Monday, March 9, 2009

World Baseball Classic Roundup

I’ll tell you one thing: It certainly keeps me busy having to track both the Tigers and the World Baseball Classic, but so far I have been able to do it (being on Spring Break helps). Yesterday’s Spring Training game against the Yankees was pretty ugly, though much of the blame for that could probably be pinned on Nate Robertson and Scott Williamson. Nate was kinda puzzling, because even though he certainly has issues, walks usually weren’t one of them. I think his season high last year was four, and that was likely in five or six innings of work. I don’t know that much about Scott Williamson, but he had pitched well until yesterday, so I guess I’ll wait and see what happens next time out before I make any conclusions. Dontrelle Willis did walk two and gave up two runs, but considering he had the flu, he’s had worse outings. And I only have the descriptions from the radio broadcast to back me up, but from the sounds of things, most of the hits he gave up were not hit hard. And hey, Fernando Rodney didn’t walk anybody and struck out the side, so there’s something. The Tigers offense has been virtually nonexistent for about four or five days now, but it’s hard to make much of an observation about that when half of the offense is in Toronto right now. Which leads to my discussion about the World Baseball Classic:

Pool A
No surprises here, except maybe Korea beating Japan in the final game, which is only for seeding purposes. However, the Japanese media is probably livid with this. As far as I’m concerned, since the games were on really early in the morning, I only watched parts of them (live) while I was getting ready for school/work.

Pool B
This is the pool I’m the least interested in. I’ve never heard of anyone on the Cuban or the South African team. Australia’s got a couple names that sound vaguely familiar and a couple of Tigers prospects, but the really recognizable names like Grant Balfour and Ryan Rowland-Smith seem to be absent (I could be mistaken). Mexico’s the only team with a substantial number of Major League stars. However, last night’s game provided one of the two big shockers so far in the tournament, with Australia beating Mexico. In a way, it’s more surprising than the Netherlands beating the Dominican Republic (the other big shocker of the tournament). At least in the NED-DR tilt, it was a close, low-scoring game. Australia’s win over Mexico was a full-on, mercy-rule-inducing rout. Like the Dominican Republic, though, Mexico will probably survive, though. Anything could happen, but it’s hard to imagine them losing to South Africa.

Pool C
Ah, the pool with all the Tigers. I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to root for last night. My fears about Armando Galarraga turned out to be somewhat unfounded, because he pitched very well, especially when you consider the fact that he was essentially pitching against an all-star team. Maybe he was getting behind in the count a little more than I would’ve wanted him to, but he got outs, most of which were not hit hard. And he outpitched Roy Oswalt, so to speak. He did give up the two runs in the fourth (not to mention he threw a lot of pitches), but as Joe Magrane pointed out in the bottom of the fourth, at this point in Spring Training, starting pitchers are usually stretched out to around fifty pitches and will probably start to tire after that, and that looked to be what was going on. Plus, he probably should’ve only given up the one run because Gregor Blanco took a horrible route on the ball that Mark DeRosa hit and ended up turning what should probably have been a single into a triple. And how weird is it when you have to get your own teammate to ground out to end an inning? Granderson got a couple of base hits later in the game, though. I thought it was funny that after one of his singles, he and Miguel Cabrera certainly got chatty at first base (in a good way). Guillen’s having an okay time of it so far with the two solo home runs (the first of which was ironically hit off of Jason Grilli pitching for team Italy). But someone’s gotta get Maggs and Cabrera going. They’re, like, a combined 0-for-16 or something like that. However, it’s largely gone unnoticed because the rest of the Venezuelan offense is performing. Cabrera looks especially lost. Magglio at least has a walk and he had a flyout last night that literally chased Granderson to the wall to catch. Well, when you think about it, though, I suppose it’s better for them to have slumps now than during the season. Now Team USA is guaranteed to move on to the second round in Miami. Barring an upset, Venezuela will probably take on Canada in an elimination match. Venezuela is expected to win that but I don’t think it’s an absolute guarantee. On paper, Venezuela has the better offense, but Canada’s got some really good players like Russell Martin (Why does the back of his jersey say “J. Martin” on it?), Justin Morneau, and Jason Bay. It’s likely to come down to pitching, and that could be a problem for Venezuela. They have decent starting pitching (Felix Hernandez is an ace, Galarraga won 13 games last year and even though Carlos Silva had a bad year last year, he is generally an innings-eater), and Frankie Rodriguez is one of the best closers in the game, but their middle relief is not good at all, as was demonstrated last night. And while I’d definitely root for Venezuela over Canada, well, if they get knocked out, at least we’ll get our players back.

Pool D
Japan, Canada, and Mexico definitely have some lively fans, but for my money, no one beats the Puerto Rican fans in this tournament. There are no Tigers in this pool, but plenty of talent and players I’ve heard of, plus there is one former Tiger to keep my interest. This pool featured the first upset of the tourney when the Netherlands defeated the Dominican Republic. However, the Dominicans bounced back nicely and eliminated Panama rather handily. What that upset did, though, was hand Puerto Rico a huge break. They now have the opportunity to make it to the next round without having to face the Dominican Republic (or any other team) in an elimination round. They just have to take advantage of it. They’re halfway there, having beaten Panama. And it’s been well documented that Pudge Rodriguez is using the WBC as an audition to prove he can still be a productive everyday player. Well, he did nothing to hurt his case in the first game. I’d say that 4 hits, two home runs, a double, a single, and a stolen base makes for an impressive line. I have a dumb confession to make, though: I had the game up on, and I only listened to it. I did not watch. It sounds really, really stupid, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it and I don’t know why. Maybe I’ll watch the archive once I stop being a wuss. At any rate, it’s nice to know that they still love Pudge in Puerto Rico. My GOD do they love him in Puerto Rico. I know that it will be Geovanny Soto behind the plate tonight and not Pudge, as the manager of Puerto Rico has already said he plans to rotate his catchers (which is an understandable move, since the Puerto Rican roster boasts three exceptional catchers; the Dominican Republic has the same problem with shortstops). He might be the DH, though. By the way, there is something about Puerto Rico and catchers. So much so that it appears to have rubbed off on Domincan catcher Miguel Olivo. He hit two home runs yesterday. Might we expect a big game from Geovanny Soto tonight?

And that is your WBC roundup for today.

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