Japan is set to face Korea for the fifth time in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. After having seen each of the first four match-ups, I'd be lying if I said I was really looking for to this fifth (and final) game, even though there is a Championship Trophy riding on the results this time around.
I'm also not quite sure how much more I can write about these two teams without repeating myself ad nauseum, so I'll try to keep this short.
There's so much emotional and mental baggage involved in these games that the team that scores first usually gains the upper-hand.
In three of the four prior match-ups, the team that has scored first has gone on to win the game.
Japan needs to take a breath and try to relax on the field. They did a better job of that during the fourth match-up, but there were still times when they looked uptight and uncomfortable.
The biggest thing missing from Japan's game when they play Korea has been timely hitting.
In the two games Japan has lost, they have outhit Korea 13 to 8.
Japan give up way too many walks to Korea.
In 33 innings of work, Japan has given up 19 walks.
Tonight's starter for Korea, Jung Keun Bong, has been VERY effective against Japan.
2 G, 2 GS, 10.2 IP, 40 BF, 6 H, 3 BB, 21 GO, 8 FO, 1 R, 1 ER
Hisashi Iwakuma, Japan's starter, did fairly well against Korea during his start on the 17th.
1 G, 1 GS, 5.1 IP, 18 BF, 2 H, 3 BB, 6 GO, 2 FO, 1 R, 1 ER
Japan really needs to go deeper into the count. It's one of the things that really drove me nuts when they faced Bong (and Korea in general).
Of the 40 Japanese batters Bong has faced, 13 saw 2 or fewer pitches. Here are their resulting at bats:
While taking more pitches doesn't guarantee better results, it does mean that the pitcher is forced to throw more pitches. And the more pitches a pitcher throws, the more likely he'll make a mistake.
Japan needs to continue being aggressive on the base paths. Being aggressive means the defense will need to be on their toes and the pitcher will be distracted. It's just another way to gain control of the game.
Kawasaki could actually hold the key for Japan. His aggressive style of play and do-or-die attitude could be just what the team needs in the starting line-up.