Tuesday, March 14

What the ----???

venez-puerto

... is what you might be saying to yourself regarding the WBC action lately. US has lost to both Canada and.... and KOREA??? Japan has a meek 2-2 record??? Puerto Rico, sure, we knew they had a pretty solid team offensively, but a 4-1 record? And once again... KOREA? 5-0 with wins over both Japan and the US???

Well rest your wee heads, lads and lasses, I have the reasons and answers, so you can hopefully stop your brain from chasing its tail. My theory is pretty simple in principle, and I definitely think it holds some water. Every player on every team in the WBC has strengths and weaknesses, right? And the key to any matchup is going to be taking advantage of your opponents weaknesses while making use of your own strengths. The problem is: what if you don't know anything about half of your opponents because you have never seen, heard of, or played against them before? What if, in the meantime, your name is Alex Rodriguez or [Insert other famous MLB player here], and everyone you are playing against knows all of your strengths and weaknesses?

I say that it sure gives a relatively unknown pitcher a heck of an advantage over his opponents when he knows everything about them while they know nothing of him. The same goes for the unknown hitter facing a guy like Johan Santana or Freddy Garcia, although, perhaps to a lesser degree.

Anyway, regardless of the reason for some of the unexpected upsets, US sucks. I guess it is fence hopping in some ways, but I've decided I'm not pulling for our beloved home country representatives. My new favorite team is Venezuela, baby. I'm a fan of enough of their players (Abreu, Cabrera (yes, despite the Marlins/Cubs playoff series), Santana, Vizquel, Martinez, and most of all.... Zambrano) that I figured I could jump on their bandwagon. I watched the Puerto Rico game last night and was pretty impressed with the Zambino's effort. It wasn't an October-worthy effort, but it would have been fine for April, June, or even July (if he was able to throw more than 80 pitches), and this is only March!

So, I don't know about you, but I will be positioned comfortably on my couch tonight, silently (probably not) pulling for Venezuela to beat Albert Pujols and his fellow Dominicans to advance to the next round.

8 Comments:

At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Personally, I don't think that the WBC is going to be a very accurate measure of which country plays better baseball, but it is definitely still an interesting competition and I'm enjoying it.

Baseball is definitely an unpredictable sport. Let's face it, a weak team can beat a strong team, and it's not even that unusual. There isn't a serious sports journalist out there who would say that the Cubs were a better team than the Cardinals last year, but when we faced them head to head we beat the snot out of them. It happens.

Why is team USA's record 3-2 right now? Well, for one thing, Willis has not been as sharp as usual. Willis, if I remember correctly, has given up runs in both of the U.S. losses. Why's this? Bad days? Not in shape yet? Not total command of all of his pitches? Too much adrenaline? Basically, there could be a variety of reasons, and any one of these things could mean a loss for that day. So, if Korea ends this thing undefeated, and the U.S. ends up with an even record, does that mean that the Korean team is better than the U.S. team? Not necessarily. I'd still take team USA over Korea for a whole season. But it would certainly mean that Korea outplayed the U.S., and everyone else, and that's what tournaments are all about.

Also, I think the WBC is going to be good for D-Lee (who is hitting pretty well), provided he doesn't get hurt. There seems to be worry among fans, especially after the diving play on Sunday. But what about Blanco, Barrett, and Zambrano? Z is certainly getting his innings, but how will he react to the performance of team Venezuela? Will it be a positive, negative, or neutral factor on his season? What about the fact that Blanco and Barrett are really not getting much playing time or many at bats? How much will this affect them?

 
At 10:50 PM, Blogger JT said...

Yeah, that may be true, but that's kinda missing the point. It's not about the "who's a better team over a season" deal, it's all-or-nothing at that specific, high-pressure moment in time.

Imagine if the Soccer World Cup were played over the course of months. Eventually, of course, the natural order would settle in and although some upsets would still happen, they would be way offset by the continuing success of the stronger teams. Aka boring.

Yeah, I'm sure I'd pick Team USA over a longer period of time.

The WBC is not supposed to be an accurate measure of who plays better baseball -- it's about which team wants to win and is able to win despite the odds. Sorry, that sounded patronizing, but I felt you were missing the point a little bit there. The WBC should continue to be a great tournament, as so many great teams in a specific year will not get the victory, just like the Olympics. It's great to watch when the young underdog beats the aging favourite, leaving them without the medal they obviously deserve but couldn't close out.

I think also you're missing the point about why the US is not 5-0 like Korea.

The way you make it sound, it's all so simple -- it's Dontrelle Willis' fault, when in actual fact, they aren't ready for this level of competition yet [consider that almost all the other major countries have been playing their regular seasons either year-round, or at this time of the year], and they simply are getting out-hustled.

There's no heart out there - A-Rod is the "hero" one minute [when they really should have lost that Japan game, that overturned call was bullshit], and then goes 0-4 with 2 Ks the next day. Like typical A-Rod.

Also, I think if Korea does finish undefeated [and by inference, inaugural WBC champions] and Team USA finished 3-3, it does mean that Korea was better. In this tournament, Korea was better. Of course over a year, it may even out, like flipping a coin 1000 times and counting heads vs. tails. But in this tournament, their defense has been outstanding, they have two big sluggers who have been hitting well [including the tournament-leading HR and RBI guy], and they lead the tournament in team ERA [somewhere around 1.40, if I remember correctly].

Korea is, for this specific period of time, better than Team USA. End of story.

[Also, I find it hilarious that the US could well be eliminated, given that they're in the same position they were in Round 1. For them to advance, they need to beat Mexico and hope that Japan loses one of their final 2 games, one of which I think they won tonight. It's gonna be close, but even if they do make the final 4, they'll lose.]

[Sorry for the long post, and sorry if any of that was patronizing, as it wasn't intended]

 
At 11:43 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Actually, I think that you and I agree on this for the most part, JT. Perhaps I didn't make my point very well. Here's what I meant to emphasize:

"That's what tournaments are all about." This is something different from the MLB regular and post season and should not be equated with it. It is a valuable competition in it's own right, and some of the comparisons broadcasters would like to make just seem irrelevant in light of this.

"Willis has not been as sharp as usual." I really didn't mean to pick on Willis, but I should have made that clear. It could have been any number of things. I was merely trying to point out how easy it is to lose a ball game. If Clemens had had a really (really, really) off day against South Africa then the team could've lost that one too. Had D-Lee and Chipper not gotten as much of those home run shots off of Mexico they could've just been two very long outs and the game could still be going on. I didn't intend to pick on Willis. But yes, I do think it is really that simple. What won the game for the Dominican today? Simply put, a passed ball. That's it, that was the difference. That could've just as easily not happened. Of course, he could've also thrown that one right down the middle for a grand slam, and then Venezuela would lose by a larger margin. But it really is that "simple."

As for this argument, Korea has outplayed team USA and everyone else, why do we have to translate that to being better than everyone else? Better isn't relevant in a tournament, better is relevant in pre-season, or in the preview of a game, but not when the action starts. Pony League to the Major Leagues to the Premier League, you've got to outplay your opponent, whether they are worse, better, prettier or uglier than you.

A note on team USA: I don't necessarily see a lack of hustle, but I do see a superstar mentality. It seems like all the other teams look like teams, but team USA looks the way the All Star teams always look - a bunch of superstars who have been arranged into a lineup. They may have a murderer's row offense, but they don't look like a team.

 
At 2:15 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Well, it looks like there may have been something to the Lee injury rumors, but he wants to stick with the WBC and keep playing and the Cubs have said okay. Let's hope they don't move on so he can come back to camp and get some rest. As entertaining as the WBC has been, I'd much rather have Lee healthy for the Cubs' season.

 
At 2:18 PM, Blogger JT said...

Lazlo -- yeah, having read everything over again, I think we're saying the same thing.

As for D-Lee, that shit was scary. I'm also on the edge of my seat about Prior, but you wonder when management is going to stop investing and paying guys with checkered injury records in MLB, just on the off-chance and hope that they'll eventually turn it around someday.

 
At 4:41 PM, Blogger Hyposquasher said...

1) 'Favorite' has no 'u' in the USA. You limey bastard. :)

2) I agree wholeheartedly with the 'superstar' USA theory. They are a bunch of team leaders all stuck onto one team where they are unable to be role players. Each guy is expecting to go up and get the big hit, and they look generally relaxed and in some ways out-of-sync because of it. So I totally agree with that being a reason for the USA's lack of success.

3) I still stick with my well-known-hitter vs. unknown-pitcher theory. You said Korea's team ERA is down around 1.40? You think that is because their pitchers are that much better than the other pitchers in the world? Of course not, but I think the reason (coupled with other factors, definitely) is at least partly because no one who is trying to hit these guys has ever seen them before. No one knows their tendencies or what to expect. These pitchers, meanwhile, are knowing exactly how to take advantage of most of the big name batters they are facing. Hence the low ERA, at least in my head.

4) Scary about D.Lee, I won't watch the WBC ever again if he misses part of this season because of it.

5) Sucks abou the Venezuelan V-men last night, I was pulling for them. (On that note, does anyone know if these teams have mascots? Could they legitimately be the V-men? Or the Bananas or Coffee Beans or something?

 
At 10:45 PM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Yeah. I'm kind of upset about the Venezuela loss too, but it does mean Z and Blanco will be back in camp. Let's hope Venezuela's performance doesn't affect Z's mood negatively.

 
At 12:37 AM, Anonymous Lazlo said...

Err. Or rather that it doesn't affect his concentration and performance negatively.

 

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