Outside of the resignation of Jim Bowden, there’s other news on the Nationals front. As I’ve now had to mention several times, the WBC lineup for team USA continues to change, even after the actual roster was named. For a quick analysis on the teams, check out last week’s post. Of course, thing have changed once again, despite the fact that the tournament starts this week. The bad news for team USA is that Joe Nathan, BJ Ryan, Grady Sizemore, Brian Fuentes and Brad Hawpe have all withdrawn.
On to the Nats news – Adam Dunn has been named as a replacement! So the Nats are going to have a player, who has yet to wear a Nats uniform in a real game, playing for team USA. You’ll get a sneak preview of the man this coming week. Shane Victorino is also joing the team, which is good news.
Update: Joel Hanrahan, Nats closer, is joining team USA. This could be great news for Nats fans. Why? Because while he is a good reliever, he is likely not the future Mo Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon of the world champion Nationals. He is young but not that young, turning 27 this year, and while he will get saves, he isn’t a shut down closer. Anyway, this goes back to the whole thing about saves being a (relatively) worthless stat. If he can get 15 saves in the first half of the season, the Nats would find some takers on the trade market and really steal some prospect in exchange for him. Throw in some exposure at the WBC (assuming he plays well) and it could only serve to up his trade value. Now that Trader (who overvalues his own players) Jim is out, maybe the new management group will realize this is just the kind of player you can grab on the open market later, once your team is built to the point of being ready to win. I’m not saying you have to dump Hanrahan, I’m just saying, remember the lesson with Cordero. Injury notwithstanding, would a healthy Cordero make this team much better than a healthy Hanrahan back there? Probably by a little bit, but not much. Meanwhile, nobody knew Hanrahan’s name before Cordero got hurt. Relivers are easier to find than any other position, so if you can get something good in exchange for one, you’ve got a win.
LaTroy Hawkins helps fill out the depleted bullpen – he had a very good 2007 and recovered from a disastrous first half of 2008 to finish the season very strong. While he’s a major downgrade from Fuentes, Nathan and Ryan, team USA still has several closers-caliber pitchers in Putz, Shields and Broxton.
Let the WBC Begin
The games are starting on Thursday, so what do we have to look forward to? Well, in case you don’t remember from all those years of watching the WBC growing up, it’s set up kinda like an international soccer tournament. There are 4 pools of 4 teams each, and within each pool a team will play 3 games. One of the things that is interesting about this is each pool is set up like a mini-double elimination tournament. So if you win your first game, you play the winner of the second game, if you win that one, you are automatically in the next round, and you play the winner among the three losers in your bracket. Confusing enough? Here is a picture
Ok, so now that we’ve got that taken care of, if you still don’t understand it, I probably can’t help you. After the first rounds, the winners of Pool A and Pool B form Pool 1. The winners of Pool C and D form Pool 2. Pools 1 and 2 do it all over again, double elimination style, and you have 2 teams coming out of each to the semifinals. Then the winner of Pool 1 plays the loser of Pool 2 and vice versa in a single elimination game. The winners of each of those games play a final against each other. It’s really not as complicated as it sounds, here’s the link to the whole tournament schedule, seeing it drawn out makes it pretty easy to understand. So who’s gonna win? Well, I’ll start with the pools for now.
The Asia pool, these games are being played in Tokyo and it’s all the Asian teams – Japan, South Korea, China and Chinese Taipei. Last time South Korea shocked Japan by beating them in this round and finishing 3-0. Meanwhile Japan was the eventual WBC ’06 champion. I don’t see much different this time in terms of the winners, I’d bet on Japan being the pool winner and South Korea being the runner up.
I can’t think of a convenient name for this pool, other than the cakewalk pool. It’s Cuba, Australia, Mexico and South Africa. Last time Mexico had to play Canada and the US, but ended up on top. This year I expect them to finish in the money again. Cuba should make it through again, but I’m giving the edge to Mexico as the round winner. Australia probably has a better shot than South Africa of pulling a surprise, but I think Cuba and Mexico have to be happy with their draws.
This is USA’s pool, and the games will be played in Toronto. This is good news for team Canada, who’s also playing here. This is another tough draw for them though, other than the USA, they’ve got to play Venezuela. Italy rounds out the 4. I expect the US to win this bracket, and it may end up like last time where everyone but Italy goes 2-1. I give the edge to Venezuela, and predict that Canada will once again be the best team that doesn’t move on.
The final group is being played in the US – Puerto Rico that is. And a second US team, I mean team Puerto Rico, looks to be in good shape for moving on. This is the Dominican’s bracket, and I expect that powerhouse to move on along with the hosts. Left behind would be Panama and the Netherlands.
According to my predictions here, Pool 1 would be Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Cuba. Pool 2 would be USA, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. I’ll save my predictating on that until the first round has played out.