Really, this entire round was more of a confirmation of What (We Thought) We Learned in Round One. However, there were a few items that stood out with some pretty good baseball played and another “Classic” game on the World Baseball stage.
Japan and Korea should go head-to-head as often as possible. After the controversy of seeding in 2006, a double-elimination format was adopted due to these two nations.
With the championship game in the pool, the head-to-head standings stood at 2-2 this year and 4-3 Korea through the two Classics. The teams seem to know each other well, and with the exception of the 14-2 fluke on Mar. 7in the Tokyo Dome, the games are always competitive.
The pitched ball to the head of Yong-Kyu Lee provided a couple of very scary moments that need never be repeated. With that said, assuming there is no harm, these are the incidents even when unintentional that rally teams together.
I think a seven-game series between these two would be entertaining, and more insightful as to the depth of both teams’ pitching.
Translation may have something to do with it, but the depth of this quote from Ichiro indicates the level of intensity shown by the Asian teams in the tournament.
Speaking specifically of his failed bunt against the Cubans with the background of a poor (by his standards) tournament, “I was already down before I missed the bunt and then things got worse. It felt as if I was wearing a Cuban uniform.”
Mexico’s gift of first-round pairings became a nightmare in round two. Having to advance past Australia and South Africa is like being handed a bye. Having to get past two of Korea, Japan, and Cuba is another story.
With the offensive statistics coming back to earth after playing in the altitude of Mexico City, Team Mexico was unable to advance. Jorge Campillo was able to eat some innings, but giving up five runs in four innings against Cuba was not what Mexico needed.
Still, with a third of the roster coming from outside the Major League Baseball universe (which includes the affiliated minor league teams), Mexico is another example of a Latin American country with a deeper talent pool than they are often given credit.
Cuba was also a victim of being in the wrong pool. They likely could have gone through Pool Two and ended up in Los Angeles for the finals. The combination of outfielders Frederich Cepada and Yoennis Cespedes hit for 47 total bases in 48 at-bats in the tournament, an unbelievable slugging percentage of .979 in the pair’s six games.
Even with the assistance from the conditions in Mexico City, the duo proved they could patrol the outfield in any Major League stadium if political conditions ever permit. Cuba’s biggest disappointment has to be with their bullpen, who had an ERA greater than five (5.13) for the tournament.
This was one of their strengths in the 2008 Olympics.
The United States might not be able to find a home field advantage anywhere on the globe. They didn’t expect to be the popular team in Round One in Toronto, but is it really too much to ask on home soil?
Getting mercy-ruled by Puerto Rico in the first round obviously brought more cheers from the Puerto Rican fans in Miami that the U.S. fans, but even judging by sight instead of sound it was no better than 50/50 for the U.S. in South Florida.
Had Cuba been sent to this region, the Red, White, and Blue might well have been the third most popular team in town.
Even without a win, the Netherlands justified their Round Two appearance with their solid play. They out-hit Pool Two Champion Venezuela 6-3, and played error free baseball in a 3-1 loss.
A couple of bad pitches that went for solo home runs proved to be the difference, but the team that no one thought belonged proved that baseball might be reaching a competitive level in at least certain parts of Europe.
The comeback win against Puerto Rico gave the United States its first (positive) memorable moment in either Classic. Being down 5-3 going into the bottom of the ninth and pulling off a win was a great moment for all involved.
There is an excellent B/R article about that here from Sixty Feet, Six Inches.
Adam Dunn might be the worst defensive player in baseball, at any position. His two errors at first base (would have been three if a balk wasn’t called on another play) will put him back in left field. If for no other reason, it’s the position furthest away from first base.
Dunn was placed there due to injuries that might have U.S. skipper Davey Johnson requesting a Little League style re-entry rule in the finals. Hey, we’ve already got the mercy rule, why not?
Finally, Venezuela should not be as feared as they seem to be. ESPN reported that off the record, the Japanese and Korean teams were hoping for a win not only for themselves, but because they preferred the match up with the United States instead of the Venezuelans.
Venezuela has the starting pitching, and maybe the best reliever in the tournament in Francisco Rodriguez. They still have yet to prove they can bridge them with middle relief.
They are hitting .309 as a team through two rounds, so they have to be taken seriously. However, in a single elimination format, no team is better than their next game’s starter. Roy Oswalt has been as good as anyone that doesn’t have “Japan” written across their jersey.
Even though it might be Jake Peavy’s turn, it would not be surprising to see Oswalt to start the finals.
See you in Round Three …