Some major surprises in round 1 of the World Baseball Classic (WBC). Lets quickly review what happened and then make some educated guesses about Round 2.
Here were my predictions for the four groups in Round 1:
- Predictions for Advancers from Pool A: South Korea, Netherlands
- Predictions for Advancers from Pool B: Japan, Cuba
- Predictions for Advancers from Pool C: USA, DR.
- Predictions for Advancers from Pool D: Mexico, Venezuela
Round 2 starts before round 1 ends, so this post will be slightly delayed waiting for the final Pool C/D results, but my predictions for Round 2 will have already been written.
- Pool A: Israel and Netherlands. In a huge shock, hosts South Korea were surprised by Israel to open the tourney, then were blanked by a Netherlands team that may be a dark horse to win this thing. Two games in and both the Netherlands and Israel were 2-0, ensuring advancement. Korea beats Chinese Taipei to at least salvage 3rd place so they don’t have to re-qualify, but this is a huge upset for the former Runners-up. Israel topped the Netherlands after both had already advanced, though there’s no real advantage to finishing 1st or 2nd.
- Pool B: Japan and Cuba. The two favorites both advanced, though Cuba had to hold off a pesky Australia in the do-or-die game. As might have been predicted, China finished dead last, scoring just one run in 3 games. Japan scored 22 runs in three games to easily advance.
- Pool C: went basically chalk, with the US and DR winning their opening games, Columbia securing 3rd place over doormats Canada and the DR beating USA in their big-time matchup. However that tells little of the story; Columbia’s Jose Quintana shut down the US team with nearly 6 no-hit innings and they needed extra innings to advance. Then in the US-DR game, the USA took advantage of some sloppy fielding to take a commanding 5-0 lead in the game, only to watch our own Tanner Roark get battered around and then World Series hero Andrew Miller cough up not one but two homers to lose the lead and the game 7-5. Columbia hung tough with the DR, taking them to extra innings before caputulating and giving up 7 in the 10th to make the score look like a blowout. The US finally broke out while destroying Canada, scoring 7 runs in the first two innings. US and DR advance.
- Pool D: Italy kicked off the group with yet another stunning upset, rallying for 4 runs in the 9th to beat group favorite Mexico. Meanwhile Puerto Rico put a beat-down on group favorite Venezuela, surprising me and shaking up the group. Venezuela then beat Italy in a win-or-go-home game by the amazing score of 11-10 in extra innings, a game that featured massive swings and should be an instant classic. Puerto Rico calmly advanced past Mexico, putting themselves in the drivers seat and sending the Mexicans home early. I had Puerto Rico finishing third; instead they go 3-0 and top the group. In the pool’s final game, Mexico saved some face and downed Venezeula, meaning all three teams finished with a meager 1-2 record. Italy and Venezuela advanced to a “tiebreaker” game by virtue of being less awful in the pool than Mexico and headed to a playoff. In the final 1st round game, Venezuela needed a 3-run rally in the 9th to surpass Italy and advance.
Round 2 Predictions:
Pool E: the two advancing teams from each of the Far East pools, hosted at the Tokyo Dome: Netherlands, Israel, Japan and Cuba.
Israel already proved their mettle, though their decider against the Netherlands may not have had the same import had it been a win-or-go-home game. I think on paper its still Japan and the Netherlands with the most talent. Cuba advanced but seems to be the weakest of the bunch. I’ll go with my gut and predict that Japan and the Netherlands advance, with the Netherlands beating Israel when it counts.
Pool F: the two advancing teams from the Northern Hemisphere pools, hosted at Petco Park in San Diego: DR, USA, Puerto Rico, Venezuela
The DR looks unstoppable and the USA was just an inning or two from beating the DR themselves. Venezeula limped into the final round and seems like its just too old of a squad. The big game will be US-Puerto Rico to see who joins the DR in San Diego. I’m still not entirely convinced that the US will advance (since they never have before), but on paper they look so much better than Puerto Rico. I’ll go DR and USA.