USA Baseball: What Americans Must Do to Win WBC Championship
Now that the United States has managed to make it out of Pool D—thanks to two straight wins over Italy and Canada—this team will attempt to figure out what it must do to make it to San Francisco next week and capture its first-ever World Baseball Classic title.
There is a lot of work to be done for the United States, as the offense continues to struggle when players get on base. There needs to be a lot more consistency if the Americans want to defeat the likes of the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico in the second round.
So in preparation for the second round, which begins on Tuesday in Miami, here is a look at what the United States must do to ensure victory.
Hit with runners in scoring position
The United States has had no problems putting men on base through three games in the World Baseball Classic. The USA racked up 33 hits in Pool play and forced 11 walks. With an offense as talented as this one, you would think scoring runs wouldn't be a problem.
But that has been the case, as the United States has gone just 10-for-43 with runners in scoring position. Things were decidedly worse in the first two games, against Mexico and Italy, as the U.S. went a combined 4-for-26.
Against Canada, the bats sprang to life, as Team USA totaled 14 hits (six of them coming with runners in scoring position) and nine runs to secure a berth in the second round.
Going up against much better competition and difficult pitching staffs in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, the United States can't afford to squander opportunities like it did in its first three games.
Stop overmanaging, Joe!
Fans who watch the New York Yankees during Joe Torre's tenure know that, when it comes to in-game strategy, he is hardly the master that some in the media would lead you to believe. He had the right personality for that city, but he is not the greatest manager in the history of the game.
What is the biggest obstacle standing in the United States' way?
Torre lived up to that reputation in the World Baseball Classic, especially on Sunday in USA's win over Canada. It was the best of Torre on the field in Arizona.
It started in the second inning, with David Wright and Ben Zobrist reaching base to start the inning. Adam Jones came up to bat, and for reasons everyone on Twitter blasted him for, Torre decided to have him lay down a sacrifice bunt.
Jones got the bunt down, moving Wright and Zobrist into scoring position, but Wright was thrown out trying to score on a ground ball to third baseman Taylor Green. Shane Victorino then grounded out to end the inning.
When a game is scoreless in the second inning, you don't try to play small ball to get one run across. You let Jones—who hit 32 home runs for Baltimore last season—try to drive one out of the park.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, with Canada threatening to tie the game, Torre brought in Steve Cishek. There is nothing wrong with that. However, Torre had Cishek intentionally walk Pete Orr to load the bases.
What is the point of bringing in a pitcher and then having him throw four-straight balls?
Torre gets into his own head too much during a game, so much so that it is actually hurting the United States. Not to mention the fact that he kept Giancarlo Stanton on the bench while Shane Victorino struck out three times in five at-bats.
Starting pitching is the name of the game
Aside from R.A. Dickey's start against Mexico on Friday, the United States has gotten solid starting pitching thus far in the World Baseball Classic.
Ryan Vogelsong and Derek Holland both started out sluggish before turning things around in the third inning and saving the bullpen one more inning than it originally looked like it would have to work.
However, especially with the Dominican Republic's lineup looming, the starting pitching can't afford to take an inning or two to find itself. There was not a lot of starting depth on this roster, so there is only so much Torre can do.
Gio Gonzalez could get the first start of the second round for Team USA. He has the stuff to miss a lot of bats, but also has the potential to walk five hitters in two innings of work.
It is about time for the starting pitching to step up its game, because the bullpen has held its end of the bargain.
In 14 innings so far in the World Baseball Classic, USA relievers have given up nine hits, six walks, three runs and struck out 12.
By comparison, the three starting pitchers (Dickey, Vogelsong and Holland) have allowed 16 hits, eight runs and one walk in 13 innings.
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