Nationals Arm Race

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WBC First Round Review

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I have to admit: I’m much more interested in the World Baseball Classic this year than in the first two iterations.  I don’t know why; perhaps its because I’ve become much more interested in prospects over the past few years, and the WBC rosters for the lesser teams are filled with minor league prospects.  I’m definitely watching the games though and have been really enjoying the competitions.  Here’s a quick review of the first rounds in all the pools (note that in the Far East the 2nd round is well underway; we’ll talk about that in a subsequent post).

These Pools are listed in their order of finish.  Here’s a Fangraphs.com summary of the two Far East pool first rounds.  And here’s the overall bracket for the tournament.

Pool A: Cuba, Japan, China, Brazil.

No real surprises here: the Brazilian team was expected to finish dead last while international powerhouse Cuba and two-time defending champion Japan advanced relatively easily.   Cuba continues its stellar international record with a head-to-head win against Japan to win the group (and as discussed here previously, could be a juggernaut if the defected Cubans could participate as well).  The bigger surprise here was China beating out Brazil for the automatic spot in the 2017 classic.

Pool B: Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, South Korea, Australia

A rather big upset here: South Korea finished 3rd and 2nd in the first two WBC tournaments, but fell behind the Netherlands on Run Differential after all three teams finished pool play 2-1.  Some have complained about the seedings; clearly by the results of the first two WBC events putting South Korea, Cuba and Japan in the same bracket seems unfair.  The Netherlands is filled with players from baseball-playing Dutch colonies such as the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao and Aruba, though it also has a number of players from the Dutch professional league Honkbal Hoofdklasse; either way it was not expected to advance against a traditionally strong Korean team playing so close to home.  Former Nat Chien-Ming Wang pitched well for Taiwan, bolstering his attempts to make a comeback after several disappointing seasons with Washington.  Our own Roger Bernadina started and played well for the Netherlands as they played their way into the 2nd round.

Pool C: Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Spain

There was no surprise who came in dead last (Spain), but I for one was shocked that a stacked Venezuelan lineup couldn’t come out on top of the Puerto Rican team.  Meanwhile the starting lineup for the D.R. looked closer to a MLB all-star lineup, and their dominance showed.  They’ve under-achieved in every tournament thus far and I look for the D.R. to go far in this tournament.  It was nice to see former Nats farm hand and prospect-watching favorite Christopher Manno pitching for Spain, even if he didn’t fare that well.

Pool D: USA, Italy, Canada, Mexico

For a while on Sunday, it looked like the USA was closer to finishing dead last (and having to qualify for the next tournament) than winning it, but that’s the surprises involved in pool play.  After getting completely out-played by Mexico in the opener, the USA squeaked by Italy on the strength of 4 scoreless, nearly flawless innings from Ross Detwiler before turning it on late to beat Canada.  Meanwhile, the “Italian” team (I put that in quotes since i’d challenge someone to find more than a handful of the Italian team that actually speaks the language) surprises everyone by finishing second.  Meanwhile, Mexico finishes dead last behind a surprisingly good Canadian team (whose 3-4-5 hitters batted something like .450 for the tournament) and faces qualification for the next tournament.  An interesting pool all around, which could have looked very differently with just a few runs here or there.

Brackets for the Semi final rounds (some of which have already started as of the time of this writing):

2nd Round Pool 1: Netherlands v Cuba, Japan v Chinese Taipei

2nd Round Pool 2: Italy v Dominican Republic, USA v Puerto Rico

Pool 1′s favorites have to be Japan and Cuba, while Pool 2′s favorites have to be USA and the Dominican Republic.  But, the Netherlands and Italy have played far above their supposed skill level thus far and we could be in for more shocks.

Written by Todd Boss

March 11th, 2013 at 9:26 am

5 Responses to 'WBC First Round Review'

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  1. I have to admit I was rooting for Team Canada to hold on and win that one just so Ross and Gio could get back to camp with a minimum of wear and tear.

    It looks to me like Japan is gunning for its 3rd straight win. It’s a reminder of just how deep the talent pool is in the Japanese leagues these days. A true WBC championship matchup would be the best of the Japanese leagues and players versus the best of the USA with the games being treated like the true World Series rather than just glorified exhibition games. THAT would be something truly worth watching.

    bdrube

    11 Mar 13 at 10:31 am

  2. Listened to a great podcast from Joe Sheehan, who advocates moving the WBC to the summer to get MLB players in full-tilt. If you expanded the all-star game to a week instead of 4 days you could likely play the semis and final rounds of an 8-team tournament.

    For anyone who doubts this event’s popularity in Japan, Ken Rosenthal tweeted this stat: the Japan baseball games have been getting a better TV rating in Japan than the last Olympics. Imagine that.

    The US team’s lack of depth is pretty disappointing frankly. The best catcher we could come up with is JP Arenceba and/or Matt LeCroy? Our starters are Dickey/Harrison/Vogelsong? Imagine if our starters were Verlander/Kershaw/Strasburg? Good Morning, Good Afternoon and Good Night. Honestly, I think this event is growing in importance and stature, and players are starting to take notice. It will be a long evolution but eventually this event will be taken 100% seriously by americans. It already is for nearly every other country.

    Todd Boss

    11 Mar 13 at 10:42 am

  3. Argh – this is why I dislike the whole WBC. There are no specifics given and I’ve yet to read any other stories about the injury, but this is troubling. Hope Shark is okay:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/netherlands-beats-cuba-7-6-150549028–mlb.html

    “The Dutch overcame the loss of three starting players, including slugger Wladimir Balentien and outfielder Roger Bernadina.”

    bdrube

    11 Mar 13 at 3:39 pm

  4. He got hit on the wrist by a pitch, left the previous game, they say he’s ok but sitting on this game as a precaution. I’m guessing bad bruise. My information culled from the mlb channel news scroll last night.

    Todd Boss

    11 Mar 13 at 3:58 pm

  5. Good stuff, Todd. Thanks.

    Mark L

    12 Mar 13 at 7:53 am

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