WBC Preview: Pool B
The second pool in the WBC tournament does not have the powerhouses that Pool A has but there it still could be a good race. The pool does not feature the top powers in the world like Japan or Cuba but they do have four very good teams to fill out Pool B. The pool may not contain the next champion but that doesn’t mean that the competition during the round robin won’t be good. When a pool is created full of teams that are good but not great it becomes harder to predict what will happen. It also becomes a better round robin as every team is much closer in terms of talent. This should lead to a good battle between these teams as they hope to earn one of the two spots up from grabs in the next round. There is the Australians who have been here before and are a program building with relative success. There is the Netherlands who will make their third appearance and will be hoping to continue their success from the European championships into the WBC. Then there are the Asian nations who play regularly among some of the best talent in the world. Chinese Taipei and South Korea are two teams who are very familiar with the pressure of this type of tournament. The Asian Games pit both of these two teams against some of the best nations in the world. When it comes to big tournaments both of these teams know what it takes to be involved in these tournaments. The teams in Pool B have not tasted a championship but some of have come close and this year they are all looking to make their impact in what promises to be a competitive pool.
The Aussies are a team that has become a fixture in international play for baseball and it is mainly due to their commitment to sports. The Aussies value sports in the country and consistently fund programs to create a truly great sports nation. For baseball it has paid off as they are a mainstay in any major tournament and are beginning to earn a better reputation every time they play. As the system grows in Australia so does the level of talent and for the Aussies this talent is beginning to show itself. They have a number of players under contract with MLB teams and many will be making their names known in this tournament. Unfortunately for the Australian team two of their best players will likely not be on the team to help them get out of Pool B. Grant Balfour and Travis Blakley are not on the roster for the WBC but that does not round out the MLB players on the team. As the years go on and the team continually gets better yet they still have not been able to get out of the first round. They are hoping that a pool without any of the major powers can help them make that move. Despite the fact that two of their best players will not be a part of the tournament they will still feature plenty of great players. Led by a group of minor leaguers the Aussies are hoping that they can finally grab one of those two spots in the second round. Australia is a good team and they have gotten a good draw in a pool that is wide open meaning they definitely have a shot at the second round.
- The Aussies have been a part of every WBC so far and they have gotten used to the spotlight of a major tournament meaning that their veterans will not be surprised by the lights and focus they receive when the tournament starts
- The Pool does not contain any of the major powers of the tournament as they do not have to face the USA, Japan, or Cuba instead going against a number of teams that can be beaten although none are pushovers
Player to Watch:
Allan de San Miguel, C (Norfolk Tides)
- The Aussies have a number of minor league players with very little major league experience and so they will rely on players that have had plenty of experience in the major league system and Miguel is that player as a Triple-A catcher for the Baltimore Orioles
Chinese Taipei was in a strange position before the tournament began as they would be required to qualify to earn their spot. What is strange about this is that they have been a constant in the baseball world over the last years. Still they had to qualify for the tournament against the Philippines, Thailand, and New Zealand. In the qualification they would run the table and dominate the group proving that they belong in the WBC. Like many of the teams in the tournament Chinese Taipei has only grown as a member of the WBC. The area has become a top place to get good talent and this year there will be plenty of talent to look to. Although the team will not have a lot of these stars on their team as the majority of the players are looking to make an impact in their team during spring training. They will have one of their biggest stars though in Chien-Ming Wang who plays for the Washington Nationals. The Taipei team is one that continues to grow and get batter and much like the Aussies they are hoping that the weaker pool can help them move on. The most promising sign for the Taipei team is that their qualifying round went so well that they will be riding high leading into the tournament. They are yet another team with a shot at winning the pool and making it into the second round in a pool that has a lot of potential winners. Taipei will be looking to ride their qualification round into the big tournament as they will fight for the top spot but need a few key wins to do so.
They are on a Roll
- The Qualification round went so well that Taipei would not allow one run through all three of their games with their smallest margin of victory 9 runs and this should give them the confidence that they will need as they go into the big tournament
Lack of Big Name Talent
- Chinese Taipei has been good at producing MLB talent but the problem is that only one of their MLB stars will be in the tournament and despite the fact that he will help it is not easy to play the best without your best
Player to Watch:
Chien-Ming Wang, RHP (Washington Nationals)
- He is one of the best players to come out of Taipei but he has been hampered by injuries over the past few years and he will be the ace on the Chinese Taipei team who will be looking to prove he still has worth as he prepares for a new MLB season at the WBC
When people hear The Netherlands baseball is not the sport that comes to mind as the orange jerseys of the soccer team jump into everyone’s minds. The fact is that the Netherlands is one of the most successful international baseball teams in the world. They own a total of 20 of 32 European Championships and have won 5 of the last 7 European Championships. They have been one of the most successful European teams in baseball and they are looking to translate that success to the WBC. In two years as a part of the World Baseball Classic, the Netherlands have been getting better every year. The first year they would win only one game and never make it out of the first round. In 2009 the Netherlands would shock the tournament when they beat the Dominican Republic, a baseball factory, twice to finish fourth overall in the tournament. Now they are back and looking to continue their rise in the World Baseball Classic to finish at the top of the heap. The Dutch players in the MLB are numerous and many are familiar names that may not be noticed as Dutch. Andruw Jones heads up a talented roster for the Dutch with a lot of potential as they head into the 2013 tournament. They will be looking to keep some of that surprise factor this year as they hope that people underestimate them and overlook them so that they can easily walk through everyone and put the baseball world on notice. The Dutch have a good chance of making it out of this pool but they need to stay away from traps and play their game to earn a spot in the next round.
- The Dutch have played in a lot of European tournaments and are always the team to beat and that experience in international play will help them once again manage the pressure of the World Baseball Classic
- The pool of teams in Pool B is not an extremely tough pool with no true favorites but the pool also doesn’t contain any easy outs and if the Netherlands takes one game off they may find themselves on the outside
Player to Watch:
Andruw Jones, OF (New York Yankees)
- From Curacao, a country underneath the Kingdom of Netherlands rule, Jones has made his impact on the MLB already and now he looks to provide a veteran presence to the Netherlands as he brings his 17 MLB seasons into the WBC
If there was a favorite in Pool B to run through the entire group it would be Korea as they have been one of the best teams in international play. The Koreans have seen plenty of success at the WBC too winning the bronze in 2006 and the Silver after a 10 inning battle with Japan in 2009. They are also the Gold Medalists from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and are constantly producing very good talent. Still they are a bit unknown this year as the Koreans will not have any of their major leaguers on the team this year. That means they will be without the man who led them to so much success in the past. Ryu Hyun-Jin was a lights out pitcher for the Koreans in the 2009 WBC and the 2008 Olympics but after signing a deal with the Dodgers he will no longer be with the team. The Koreans make their stars in these tournaments and seem to perform better the bigger the limelight. Korea is yet another of the Asian countries who continue to use these tournaments as a way to highlight their talent. The Koreans are constantly looking to overcome their biggest rivals in the Japanese and after the great battle in the championship game in the 2009 WBC the rivalry is just beginning. The Koreans will be the favorites in Pool B as they have played great baseball in big tournaments. The fact is though they could easily fall into a trap game and lose their chance to repeat. As good as the Koreans are a berth in the next round is not guaranteed and beyond the round robin is even more unknown.
- The Koreans do not have anyone from the MLB playing in this tournament as the most of their players will come from the Korean league and despite the lack of big name talent the Koreans have proven that this Korean league can produce some great talent that may sneak up on some teams
- The Koreans are the favorites in this pool but the pool is also full of a lot of teams that can sneak up on anyone and the Koreans need to remember this because they may not be as dominant as everyone says
Player to Watch:
Dae Ho Lee, IF (Orix Buffaloes)
- The stars of Korea are all staying in the USA with their professional teams and so the next great Korean star will take their place as Lee is the only player playing outside of the Korean league in Japan as he will anchor the corner infield for the Koreans this year
1. South Korea
4. Chinese Taipei