2017 WBC Playoff Preview
The Semi-Finals of the biggest tournament in international baseball are here and the best teams are left.
There are not many surprises when it comes to the final four as the four teams left were all generally expected to be there.
Three of the teams made it exactly this far in 2013 while the other is a team that has been expected to win this tournament every time yet have yet to take a title.
There may be one surprise as the defending champions never made it into the semi-finals and won’t have a chance to defend their title.
There is a defending champion in the semi-finals though and that is the Japanese who won the title in the first two tournaments.
They have never missed a semi-final berth since the tournament began and are back in the final two rounds after never losing a game this tournament.
Japan came into the tournament without their best players from the MLB while their best player from the Nippon league was hurt before the tournament began.
It seemed like they would not be the same team as they once were, albeit they were still expected to be good.
They went about things as easy as they did the last three tournaments though as they won every game through the first two rounds.
They were challenged only a few times but every time they came through with everything they needed at the right time.
The power of the line-up was there when they needed some extra runs and the pitching was able to shut down plenty of very good lineups.
They are a well-balanced team with a lot of players that most people in North America have never heard of but to those who know the Nippon League know that this team is loaded with talent.
They were joined by the Netherlands who were the second place team coming from the Asian pools.
This young group is the driving force behind the Netherlands and their rise to being a consistent contender in the tournament.
That group provides great offensive ability with power, speed and the ability to hit for contact.
That combination made them a tough team to beat although they were surprised by Israel in the first round and did lose to Japan in the second.
That corps of players needs to be the difference in these next two rounds and they will look to try to help their team to the finals.
To get there the Dutch will need to beat a team that may have had the quietest ride to the semi-finals out of anyone.
Nobody was talking about the Puerto Ricans while the Mexicans were falling off in Mexico and while the USA and Dominicans were headed for a face-off.
All the while the Puerto Ricans put together the only other undefeated tournament while nobody was watching.
With a mix of veterans and young guns on their pitching staff and in the batting order, they are a team that truly needs to be watched.
They are possibly the team having the most fun playing the sport right now and that has made them a force that nobody has been able to beat yet.
That includes the fourth member of this final four, the USA, who couldn’t get by the Puerto Ricans and barely got by the Dominicans to take the final spot.
Still, they are the country known as the home of baseball and despite not having their best players they certainly have a great team.
They have everything a team needs as the power is throughout the lineup along with some players who have proven to be clutch players so far.
Young pitching is a big plus for this team too as their pair of main starters are among the best in the league and have proven to be good at starting things off.
The final four in the WBC are all meant to be there and nobody is out of their depth.
That will make things pretty interesting as any team can take the win but it will be a combination of strategy and who can perform at the right time.
They need to get things going quickly as the games turn into single elimination with no chance to redeem yourself if something goes wrong.
The games get more important and only one team will come out on top but it is sure to be a good fight between four teams that are all playing at their best right now.