Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Pool Projections



Now that the line-ups have been announced for the third instalment of the World Baseball Classic, we can begin to prognosticate the potential outcomes. There are some very strong teams entering this WBC, but that does not always guarantee success. Just ask the 2009 Dominican team. We will start with pool A


Pool A

Japan (12-5)
China (1-5)
Cuba (9-5)
Brazil (3-0*)
*WBC Qualifier

Japan comes into this year’s WBC as the back-to-back champions. They have always been known as a baseball powerhouse but have never quite been given the respect. Most analysts choose the USA or Dominican Republic every year. However, this year Japan comes into the tournament without the core of the teams that won the past two events. No more Ichiro, Daisuke, Darvish, and Aoki. Most of Japan’s offense will come from their all-star catcher Shinnosuke Abe who had 27HR and 104RBI for Yomuri last year.  They will rely heavily on pitching, defence and small ball to win games. Strength of Roster: B

China has not had much success over the past two tournaments, posting a 1-5 record. Their lone win came against Chinese Taipei.  This will be the first time that China will have a Major League player on their roster, in Bruce Chen. Chen played for the Royals last year and will be the number two starter for the Chinese team. This team will have to upset a couple of teams to somehow sneak out of the round robin. They are a very small team and, like Japan, will rely on small ball and defence to win.  Strength of Roster: D

Cuba is once again sending a strong team although the will heavily miss Aroldis Chapman and Yoenis Cespedes. Cuba is traditionally powerful and fast, and this team appears to be no different. After hitting 2HR and 6RBI in 2009, Yulieski Gourriel will be the offensive leader. Cuba is ranked #1 in the IBAF’s international rankings after reaching the finals in 2006 and the semi-finals in 2009. Cuba will have to deal with long travel and jet lag, but has the talent to come out of this pool with a 3-0 record. Strength of Roster: B+

Brazil is already the Cinderella of the World Baseball Classic after knocking off Panama twice in the WBC qualifier in November.  Brazil has a very youthful team managed by former major leaguer Barry Larkin. Brazil was able to go 3-0 through their qualifier with great pitching and timely hitting. However, the heart and soul of their line-up, Yan Gomes, will not be travelling with the team to Japan which will hurt their chances. Brazil is still a very fast team that has good defence. This style of play will be beneficial for them in this pool. Strength of Roster: C-

CUBA 3-0
JAPAN 2-1
BRAZIL 1-2
CHINA 0-3

Pool B

Korea (12-4)
Netherlands (3-6)
Chinese Taipei (1-4)
Australia (1-5)

Korea is by far the favourite in this pool after going to the finals in the 2009 Classic. They also have the best winning percentage throughout the Classic’s history. Their approach is very similar to Japan, but Korea has a bit more power spread throughout the line-up. Seung-Yeop Lee is back after missing the 2009 WBC. Lee had 5HR and 10RBI in the 2006 instalment. Korea will miss their all-star pitcher Hyun-in Ryu who recently signed with the Dodgers. Strength of Roster: B+

Netherlands is coming off a very impressive 2009 WBC even though they only won 2 games. They went 2-4 but beat the mighty Dominican twice. This year they come into the tournament looking to advance out of their pool for the second straight tournament. This is a very real possibility for the Dutch. This is the best team they have sent, highlighted by Jurickson Profar, Andruw Jones and Roger Bernadina. Jair Jurrjens will also suit up for the Netherlands, hoping to bounce back after a dismal 2012 season. Strength of Roster: B-

Chinese Taipei had to go through the qualifying stage just to make it into the tournament that will be hosted in Taichung. They have struggled in the past tournaments in pools with Japan, Korea and China. Now that they are in a new pool they have a strong chance to advance. The battle for second place in this pool will be interesting with three fairly equal teams battling it out. The home crowd advantage could give Chinese Taipei the edge they need. Strength of Roster: C

Australia’s only WBC win came in a 17-7 win over Mexico where they set the record for hits in a game with 22. Ryan Rowland-Smith, Chris Snelling and Luke Hughes all return for a team that will need all the offense it can get.  Australia will need to play mistake-free baseball in order to advance. Strength of Roster: C-

KOREA 3-0
NETHERLANDS 1-2
CHINESE TAIPEI 1-2
AUSTRALIA 1-2

Pool C

Puerto Rico (8-4)
Venezuela (9-5)
Dominican Republic (6-4)
Spain (3-1*)
*WBC Qualifier

Puerto Rico is the host nation for this pool of death and they may need the home town crowd behind them. The hosts will have to play two of the most stacked teams in the whole tournament in the first round. However, Puerto Rico is no slouch themselves with some major talent on their team including Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina. The key for the Puerto Rico squad is their pitching. If they can keep the Dominicans and Venezuelans off balance they have a chance to advance to the next round. Strength of Roster: B+

Venezuela has one of the best teams in the short history of the WBC. The team will consist of 2012 MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval , Marco Scutaro, Elvis Andrus and Asdrubal Cabrera to name a few. They have made it out of their pool the previous two years and look to do so this time around. Their “weak” spot is their pitching. The ace will be King Felix, followed by Anibal Sanchez and the young Henderson Alvarez will be third and most likely get the start against Spain. K-Rod will be closing out games once again for the Venezuelans who will be one of the favourites in the tournament. Strength of Roster: A+

Dominican Republic is trying to forget all about the 2009 WBC where they only went 2-1, losing twice to the mega underdogs from the Netherlands. The Dominicans will once again be a favourite in the tournament with one of the most dynamic offenses ever put together. It is an almost unfair combination of power and speed throughout the line-up with no weak spots. However, the pitching will be the Achilles heel for the Dominicans. Their starting rotation is not overly impressive but their bullpen is strong. If the starters can keep the Dominicans close, they should have the advantage later in the games. Strength of Roster: A

Spain is the newcomer in the WBC and it is almost cruel to put them in a pool with these three powerhouses. Spain is coming off an extra innings win against Israel in the WBC Qualifier in Jupiter. The only advantage that Spain has is that they are a team that has played together, and won together. Spain has never had a player appear in an MLB game. It should be interesting to see how Spain holds up with three of the best teams in the world. Strength of Roster: D

VENEZUELA 3-0
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 2-1
PUERTO RICO 1-2
SPAIN 0-3

Pool D

USA (7-7)
Mexico (5-7)
Canada (2-3)
Italy (2-4)

USA has been a perennial favourite over the years but has yet to have much success at the WBC. Posting a .500 record is not very good by American standards and they are expecting championship or bust yet again from this team. This is a very talented squad with deep pitching and offense. It is not quite the “dream team” that many fans were hoping for but it is a team that is strong enough to go deep into the tournament. This team will be anchored by the reigning NL Cy Young, and newest Blue Jay R.A Dickey. The team will play all of its games in the USA for the first time since 2006 and are hoping the home crowd will back them to victory. Strength of Roster: A

Mexico is getting a lot of help north of the border. Sergio Romo and Adrian Gonzalez are both born United States and will be key pieces for Team Mexico. Romo spent his entire youth in the USA while Gonzalez split time between California and Mexico. This is one of the stronger teams Mexico has sent to the WBC. They have a very well rounded team. They have a good starting rotation and a very solid bullpen. The game that could decide their fate will come in their final game against Canada. Strength of Roster: B

Canada had to go through the qualifying stage after being upset by Italy in the 2009 WBC. Canada has one glaring hole in their line-up: Joey Votto. Votto must pass a physical before he will be allowed to participate and his future should be known shortly. That piece to the puzzle is key for Canada if they want to get out of the first round for the first time. The offense is well rounded and will be highlighted by Justin Morneau and Brett Lawrie. The pitching will be the weak spot of this team with no real major league talent. The absence of Ryan Dempster hurts. Their bullpen is fairly strong and will help them close out games. Strength of Roster: B-

Italy is once again looked at as a heavy underdog. However, this team is better than most will expect. Youngsters Alex Liddi and Anthony Rizzo are added to major leaguers Jason Grilli, Nick Punto, Chris Denorfia and Francisco Cervelli. Italy still has a long way to go before they become a strong contender in these tournaments but they are closer than most people believe.  Strength of Roster: C+

USA 2-1
CANADA 2-1
MEXICO 1-2
ITALY 1-2

1 comment:

  1. Nice analysis and great blog! Its going to be pretty interesting to see which two teams advance in Pool C. DR and Venezuela are slightly favorites over Puerto Rico, but Puerto Rico plays very good at their home, specially in the First Round, in which they have a 4-0 record.

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