glance at the team ledgers, before wrapping up coverage with a look at the professionals and prospects who took part in the Euros.

Other editions of the U23 Euros review include:
Upsets and Standings (link)
The Best Games of the Tournament (link)
Outstanding Hitting Performances (link)
The Top Pitching Performances (link)
A Glance at Team Statistics (Monday)
Pros and Prospects (Tuesday)

About Gabriel Fidler

Extra Innings UK covers baseball around the world, focussing on the sport at the national team level, with features on prominent players, scouting reports, and occasional breaking news. We are fully credentialled by MLB and have covered the World Baseball Classic, continental championships, and the U.S. minor leagues.
This entry was posted in Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Europe, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Tournaments, U23 European Championship, Ukraine and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.