Team USA Baseball: Analyzing Biggest Factors in World Baseball Classic Letdown
For the second time in three World Baseball Classics, the United States failed to reach the semifinals. For a country that's always viewed as one of the top contenders when the event begins, it's a massively disappointing outcome.
The Americans were almost eliminated in the opening round but were able to pull out two straight victories over Italy and Canada to advance. They couldn't discover the same type of magic in Pool 2, dropping games to Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, sending everybody back to spring training.
Before getting into the issues of this year's team, it's important to note the timing of the WBC definitely has a negative impact on the American chances. Since it takes place early in the process of getting ready for the season, it's impossible to expect the players to be in top form.
The United States roster is comprised entirely of MLB-based players, so there's no getting around the timing factor. Unfortunately, the baseball schedule is already packed, which makes it difficult to find a good time for all the countries involved.
As for the latest WBC letdown, it all starts with the starting pitching. The rotation was supposed to be the driving force behind a title run, giving some leeway to the hitters who were still rounding into form. It didn't happen.
Ace R.A. Dickey gave up five runs in nine innings over two starts. Team USA lost both games. When your top pitcher is unable to deliver a truly shutdown performance in a short tournament, it becomes difficult to scrape together wins.
Ryan Vogelsong and Derek Holland also failed to impress. They gave up six runs over 14.2 innings. While that's not a completely disastrous performance, it wasn't good enough to carry the team like was expected.
Gio Gonzalez joined the team for the second round and pitched five scoreless innings in an American victory. The team needed more of that from its starters, especially Dickey.
The lackluster pitching wouldn't have been such a big deal if the offense was able to generate some big hits. They often had little trouble getting runners into scoring position, but getting them across the plate was an issue.
Aside from David Wright, who lived up to the moniker "Captain America" before being forced to pull out of the event due to injury, no American hitter had a home run or more than five runs batted in. The big-name power hitters failed to produce.
Are you surprised by Team USA's early exit?
Ryan Braun and Giancarlo Stanton hit a combined 78 home runs last season. They didn't hit a single one for Team USA. When the team needed a momentum-changing drive, they weren't able to provide it. Neither were Brandon Phillips or Shane Victorino.
When Mark Teixeira left the team before the tournament began, questions about a lack of run-producing ability were raised. They were never answered.
Even the one player that was seemingly more reliable than anybody else on the roster, closer Craig Kimbrel, gave up two key runs in the loss to the Dominican Republic.
In other words, it was an across-the-board failure of mega proportions. The Americans could have easily been eliminated a round earlier. They didn't play up to their potential and teams with a greater drive to succeed advanced.
It's back to the drawing board for the United States as a WBC title continues to be elusive.
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