Sunday, March 12, 2006

World Baseball Classic
Round 1 Update

  • Pool A: Japan and Korea advanced, which wasn't a surprise. The surprising thing was the order or finish. In the final game of opening pool play, with both teams 2-0, Korea relied on an 8th inning 2-run home run to beat the mighty Japanese 3-2. Japan takes great pride in their dominance of Asian baseball, so this loss won't sit well with them.

  • Pool B: As everyone knows, the big news out of Pool B was Canada's 8-6 upset of Team USA. The US responded with a mercy-rule rout of an overmatched South African team. Teams USA and Canada tied with Mexico atop the rankings, but tiebreakers allowed USA and the Mexcans to advance.

  • Pool C: Two things stood out in this pool. One, a Panama team with several Major League stars failed to win a game. Two, Cuba is a legitimate team with legitimate talent. Cuba put up a fantastic effort, and renewed some bad blood with Panama. In the end, though, Puerto Rico proved to be the best team in this pool and was one of three teams to start a perfect 3-0 (along with Korea and the Dominican Republic).

  • Pool D: No surprises here. The Dominican Republic breezed through its games, while Venezuela's lone loss came to the Dominicans.

  • KankaNation has gotten a good surge of hits from people, both American and international, Googling WBC players' names. I'll try to compile search numbers when the Classic is done, but right now the leaders are Kalin Dreyer of South Africa and Jong Beom Lee of Korea. Pitcher Kalin Dreyer was born in South Africa, but currently resides in Georgia. Now that South Africa is out of the WBC, Dreyer, who did not get into a game, will return to his high school baseball team. Yes, you heard me right. Lee's single set up what became the game-winning home run against Japan. Lee is hitting .556 in the Classic, with two singles and three doubles in nine at bats.

  • I was critical of US manager Buck Martinez' decision to bat Ken Griffey, Jr. third and place him in center field. Griffey, no longer "the Kid" by any means, did struggle in Chase Field's spacious outfield against Canada. He misplayed a ball that went for a triple over his head. Later, when left fielder Matt Holliday pulled up lame, Griffey was late backing up on what became an inside-the-park home run. (Although, in Griffey's defense, the ball hit an odd-angled wall in the left field corner before caroming into left center.) Griffey made up for it at the plate, though. He's leading the Classic with a .750 average. Against South Africa, the USA's next game after Canada, Griffey went 4-for-4 with 2 HR and 7 RBI.

  • If I'm a member of the Orioles front office, or if I'm Peter Gammons, I'm very pleased with the performance of Baltimore's pitchers in the WBC. Erik Bedard and Adam Loewen (Canada), Rodrigo Lopez (Mexico), Daniel Cabrera (Dominican Republic), and Bruce Chen (Panama) combined for a 3-1 record, an ERA of 1.80, and 11 K to 8 BB on 20 innings of work. Loewen, who shut out Team USA in 3.2 innings of work, has yet to pitch above minor league Class A. I'm willing to bet he'll move up a class or two (or three) this season.

  • If there's a "Cuba Defection Watch," the leader so far is Yulieski Gourriel. If I had to compare him to someone, it would be Jose Vidro. Gourriel is a muscular second baseman who bats third for the Cuban team. He's only hitting .250 in his first 16 at-bats in the Classic, but it's obvious the experts know all about his ability.

  • The award for Gammonsesque Breakout Star so far goes to Canadian outfielder Adam Stern. Stern, who had a cup of coffee with the Red Sox last year, has 6 hits in 9 at bats so far. That includes a triple and an inside-the-parker against the US.

  • How'd he do that? On a pitch count of 65, Shairon Martis of the Netherlands pitched a 7-inning complete game shutout in a 14-0 rout over Panama.

  • I've suddenly become a big fan of the Japanese style of baseball. Fundamental baseball. Good defense. Speed. Taking the extra base whenever possible - especially when the opposing defense is napping. Quick line drive swings. If you're going to hit a home run, it's going to be a line drive produced by bat speed and body torque, not just by pure muscle. The way baseball is supposed to be played. Fun to watch, too.

  • Indians update (since this is a Cleveland sports site, after all):
    2 BB
    Victor MartinezVenezuela2 H/10 AB.2002 RBI

    Well, not that many Indians got to play, obviously. Maybe next round.

  • Leaders
    RNobuhiko MatsunakaJapan6
    H4 tied 6
    2B4 tied 3
    3B15 tied 1
    HRSeung-Yeop Lee / Adrian BeltreKOR / DOM3
    RBIBeltre / Ken Griffey, Jr.DOM / USA8
    SBTsuyoshi Nishioka / Trent DurringtonJAP / AUS3
    AVGGriffey, Jr.USA.750
    OPSGriffey, Jr.USA2.550
    W25 tied 1
    ERA19 tied 0.00
    SVYadel Marti / Chan Ho ParkCUB / KOR2
    IPJohan Santana / MartiVEN / CUB8.1
    WHIPNaoyuki ShimizuJapan0.00