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Tag: 2009 World Baseball Classic

WBC: Some more awards go around

by on Apr.01, 2009 @ 12:03 pm, under WBC
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...Fukuoka Prefecture awarded Munenori Kawasaki, Toshiya Sugiuchi, Takahiro Mahara, and Shuichi Murata (he was born in Fukuoka) will be sent Fukuoka Prectural Sports Awards for their efforts.

...Tatsunori Hara will be honored by Kanagawa Prefecture for managing the Japanese team to a second straight Championship trophy.

...Hara's uniform and a WBC gold medal will be on display during the opening three game series against the Hiroshima Carp. The two objects will be on display near gate 22 at the Tokyo Dome. The Giants are also planning another special event during the 3-game series against the Hanshin Tigers that start on the 10th. All fans attending the game will receive a special limited edition "shugibukuro" containing 5 yen.

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WBC: Bobby Valentine a Classic?

by on Mar.29, 2009 @ 1:58 am, under WBC
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The NY Times recently ran a piece that discussed the possibility of Bobby Valentine managing the US team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. There's still quite a bit of time before that, but selecting Bobby makes a lot of sense to me, assuming he's available.

In 823 games (spanning 6 seasons) with the Chiba Lotte Marines, Bobby is 432-373-18. Throw in his 2,189 (1117-1072) games of managing experience with the New York Mets and Texas Rangers, and you've got a manager who has a wealth of both US and Japanese baseball.


Bobby with Yuki Karakawa

So, would Bobby do it?

He emphasized that he did not know what he would be doing in 2010, much less in 2013, yet the notion of managing the United States team intrigued him. Valentine, who managed in 15 seasons with the Texas Rangers and the Mets, said he would be flattered to be mentioned as a candidate.

"Remember, it's the players who play," he said. "There would be some kind of value that I'd bring to the party because I'd know the talent, or most of it, from Japan. I could do some things differently. I think the attitude would be different."

One of the things Bobby mentions doing differently is trying to "instill an attitude more like Japan's." That would include trying to get players to take the series a lot more seriously. Said Valentine:

It seems like thereÂ’s a little more passion and a little more desire to do your best from the Japanese players. It still seems, from far away, that some guys from M.L.B. are saving their best for the season. I can understand that.

The question is, would he actually be able find those kinds of players? And that's where Bobby shifts gears and talks about how the WBC simply can't succeed unless some changes are made, like moving the series to the winter to allow for more games and getting rid of the pitch counts.

If this is a real championship, why should there be any pitch limits? [...] Do you think it is right that the rest of the world of baseball has to be told what to do by M.L.B.?

But despite the problems inherent in the system, it appears that Bobby would still be interested in managing the US, if given the opportunity.

Still, the more Valentine spoke about the potential challenge of managing the United States, the more excited he became. He loves the spotlight, so the chance to climb on the world stage and perhaps topple the country that is his second home would be attractive.

If Bobby is at the helm of the US team in 2013, his fans across this tiny island-nation might end up imploding from excitement. And he could be the one manager out there that could really scare Japan.


The Bobby Burger!

I wonder though, will these rumors of Bobby managing the US kill off any potential job offers from ball clubs in Japan? That issue might be moot though, since I haven't really heard Bobby's name in connection with any other clubs in Japan.


Don't forget the beer! (special can from 2005)

It's still early though (for both the current season and the next WBC), and anything can happen.

WBC: Trophy Schedule; NPB to start using MLB-regulation ball?; and more

by on Mar.27, 2009 @ 9:34 am, under WBC
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...The WBC trophy will make the following stops:

  • Tokyo Dome, April 3-5
  • Seibu Dome, April 7-9
  • Yokohama, April 10-12
  • Chiba, April 14-16
  • Jingu, April 17-19
  • Kyocera Dome, April 21-23
  • Yahoo Dome, April 24-26
  • Mazda Stadium, April 28-30
  • Koshien, May 2-4
  • Sapporo Dome, May 8-10
  • Kleenex Stadium, May 12-14
  • Nagoya Dome, May 15-17

...The Seibu Lions held a special WBC ceremony for Hideaki Wakui, Hiroyuki Nakajima, and Yasuyuki Kataoka prior to their game against the the Yomiuri Giants.

...There was a bit of a panic at Sendai Station when some 500 fans crowded the area for a chance to see Hisashi Iwakuma. It took Iwakuma over 30 minutes to get to his car, with the help of station personnel.

...Ryozo Kato, NPB Commissioner, said that he is considering a move to have the leagues use a baseball that is closer in dimensions to an MLB regulation ball in preparation for the 2013 WBC.

There are also talks of establishing a new tournament with Japan being the host country. One possibility is placing an age limit on who can participate, perhaps something along the lines of an "Under 25 World Baseball Classic."

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WBC Trophy on display at Japan Baseball Hall of Fame

by on Mar.26, 2009 @ 11:04 am, under WBC
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I swung by the Japan Hall of Fame today and was pleasantly surprised to see that the 2009 WBC Trophy was on display. And for those wondering, visitors will be able to see the trophy until April 2.

Here are some photos I was able to take of the Trophy.

(The trophy on the right is the 2009 trophy. The one on the left is the 2006 trophy.)

There are a couple more over here.

WBC: Players returning to their teams; more TV Rating info; and other notes…

by on Mar.26, 2009 @ 10:38 am, under WBC
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...Player return dates:

  • Satoshi Komtasu - 3/26, rejoined the team during practice. Set to be the opening day starter against the Softbank Hawks on 4/3.
  • Shunsuke Watanabe - 3/26, rejoined the team during practice. Tossed about 90 pitches in the bullpen.
  • Norichika Aoki - 3/27, plans to rejoin the team for practice. He is also said to have lost 3kg during the last couple of weeks (WBC).
  • Yu Darvish - 3/27, plans to rejoin the team for practice. Set to start exhibition game against Yokohama at Sapporo Dome on 3/29.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa - 3/27, plans to rejoin the team for practice.
  • Minoru Iwata - 3/27, set to rejoin the team.
  • Yasuyuki Kataoka - 3/27, set to play in the exhitibion game against the Yomiuri Giants
  • Hiroyuki Nakajima - 3/27, set to play in the exhitibion game against the Yomiuri Giants
  • Hideaki Wakui - 3/27, set to start exhibition game against the Yomiuri Giants.
  • Munenori Kawasaki - 3/28, exhibition game against the Hiroshima Carp

...Kenji Johjima wasn't at the team press conference that took place in LA due to his travel plans. He apologized to teammates and the media for not being present.

...Munenori Kawasaki skipped out on the team press conference in Japan so that he could return to his team (Softbank Hawks) as soon as possible.

...Tatsunori Hara said that he has "graduated from Samurai Japan" and will now focus all of his attention to the upcoming Giants' season.

...The Yokoham Bay Stars are planning to hold a WBC Ceremony for Seiichi Uchikawa and Shuichi Murata sometime during their opening series during the Yomiuri Giants.

...At the suggestion of Hiroshima Carp skipper Marty Brown, the big screen TV at the new Hiroshima Carp was tuned into the WBC Finals game during their intra-squad practice game.

Said Brown, "The players were wondering what was happening with the game and so when Japan won, we paused the game to give everyone a chance to celebrate."

...More TV Rating information: ratings for the Finals game peaked at 45.6% when Korea scored the game tying run in the bottom of the 9th. Further, 81.3% of all TVs were apparently tuned in to watch the game at that moment.

A few minutes later, ratings dropped to 38.8% and then shot back up into to the 40s. Shortly after the game ended, at about 2:39pm, the ratings were at 44.8%.

The news program after the game broadcast also registered a very high 25.9% rating. WBC programming later in the day continued to capture strong ratings and the channel (TBS) ended up with a 19.6% rating for the day.

TV ratings for the 6 games that TBS broadcast averaged 28.4%.

Almost forgot to mention: on top of the 36.4% ratings the Finals game managed to capture, the latest reports also indicate that 71.1% of all TVs were tuned into the game. Throw in people watching the game using their mobile phones and it's possible that close to half of all people living in Japan watched the game at one point or another.

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WBC: Japan at Korea – Game day – Japan beats Korea in 10, 5-2

by on Mar.23, 2009 @ 8:43 pm, under WBC
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Starting pitchers:

Japan
Hisashi Iwakuma
1-1, 3 G, 2 GS, 12.1 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 R, 4 BB, 9 SO, 0.73 ERA, 0.97 WHIP

Korea
Jung Keun Bong
2-0, 3 G, 2 GS, 13.2 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 R, 3 BB, 3 SO, 0.66 ERA, 0.80 WHIP

Early reports indicate that Johjima will be hitting clean-up and that both Kurihara and Kataoka will be in the starting line-up (Hara is loading up the line-up with righties).

Starting line-ups:

Code:
JAPAN            KOREA
RF Suzuki        CF Lee, Y
SS Nakajima      DH Lee, Jin
CF Aoki          LF Kim, H
C  Johjima       1B Kim, T
1B Ogasawara     RF Choo
LF Uchikawa      3B Lee, B
DH Kurihara      2B Ko
2B Iwamura       C  Park, Ky
3B Kataoka       SS Park, Ki

SP Iwakuma       SP Bong

For those wondering, this article mentions that Darvish could be available to pitch in relief again tonight against Korea.

Here are his exact comments from the article:

"I threw that last pitch with all my might so I'm not sure how my shoulder will feel tomorrow, but I intend on being ready if needed."

Umpires: HP: Derryl Cousins. 1B: Carlos Rey. 2B: Ron Kulpa. 3B Willie Rodriguez. LF: Paul Emmel. RF: Paul Hyham.

Weather: 70 degress, clear.
Wind: 10 mph, Out of CF.

=======================

Top of the First
Decent inning there for Japan. They made Bong throw 28 pitches (15 strikes) that inning. Johjima had a really nice 9-pitch at bat -- he was down 0-2 and managed to fight his way back to get a walk.

I'm not really sure how I feel about bunting Nakajima so early in the game.

Bong also seemed to be struggling with his command a bit, like having a hard time getting his curve over for a strike.

Bottom of the First
Nice first inning for Iwakuma: a strike out and 2 ground ball outs.

10 pitches (6 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Second
Japan threatened again, getting two runners on after 2 out. Ichiro ended the inning with a ground out to first.

With the 23 pitches (13 strikes) Bong threw that inning, he's now sitting on 51 (28 strikes) for the game.

Bottom of the Second
1-2-3 inning for Iwakuma. Foul out, strike out, and a ground out to second. So far so good for Iwakuma.

13 pitches (7 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Third
Tough inning offensively for Japan. They did manage to score the first run of the game, but they ruined a great chance to put a couple more runs on the board when Kurihara grounded into a double play. This is where you begin to wonder how things would have turned out had Murata not gotten injured.

Japan did make Bong throw more pitches that inning -- 74 pitches (46 strikes) overall.

Bottom of the Third
Iwakuma continues to pitch well -- he's on a really nice pace right now. Pop out to first, strike out looking, and a ground out to second.

7 pitches (5 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Fourth
First 1-2-3 inning for Bong. He only needed 8 pitches (5 strikes) for that inning. He's now sitting at 82 pitches (51 strikes) for the game.

Bottom of the Fourth
Iwakuma had a bit of a problem in the fourth in his last start against Korea (he held Korea hitless through 4 innings in that game as well) and he almost ran into some problems again here after getting the first two outs of the inning.

But he got out of the inning on a LONG fly ball to right.

17 pitches (10 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Fifth
Another inning where Japan should have been able to score at least 1 more run. Instead Johjima strikes out for the first out and a strike 'em out (Ogasawara), throw 'em out (Aoki) double play for the final 2 outs of the inning.

Jong really did a great job in relief there for Korea.

Bottom of the Fifth
Iwakuma gave up a lead-off gaming-tying homer to Choo, but bore down and got the next three outs (including a great play Uchikawa made for the second out).

Incidentally, Iwakuma only has 5 ground ball outs and 4 fly ball outs in the game so far. Based on these two numbers alone, Iwakuma isn't really having a very effective game.

13 pitches (8 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Sixth
1-2-3 inning for Jong -- Japan is having hard time catching up to his fastball. Jong now has 3 strike outs over 2 inning of work.

Bottom of the Sixth
A bit of a scary inning there for Japan. Walks have come back to haunt Japan a number of different times and Iwakuma walked Lee, Y after getting the first out of the inning -- he's probably the last batter you really want to walk.

Fortunately for Japan, they managed a strike 'em out (Lee, Jin), throw 'em out (Lee, Y) double play to end the inning.

14 pitches (6 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Seventh
Another bad inning for Japan's offense. They did manage to score a run, but they really should have been able to score at least one more run. Instead, Johjima hits into a double play to end the inning.

Bottom of the Seventh
1-2-3 inning for Iwakuma, but all three outs came on fly balls.

10 pitches (6 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Eighth
Iwamura comes through with a really big sac fly to give Japan another run.

Now the question is, who pitches the 8th and 9th for Japan?

Bottom of the Eighth
For some reason, Hara trotted Iwakuma out against for the eighth. Why he did, I have no idea. If that weren't enough, he left him in even after giving up a lead-off double.

They bunt in the first inning to try and get a run and yet they don't take a pitcher out to protect a 2-run lead in the 8th. Makes no sense.

And not only did Japan give up a crucial run, Korea gets to send up their 2, 3, and 4 batters to plate in the bottom of the 9th.

Iwakuma's final line:
7.1 IP, 27 BF, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 SO, 7 GO, 8 FO, 96 pitches (54 strikes)

Top of the Ninth
Japan had another good chance to tack on a run (runners on first and second with 1 out), but failed. This is why giving up that second run in the 8th is big.

Bottom of the Ninth
It looked like Sugiuchi would start the ninth, but after Korea announced a pinch hitter, Hara made the move to bring in Darvish.

Sugiuchi's final line:
0.1 IP, 1 BF, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 SO, 0 GO, 1 FO, 5 pitches (2 strikes)

Darvish quickly got the first out, but then walked the next two batters. He struck out Choo for the second out, but then gave up a game-tying single to Bum Ho Lee. Darvish struck out Ko to end the inning.

Top of the Tenth
Just as Hara suffered from a brain fart in leaving Iwakuma in, seems like Korea also suffered a bit of a brain fart in the top of the 10th by pitching to Ichiro. They probably felt they could get him out based on how they've pitched to him in the past 4 games, but this isn't the same Ichiro they faced in those 4 games.

Bottom of the Tenth
Darvish walked the lead-off batter but bore down after that and got Choi to strike out swinging, Lee to fly out to center, and Jeong to strike out to end the game.

Darvish's final line:
2.0 IP, 10 BF, 1 H, 3 BB, 5 SO, 0 GO, 1 FO, 41 pitches (25 strikes)

WBC: Japan vs. Korea, Take 5

by on Mar.23, 2009 @ 2:27 pm, under WBC
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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.

==

Munenori Kawasaki.

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.

WBC: News and notes from March 23rd

by on Mar.23, 2009 @ 12:57 pm, under WBC
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...The Finals game between Japan and Korea is set to start at 9:38pm EST.

...The starters for the game: Hisashi Iwakuma for Japan and Jung Keun Bong for Korea.

...Ichiro Suzuki's thoughts on fate playing a part in Japan playing Korea in the Finals:

"That just can't be the reason anymore. And haven't we already had enough of Korea, especially after having faced them 4 times already?"

...This article mentions how MLB umps didn't make any bad calls this time around, except for a few bad strike/ball calls. One pitch that seems to be getting a lot of attention is the 6th pitch that was called a ball against David Wright in the third inning. However, the article also mentions that Matsuzaka "re-gained" the pitch when he struck out Wright looking in his next at bat in the fifth.

...Seems Akinori Iwamura had a feeling that Japan would beat the US the minute Roberts lead-off the game with a home run.

Said Iwamura, "During the first WBC, Ichiro lead-off with a home run and we lost. And so I thought that perhaps we would win today."

...It seems Japan was set to use Yu Darvish in the 9th from a fairly early stage due to Kyuji Fujikawa's relative ineffectiveness.

Said Darvish, "I was prepared for a number of different things to happen. And I'll be ready tomorrow if they need me."

...Munenori Kawasaki was in the starting line-up against the US for the first time this WBC and went 2-for-4 with 2 runs and an RBI.

Said Kawasaki, "I've been in the starting line-up from the bench every game since the very first round."

...Seiichi Uchikawa was involved in a (very) minor accident during practice prior to the Japan / USA game. While taking fielding practice, a ball got away from Uchikawa and struck him in the chin. Fortunately, it was weakly hit and didn't result in anything more than a few light-hearted jabs from team mates like, "Hey, nice play with your chin!"

...Hisashi Iwakuma, Kenji Johjima, and the rest of the catching corps were sitting together in the stands for the Korea / Venezuela game on Saturday.

...Ichiro Suzuki took out all 14 of the position players to dinner on Saturday night, something he also did during the first WBC.

A team rep said, "It's just something the team decided to do again this year after a team dinner led to a victory during the first WBC. And just like last time, Ichiro took care of all the details."

...Sadaharu Oh will be involved in the Opening Ceremonies of the Finals game tonight. As the winning manager from the 1st WBC, he will help bring out the Championship Trophy for display near home plate.

Fernando Valenzuela
and Tommy Lasorda are also set to throw out the ceremonial first pitches.

WBC: USA at Japan – Game day – Japan beat the US, 9-4; Darvish pitches the 9th

by on Mar.22, 2009 @ 2:56 pm, under WBC
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Starting pitchers:

Japan
Daisuke Matsuzaka
2-0, 2 G, 2 GS, 10.0 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 2 R, 2 BB, 9 SO, 1.80 ERA, 1.10 WHIP

USA
Roy Oswalt
1-0, 2 G, 2 GS, 7.2 IP, 11 H, 3 ER, 3 R, 2 BB, 6 SO, 3.52 ERA, 1.70 WHIP

Starting line-ups:

Code:
JAPAN            USA
RF Suzuki        2B Roberts
SS Nakajima      SS Jeter
LF Aoki          DH Rollins
DH Inaba         3B Wright
1B Ogasawara     RF Dunn
CF Fukudome      LF Braun
C  Johjima       C  McCann
2B Iwamura       1B DeRosa
3B Kawasaki      CF Granderson

SP Matsuzaka     SP Oswalt

Kazuhiro Kiyohara and Kazuhiro Sasaki are in the booth as guest commentators on TBS in Japan.

Umpires: HP: Paul Emmel. 1B: Paul Hyham. 2B: Derryl Cousins. 3B: Carlos Rey. LF: Ron Kulpa. RF: Willie Rodriguez.

Weather: 60 degrees, cloudy.
Wind: 12 mph, L to R.

===============

Top of the First
Other than the lead-off home run, Matsuzaka looks pretty good on the mound.

14 pitches (9 strikes) that inning.

Bottom of the First
1-2-3 inning for Oswalt and the US.

12 pitches (7 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Second
The US is doing a pretty good job of making Matsuzaka throw pitches -- through 2 innings, 35 pitches (19 strikes). Matsuzaka also appeared to struggle with his control a little that inning. His control definitely isn't as crisp as it was when he pitched against Cuba.

21 pitches (10 strikes) that inning.

Bottom of the Second
Good to see Japan making the most of their outs in the inning. I was a little disappointed in seeing Fukudome go after the first pitch he saw from Oswalt and fly out to shallow left. Outside of Ichiro, he may be one of the worst hitters on the team.

18 pitches (10 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Third
Matsuzaka continues to struggle with his control. It did seem like he might pull things together in the inning after he quickly got the first two outs (6 pitches), but he sort of fell apart after that and his pitches started going all over the place.

30 pitches (17 strikes) that inning.

Bottom of the Third
Kawasaki tried to get a bunt single, but Wright made a great play and managed to throw him out at first. Ichiro then reached first and went on to second on a bad throw by Wright. The next two batters swung at the first pitches and couldn't get the run home. Not a very good inning for Japan. And they really need to stop swinging at the first pitches -- they should make Oswalt throw a little more.

7 pitches (5 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Fourth
Nice 1-2-3 inning for Matsuzaka, but he's still throwing a lot of pitches. At this rate, Matsuzaka can probably go one more inning (maybe 2).

15 pitches (10 strikes) that inning.

Bottom of the Fourth
Good for Japan to come back to score 5 runs in the inning after a 1-2-3 inning by Matsuzaka. This should also give Matsuzaka a nice little charge to pitch the 6th.

Oswalt was knocked out of the inning after throwing 29 pitches (17 strikes) in the inning; 66 pitches (39 strikes) overall.

Oswalt's final line:
3.2 IP, 20 BF, 6 H, 1 BB, 1 SO, 5 GO, 5 FO, 6 R, 4 ER, 66 pitches (39 strikes)

Top of the Fifth
Matsuzaka got Roberts to ground out for the first out of the inning. But he gave up a single to Jeter and walked Rollins. He bore down and struck out Wright for the second out of the inning and was taken out of the game in favor of Sugiuchi after that.

Sugiuchi closed out the inning by striking out Dunn.

Matsuzaka's final line:
4.2 IP, 22 BF, 5 H, 3 BB, 4 SO, 8 GO, 2 FO, 2 R, 2 ER, 98 pitches (57 strikes)

Bottom of the Fifth
1-2-3 inning for Grabow. Good on him to get the offense back out on the field as quickly as possible.

Top of the Sixth
If Japan continues to hold a 4-run lead, they could decide to save Darvish for the Finals game.

Put another scoreless inning of work down for Suguichi. Although I hear he also almost gave up a shot to DeRosa, but that it stayed in the park because of the wind (there was a news break on TV).

Bottom of the Sixth
Japan had a nice start to the inning, getting runners on first and second with only 1 out. But Ichiro hit into a fielder's choice and Nakajima struck out to end the inning.

Top of the Seventh
Sugiuchi was taken out before the inning in favor of Tanaka.

Sugiuchi's final line:
1.1 IP, 5 BF, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 SO, 0 GO, 3 FO, 0 R, 0 ER, 20 pitches (11 strikes)

Nice way to end the inning for Tanaka after giving up a 2-out triple to Rollins.

I wonder who will pitch the 8th.

Bottom of the Seventh
1-2-3 inning for Thornton -- he struck out the side.

Top of the Eighth
Mahara in to start the eighth.

Tanaka's final line:
1.0 IP, 4 BF, 1 H, 0 BB, 2 SO, 1 GO, 0 FO, 0 R, 0 ER, 16 pitches (10 strikes)

Nice job of pitching by Mahara after giving up 2 runs -- he struck out Longoria and got Roberts to tap back to him for the last 2 outs of the inning.

Bottom of the Eighth
A throwing error by Jeter opened the gates for Japan and led to three runs crossing the plate.

Top of the Ninth
Darvish in to start the ninth.

Mahara's final line:
1.0 IP, 6 BF, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 SO, 1 GO, 1 FO, 2 R, 2 ER, 30 pitches (19 strikes)

Darvish gave up a single to Rollins, but handled the other players he faced without too much trouble.

Darvish's final line:
1.0 IP, 4 BF, 1 H, 0 BB, 2 SO, 1 GO, 0 FO, 0 R, 0 ER, 21 pitches (12 strikes)

====================

Code:
      1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9   R  H  E
USA   1  0  1  0  0  0  0  2  0   4  9  3
JPN   0  1  0  5  0  0  0  3  x   9  10 1

WBC: USA vs Japan – some pre-game thoughts

by on Mar.22, 2009 @ 2:38 pm, under WBC
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For a view from the US, take a look at Mike's pre-game notes.

===

I haven't had the chance to watch any games featuring the US so I don't feel confident about providing any in-depth commentary on what Japan needs to do in order to win today's game, but here are my thoughts on the game nonetheless.

==

Daisuke Matsuzaka's MLB experience makes his selection to start the game a no-brainer. Couple that with Kenji Johjima's knowledge of the MLB and you've got a pretty good battery mate to face off against the US.

Japan also has 3 other players on the roster with MLB experience: Ichiro Suzuki, Akinori Iwamura, and Kosuke Fukudome. You can bet all of these guys are giving the rest of the team as much information as they can about the opponents they'll be facing.

The one potential downside here is that they only have one player from the NL.

==

Japan's pitching staff owns a 1.20 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP over 60 innings of work. And in those 60 innings of work, they've scattered 36 hits, walked 21, and struck out 54. Of the 3 teams remaining, they have given up the least amount of home runs (2).

The only knock on the pitching staff is the walk. And interestingly enough, in the two games Japan has lost in the WBC, the pitchers collectively walked 14 batters. 14! That's 14 batters over 17 innings of work.

And that means they've only walked 7 over the other 43 innings.

==

The offense is slowing improving. Take a look at the numbers from the first and second rounds:

        1R    2R
AVG    .258  .307
OBP    .342  .382
SLG    .402  .372
R/G     6.0   4.5
AB/BB   5.4   6.5
AB/K    7.5   9.1
R/BR   .474  .300

On top of this, Ichiro and Norichika Aoki have finally begun working together at the top of the line-up -- over their last 2 games they have combined to go 12-for-20 with 4 runs and 3 RBI. If these two players continue to hit and create situations, Japan should be in pretty good shape.

Iwamura, who was held hitless in the first round, has also started to heat up. In the second round he went 6-for-12 with 3 runs and 4 walks.

Johjima, on the other hand, has cooled off a bit: 4-for-14 in the second round, and 2 for his last 10.

And it's really too bad about Shuichi Murata because he was having a pretty decent second round (5-for-13 with 2 runs and 2 RBIs) when he went down with a hamstring injury.

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It was nice to see Japan getting aggressive on the base paths during the second round. They stole 6 bases (caught three times and picked off twice, a byproduct of their aggressiveness) in the second round compared to the 3 they stole in the first round.

The team was also starting to do more of the little things in the second round, like moving runners over and dropping bunts down.

Since this team has very little power (now even less since Murata is gone) it'll be extremely important for them to continue manufacturing runs by doing the little things.

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Japan was flawless on the field during the first round. They made some really great plays on the field that helped out their pitchers more often than not. But a change in playing surface and going from a dome to an open air stadium seemed to really mess with Japan's fielding as the team committed 6 errors over 4 games in the second round.

The last thing Japan needs is to give the US extra opportunities because of miscues on the field.

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It'll be interesting to see how Japan ultimately ends up using Yu Darvish. From some of the reports I've read and news programs I've seen, it appears as though Japan will throw out everything it can against the US. Makes sense, but then you also don't want to throw out all your options and be left with none should you advance.

And that's where things become a little grey. Do you trot him out there for 30+ pitches? Or do you limit him to 29 so that he can pitch again the next day?

I know one thing for sure: I won't want to be Hara if Darvish is in the game and comes out after 29 pitches and the next pitcher called in stinks up the joint.

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