Nationals Arm Race

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2017 WBC Preview and Round 1 Predictions




Lets preview the latest (and possibly final) iteration of the World Baseball Classic (WBC).  Its set to run March 6th-March 22nd.  Official site here, wikipedia site here with schedules, and another wiki site here with rosters.

First, some editorialization.  I have a love/hate relationship with this event.

  • I love the attempt to create a global tournament for Baseball.  It can only help promote the game.
  • I love the nationalism displayed by *some* of the teams.  The pride that players from the D.R. and other latin countries display, as well as the Far East teams, is fantastic.
  • I love the concept; to emulate a World Cup, to have an event where the best of the best play and compete.

However, I have some things about the WBC that I don’t like;

  • I hate how USA players in particular don’t rate the tournament; why aren’t the best players for the US playing?  I’m talking about you Bryce Harper and Mike Trout as a start.
  • I hate the timing; why is this event in the middle of Spring Training?  Why wouldn’t you put it at the END of the season as FIFA does with the World Cup?
  • As a side effect of the timing … I therefore hate how most pros treat this as another Spring Training game, coming out after a few innings or only pitching a couple of innings.  It detracts from the competition.
  • I rather dislike the “manufactured” teams; why create a fake team for Italy based mostly on players with Italian sounding names?  Same for Israel and to an extent the Netherlands just collecting Caribbean players of Dutch origin.
  • I think the decision by the Cuban government to prevent defectors from representing their team kind of defeats the purpose of the event and prevents the creation of what could have been a very talented team.

(Related to the Cuba rant; I’m working on a separate post that i’ve done in the past postulating on just what a combined Cuban team might look like).

Here’s a look at the pools and offer some predictions.

Round 1: Held at four sites between March 6th and March 12th: four 4-team mini tournaments with the top 2 from each group advancing.

  • Pool A: hosted in Seoul, South Korea.  Teams: South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, Israel.

Thoughts: The South Korean team is mostly KBO League players, but its an under-rated squad and will draw energy by playing at home.  The Netherlands squad has a ton of really good players, mostly from Curacao.  The Israeli team is also filled with MLB players, but they’re mostly role players.  The Chinese Taipei team is the most intriguing, being mostly Taiwan based and possibly suffering from some internal political conflict issues.  Still, its hard to see the Netherlands team being beat.

Predictions for Advancers: South Korea, Netherlands

  • Pool B: hosted in Tokyo, Japan.  Teams: Japan, Cuba, China, Australia

Thoughts: There’s little chance the Japanese team doesn’t advance, as the other three teams all have issues.  The Australian team draws mostly from its internal weaker league, nobody knows anything about the China league, and the Cuban league (as noted above) has been significantly weakened through hundreds of defections over the last few years.  Plus Cuba has had to travel thousands of miles to compete against 3 teams playing in their same time zone.  Still, Cuban baseball is Cuban Baseball, and I think they’ll find a way to advance.

Predictions for Advancers: Japan, Cuba

  • Pool C: hosted in Miami, FL.  Teams: USA, Dominican Republic, Canada, Columbia

Thoughts: Its easy to just say USA and DR here; clearly the two best teams on paper.  But as noted above the USA isn’t exactly sending a roster of its best available players, and thus an upstart team of talented players like Columbia could easily pull off an upset.  The Columbian rotation looks like it could be better than the USA’s (led by Julio Teheran and Jose Quintana) and a hot pitcher can take a team far.  Canada looks like a stronger version of Australia; some MLB players but a lot of role players and thinner pitching.  The DR sends a strong team as always and is my prediction to win and repeat.

Predictions for Advancers: USA, DR.

  • Pool D: hosted in Guadalajara, Mexico  Teams: Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Italy

Thoughts: I can’t see the talented and nationalistic Mexican team falling here; they’re going to be a tough out for anyone who plays them.  The Italian team will again be a collection of MLB scrubs whose names end in a vowel.  So the second spot goes to the winner of a Venezuela-PR battle; both teams look strong but Venezuela seems to have better depth.

Predictions for Advancers: Mexico, Venezuela



We’ll post again once the first rounds are done to revisit these predictions, because the 2nd rounds could feature groups where any of the 4 teams could advance.  In fact the 2nd round match-ups look very tough.



Written by Todd Boss

March 6th, 2017 at 9:26 am

13 Responses to '2017 WBC Preview and Round 1 Predictions'

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  1. Priorities 1-162 for WBC: Tanner and Murph staying healthy. Beyond that, I must confess that my interest is minimal. I’m curious about current and former Nats playing, but that’s about it.

    I checked the Israel roster, looking for Rhett Wiseman, who played for them in the qualifying tourney. He’s not on the WBC roster, but minor-leaguers R. C. Orlan and Nick Rickles are. (Yes, the pickings must be slim for Jewish catchers!) Former Nats Nate Freiman and Jason Marquis are also on the roster; Marquis started today.


    6 Mar 17 at 9:47 am

  2. Israel is one example where heritage stocking of the roster has been good for baseball and its expansion. Israeli athletics has come a long way from being decimated by the 1972 palestinian massacre at Munich.

    Successes in the seeding of Israeli basketball by American expatriat Tal Brody have eventually led to NBA exports in recent years. It takes decades of seeding to get to a quality level to be a feeder program. But seeding is a great objective for MLB. Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots has taken on the responsibility of seeding American football in Israel. With the WBC, interest in Israel has been higher than ever previously generated by any number of Jewish stars.

    Of course, we are not yet at a place where the rosters of the culturally aligned reflect the best available, just as the USA roster has but a selection of great players rather than an all-star team. Likely the best Jewish player in baseball in 2017 will be Alex Bregman.


    6 Mar 17 at 12:04 pm

  3. Yeah, I had seen some comments that Bregman and Kipnis had backed out of the WRC for Israel, two big losses from any lineup.


    6 Mar 17 at 12:09 pm

  4. The story of Tal Brody is awe inspiring and demonstrates how one star can singlehandledly impact a revolution of sport in a country seeking more for itself.

    We obviously see things from an American perspective, but other countries and national spirit can ignite the spark in children in healthy and enduring ways. Why can’t any country be the Dominican Republic? As far as I’m concerned, it’s great foreign policy, not just great baseball policy.


    6 Mar 17 at 12:22 pm

  5. I’m with you, KW, in that all I really care about is Roark and Murphy not getting hurt. If the USA gets eliminated in 1st round and they receive minimal wear and tear I’ll consider that a victory.

    Let’s face it, there is no good way to set up the WBC with MLB players. Even if it happens at the end of the season, it would be extremely taxing to add competitive and meaningful innings to the arms of already tired pitchers at a time when even baseball neanderthals are grudgingly beginning to accept the fact that season workloads above a certain point place pitchers at much greater risk of a potentially career ending injury.

    Karl Kolchak

    6 Mar 17 at 12:31 pm

  6. Actually, I see that Bregman is on the U.S. roster.


    6 Mar 17 at 12:41 pm

  7. I enjoy the WBC as an attempt to grow the sport. Like you, Todd, I’d prefer to see it running parallel to the AFL in the Fall. Heck, then the teams would actually have some time to practice together before they play. I have to wonder whether they are avoiding competing with the NFL for US fans’ attention in the Fall is a factor.

    to an extent the Netherlands just collecting Caribbean players of Dutch origin.

    To be fair, the Netherlands’ Caribbean players (from Curacao and Aruba) ARE Dutch in terms of their citizenship. It’s hard to see that as gaming the system the way that Italy and Israel do.

    John C.

    6 Mar 17 at 12:41 pm

  8. John, FWIW, they did play the WBC qualifying rounds in the late fall. Hockey plays its world championships pretty much at the same time as the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Players join their national teams as their club teams are eliminated. I would much rather see baseball do something similar then pull guys out of spring training.

    It’s likely a bigger deal for the marginal guys than it is for the stars (unless the stars get injured). Enny Romero is battling for a roster spot with the Nats, who have only had a couple of weeks to look at him in camp. Now he’s off with the DR.


    6 Mar 17 at 1:00 pm

  9. Netherlands/Caribbean issue: the US and Puerto Rico field separate teams. I think in reality “The Netherlands” in Europe should be fielding a different team than Curacao. Or maybe not if Curacao athletes compete for the Netherlands in all other teams. I don’t know the answer there. Nonetheless, so far the Netherlands and Israel look like the class of their group; that’s awesome. Can’t believe Korea failed so badly so quickly.

    Todd Boss

    7 Mar 17 at 9:50 am

  10. Might explain a lot about why the Korean players haven’t exactly set MLB on fire . . .


    7 Mar 17 at 10:06 am

  11. OK, so where are we? We’re about 40% through ST, I guess. I’m itching for meaningful things to happen, but they tend to happen slowly in the Florida sunshine.

    Max tried out his three-finger heater this morning. That’s happening. I guess his health is the biggest issue of the spring. Murphy seems healthy, which is great news. Bryce doesn’t seem to be bailing at the plate anymore, which is significant. Zim has barely batted, which is concerning. I think a lot of us had hoped to would be seeking some extra game reps to work through things.

    Difo has gotten a look in CF, and Brandon Joseph has gotten some OF time as well, I guess to see if they could be super-utility alternatives to just keeping an extra OF. That doesn’t make much sense as the roster is currently constructed, though. Well, it does make a little sense, but I can’t see them keeping Difo over Taylor/Goodwin. Taylor has started hot; Goodwin hasn’t. Neither has CRob. If they can’t get any trade interest in Clint, I wonder whether they’ll release him sooner rather than later to give him a better chance of hooking on elsewhere.

    Ditto for Norris. The scuttlebutt is that they’re going to release him to save salary if they can’t trade him. I would much prefer him as the backup over Loby, as neither Loby nor Weiters hit LHP particularly well, but I also understand the financial end. I might even keep Severino as the backup over Lobaton, though.

    I’m not sure how they’re planning to settle the closer issue. Kelley got hit a bit over the weekend. So did Solis. Glover has 4 Ks in 2 IP so hopefully is healthy. As for the other final bullpen spot(s), as I noted above, Romero is off to the WBC, so the Nats won’t be getting much of a look at him.

    And then there’s A. J. Cole, who has gotten rocked in both appearances. Poor guy. He has no trade value now, so presumably he’s in for another year in Syracuse. He may also be sinking lower in the pecking order of who the Nats might bring up to be starter #6 or 7.

    Also, Nick Lee has some sort of elbow fracture so presumably will be out for an extended period, if not all season. With Bryan Harper also on the shelf, Grace’s hold on a 40-man spot just got a little firmer.

    And Danny is batting .091, but it’s no longer our problem. I do wish him well, though. Really.


    7 Mar 17 at 12:49 pm

  12. Err, Brandon Snyder, not Joseph. Gotta get the locals right! There’s a good article about him on the Post site.


    7 Mar 17 at 12:56 pm

  13. […] major surprises in round 1 of the World Baseball Classic (WBC).  Lets quickly review what happened and then make some educated […]

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