World Baseball Classic Bracketology: Predicting the Semi-Finals

After an exhilarating first round in the World Baseball Classic, eight teams move on to the second round. With a few favorites and a few underdogs moving on, there is something for everyone. But as the competition grows more fierce, the cream of the crop will rise to the top. Who will make it out of the second round and make the coveted trip to Los Angeles? Pool E and Pool F have  plenty of talent, but only two teams from each pool will be able to say they are one of the four best national teams in the world. All records and standings are accurate as of March 14th.

Pool E

World Baseball Classic

Aoki brings a WBC championship pedigree to team Japan, winning the WBC championship in 2009 (Brad Mangin).

Japan (5-0 WBC Record)

After mashing their way through Pool B, Japan emerged with a decisive 3-0 record. After scoring 22 runs while giving up only eight in three games, Japan seems to be firing on all cylinders. And they have carried over that momentum into Pool E, running up their winning streak to five games. Supported by Astros outfielder Nori Aoki, NPB slugger Tetsuto Yamata and a 2-0 record in Pool E, Japan should already have their flight booked for Los Angeles.

The Netherlands (3-2 WBC Record)

As one of the four teams in Pool E, the Netherlands earned their spot with a solid 2-1 record in Pool A. Powered by the Ranger’s Jurickson Profar and Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorious, the Netherlands was able to produce just enough offense to squeak by Chinese Taipei and score five runs against Korea. But with an offensive explosion that has brought them a 1-1 record in Pool E, their offensive woes seem to be long gone.

Israel (4-1 WBC Record)

With one of the deepest grouping of teams in WBC history, Israel stands out among Japan, the Netherlands and Cuba. But they have certainly earned their place in Pool E. They torched their way through Pool A, putting up an impressive 3-0 record. And they have held their own in Pool E, going 1-1. Jason Marquis and Nate Freiman hope to continue their strong play, as they have bolstered Israel up to this point. But with so much deep competition, Israel will need to play above their talent level to move on. And up to this point, they have.

Cuba (2-3 WBC Record)

Cuba has long been a national powerhouse in the baseball world. And after putting up a 2-1 record in Pool B, they earned their spot in the second round. But their performance in Pool B had many questioning Cuba, and it has only gotten worse since second round play has begun. With Cuba barely able to overcome upstart Australia 4-3 in Pool B, the doubt began to creep in. Cuba’s pitching has been their downfall, with Bladimir Banos and Yoennis Yera letting them down. And that has carried over to the second round with Cuba putting up a 0-2 record.

Pool E Representatives in Semis: Japan and Israel

Japan is just stacked across the board, with MLB players and NPB stars carrying the national team. Their 5-0 overall record in WBC play proves their depth, as they have beaten teams with relative ease. Surprise contender Israel is not far behind, with a 4-1 record in WBC play. They have advanced farther and done better than many thought they would. But don’t think their run is over, as Israel has the potential to be this WBC’s Cinderella.

Pool F

Dominican Republic (3-0 WBC Record)

World Baseball Classic

Robinson Cano led the Dominican Republic to the championship in 2013 (Al Bello/Getty Images).

As one of the most stacked squads in the WBC, the Dominican Republic certainly did not disappoint in Pool C. Their undefeated record (3-0) was the best of the Pool C competitors, and landed them a spot in the second round. With MLB stars like Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre and Robinson Cano, to just name a few, dotting the roster, the Dominican Republic scored 26 runs in round one of the tournament. If they can keep their offense clicking, don’t expect the Dominican Republic to experience a loss anytime soon.

Puerto Rico (3-0 WBC Record)

Another undefeated team, another talent-rich roster. They rode their impressive MLB talent to a perfect 3-0 record in Pool D, besting each team they faced. With the likes of Carlos Beltran. Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Correa, their talent level is off the charts. They dominated offensively in Pool D, scoring 29 runs. That kind of offensive production is some of the best in the WBC. But don’t think Puerto Rico will run out of gas soon. Their offensive depth drives this club, and they are one of the heavy favorites to move on to the semis.

United States (2-1 WBC Record)

With the top professional baseball league in the world, you would expect the United States to dominate the WBC every year. But with MLB getting so much of it’s talent from all over the world, the United States has to recruit other MLB players to don their nation’s colors. Even so, the talent on the United States roster rivals any other team in the WBC. With Andrew McCutchen, Nolan Arenado and Buster Posey headlining the roster, the United States pummeled north of the border rival Canada 8-0 and eked out a close 3-2 win over Colombia in the first round. Their offense and pitching staff are deep, and they will need every bit of that depth to move on to the next round.

Venezuela (2-2 WBC Record)

After beating Italy 4-3 in the Pool D tiebreaker, Venezuela moved on to the second round. While they have been playing .500 ball in the tournament, they will look to their stars to turn it on in Pool F. With players like Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve and Rougned Odor, Venezuela certainly has the talent to compete in the second round. But they will need to tie it all together, as they were outscored 23-24 in Pool F. If Venezuela’s pitching staff can perform well, the offense will be able to power them all the way to the Championship Round.

Pool F Representatives in Semis: Dominican Republic and United States

The talent for the Dominican Republic is undeniable, and it’s that talent that will drive them to the Championship Round. They boast legitimate MLB stars both on the mound and at the plate. This balance in talent gives the Dominican Republic a massive advantage over some of the other teams in the WBC. But one of those teams is not the United States. Their only loss so far was to, you guessed it, the Dominican Republic. Even so, the offensive firepower of the United States lineup is deafening. And with all of the quality arms skipper Jim Leyland has to call on, a Championship Round appearance seems likely for the United States.

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World Baseball Classic Review: Pool A

We now know two of the four teams in the World Baseball Classic who will compete in Pool E with the conclusion of Pool A play. If you have missed any of the action, The Game Haus has you covered.

We will be reviewing each round of WBC play, beginning with Pool A in Seoul, South Korea. Each of the four teams put up a valiant effort, but only two could move on. Let’s go team by team and see how each fared in WBC play.

Israel

World Baseball Classic

Jason Marquis helped propel Israel to a perfect 3-0 record in Pool A play (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images).

Israel was one of the biggest underdogs in Pool A and blew away the competition. They had a strong opening day with a double header and upset powerhouse Korea 2-1.

Jason Marquis started the game for Israel and held Korea to two hits and one walk in three innings. Won-Jun Chang started for Korea and gave up one run in four innings pitched. Israeli pitcher Josh Zeid closed it out for Israel to earn the win.

Israel crushed Chinese Taipei in the second game of its double header. Israel exploded for 15 runs in the game to win 15-7. They were fueled by Ike Davis and Nate Freiman, who each had three hits in the game.

Israel then pulled off another upset victory on Wednesday over the heavily favored Dutch team 4-2. The Netherlands was limited to two runs on five hits by nine different Israeli pitchers.

Even with a resounding tour through Pool A, Israel still has its toughest test awaiting them. Don’t expect them to go undefeated in Pool E.

Netherlands

The Dutch team is littered with MLB players, and their talent showed through in Pool A play. The Netherlands had a resounding opening to the WBC by shutting out Korea. The Netherlands only needed three pitchers for the shutout and relied on their offense to deliver the 5-0 win. Jurickson Profar fueled the offense by hitting a homer and driving in two runs.

The Netherlands then split their doubleheader on Wednesday. They won the first game but dropped the second. Chinese Taipei gave the Netherlands all they could handle in the opener on Wednesday. The Dutch were able to pull out a tough 6-5 win.

Didi Gregorius paced the offense by hitting three doubles to driving in three runs. Mike Bolsenbroek and Shairon Martis picked up Jair Jurrjens to pitch four shutout innings to finish the game.

They then dropped their second game of the doubleheader to Israel with a 4-2 loss. The Netherlands will move on to Pool E with Israel with a 2-1 record in Pool A play.

Korea

World Baseball Classic

Kyumin Woo struggled in his start against against the Netherlands (Ahn Young-joon/AP).

Korea struggled in WBC play after being considered one of the heavy favorites to move on from Pool A. They opened the tournament against Israel and lost a close contest 2-1.

The game went into extra innings after the game was tied 1-1 after nine innings. Israel came through in the clutch to score the eventual game-winning run on an RBI ground out.

Korea then was matched up against a deep Netherlands team on Tuesday. Korea scuffled offensively in the game with only six hits. They also found themselves in a hole early on after starting pitcher Kyu-min Woo gave up three earned runs in three and two thirds innings. With the offense going 0-6 with runners in scoring position, Korea was not able to overcome their rough start and lost 5-0.

Korea was able to earn a WBC win with an 11-8 slugfest against Chinese Taipei. Although Korea was able to win their final game, they have to consider their 1-2 performance in the WBC a huge letdown.

Chinese Taipei

Chinese Taipei came into the tournament as one of the biggest underdogs in the WBC, and it showed from the start of Pool A play. They began the tournament on Monday against Israel. This may have been their best chance to earn a win with Israel coming into the second game of their double header that day.

However, Chinese Taipei’s pitching couldn’t perform. They gave up 14 runs on 20 hits to Israel and lost the game 14-7. While the offense did perform well, their pitching staff would continue to haunt them.

They came into their matchup with the Netherlands with some confidence offensively, but that couldn’t cure their pitching woes. Starter Chia-Hao Sung gave up four runs in three and one third innings pitched. It again put Chinese Taipei in an early hole. Even though they only gave up two runs after that point, they couldn’t overcome the deficit. The Netherlands came out victorious 6-5.

After dropping their last game to Korea 11-8, Chinese Taipei leaves WBC play without a win. While their offense did score 20 runs in three games, their pitching staff limited their hopes of moving on to the next round.

 

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