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WBC: Japan at Cuba – Post game notes and thoughts about tomorrow

by on Mar.19, 2009 @ 4:07 am, under WBC

What a great victory for Japan. And what an amazing outing by Iwakuma -- he stuck to his game plan and pitched about as well as any one in his position could pitch.

Some interesting Iwakuma stats:

  • Didn't give up a lead-off runner in any of the 6 innings he tossed. He did, however, give up all 5 of the hits he allowed after getting two outs.
  • Held Cepeda in 0 hits in 3 trips to the plate.
  • Got Cuba to ground out 14 times, out of a possible 18 outs.
  • Was involved in 5 different fielding plays.
  • The most pitches he threw to one batter was against Anderson in the 4th. Result: swinging strike out.
  • Needed only 69 pitches to get through 6 frames, although he was starting to leave some pitches over the plate towards the end.
  • Break-down of pitches: 16 fastballs, 20 sliders, 15 forkballs, 11 shutos, and 7 curveball (this obviously isn't off the MLB site).
  • 4 of the 5 hits came on breaking pitches (slider, forkball, shuto, curve). 3 of the 5 hits also came on the second pitch.

Iwakuma's pitches vs. Cuba

There are a few other things that I think are also worth noting that could end up playing a role tomorrow against Korea.

  1. Ichiro may have turned a corner. You could really tell after his first hit, but his second hit of the game was a solid liner over the centerfielder's head. Hits like that usually are a good indication that a batter is coming around.
  2. Inaba also appears to be coming out of a mini-slump; he hit a solid double to right in the fourth.
  3. Aoki had a VERY big night going 4-for-5 with a run scored and 2 RBI.
  4. Iwamura continued to get on base for Japan, going 1-for-2 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored.
  5. While Nakajima didn't have a hit (0-for-2 with a walk), he did drive in a run with a sac fly in the seventh.
  6. The rest of the lineup really didn't do that well, but they all had solid ABs. For example:
    • Fukudome's 7-pitch at bat in the 3rd.
    • Nakajima's 9-pitch at bat in the 5th.
    • Ogasawara's 8-pitch at bat in the 6th.
    • Johjima's 9-pitch at bat in the 6th.

Something else to consider: Japan tossed 18 scoreless frames against a very powerful Cuban line-up that scored 36 runs in the 4 other games they played. Japanese pitching also scattered 13 hits, including 2 doubles and a triple, struck out 18, and walked only 1 over those 18 frames.

At some point, you have to start chalking up some of these losses to Korea as bad luck. This isn't to take anything away from Korea, because I think they're a tough team, but I just don't see how Korea can continue beating Japan at this point, not after another solid victory against Cuba.

Another thing to consider: Japan has looked infinitely more at ease against Cuba and China. And while they did look fairly relaxed during their first game against Korea, the last two games against Korea have been a whole other story: every player looks like they're pressing.

And that's why it'll be important for Japan to get things going early. That doesn't necessarily mean scoring a run in the first inning, but they definitely need to keep Korea off base (no free passes) and maintain positive forward moving momentum (being agressive on the base paths, making good defensive plays, making the pitchers work).

What needs to happen tomorrow against Korea

Japan just needs to relax and remember that they beat Cuba twice on shut-outs. And hopefully Ichiro's last two ABs really are an indication of him coming out of his awful slump.

My only concern at this point is whom the team will pitch tomorrow against Korea. Matsuzaka, Darvish, and Iwakuma are all unavailable. And since Sugiuchi tossed 32 pitches tonight, he won't be available tomorrow either.

Does that open the door for Wakui to start? Personally, I think it might be interesting to go with Tanaka, but I don't think that'll ever happen.

The Bottomline

Japan needs to stay relaxed and not get too caught up in the rivalry. If they can do that, I think they could eek out a win against Korea.

0 comments on “WBC: Japan at Cuba – Post game notes and thoughts about tomorrow

  1. knucklehead7

    It looks like Hara is going with Tetsuya Utsumi tonight, and Korea is going with Wonsam Jang.

  2. Gwynar

    I completely forgot about Utsumi… He hasn’t pitched a single inning in the WBC yet. I wonder if that’s really a good idea.

    …actually, that might really be a great idea.

  3. JMDurron

    Considering that the game isn’t worth anything beyond seeding, it’s as good a time as any to give a new guy some innings, right? I know that Patriotic pride is on the line, but winning the whole WBC has to be the ultimate goal, and a battle against Korea is still just one battle in the larger WBC war, is it not?

  4. Gwynar

    My initial reaction was surprise, but after that wore off, it did make sense to start someone fresh.

    This will be the fourth time these two teams have played against each other and having a completely fresh arm pitch could actually end up working out in Japan’s favor (Korea hasn’t had a chance to see him pitch yet and he should be able to bring in a fresh perspective).

    That said, because he hasn’t been pitching, I wonder if his arm will really be ready for this start and I wonder how long he’ll be able to last. If he gets knocked out early, dipping into the bullpen could hurt Japan a lot moving forward.

    And finally, to address your last question… Games between Japan and Korea are never "just" games. Think of the Yankees / Red Sox rivalry. Now multiply that by actual national pride and even some racist pride (stemming from WWII) and then you’ll finally get a small glimpse at what this rivalry is all about.

    For a very small sample, take a look at the comments posted at one of my YouTube videos.