WBC Simulation: USA vs. Canada

On Sunday, March 30, 2013, Team USA and Canada will play the final Pool D game at Chase Field in Phoenix. Canada will technically be the home team. It’s entirely possible that who has advanced in the WBC would already be decided, but the sometimes erratic tie-breaking procedures of the round robin first round make it unlikely that both would be decided, and it is entirely likely that this game would decide the fates of at least one of the teams playing.

So, how might it go down? Well, using Out of the Park Baseball, I am simulating it! Go after the jump for the rest.

So, here’s how the lineups look, click it to see it full-scale:

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 2.59.58 PMNow, first off, the starting pitchers: Ryan Vogelsong is third in the likely rotation for Team USA (after Dickey and Medlen). Scott Richmond is probably the most likely to pitch for Canada against Team USA because he has MLB experience.

Now, this simulation was done using Out of the Park Baseball 13, using a self-created roster set that is a mix of pre-existing rosters released by others as well as some things done by myself (mainly the import of statistics and some tweaks here and there). I assume Joey Votto will play for Team Canada, even though it isn’t official yet (he just needs to finish a physical for insurance reasons). I did not do any input beyond the initial entry of rosters as well as substitutions (primarily to simulate the pitch limits- 65 in the first round and with pitchers having to wait one day after they throw 30 pitches or four days if they throw over 50 pitches).

So, here we go.

Top of the 1st:

Team USA started off great: Zobrist whacked a double to right, Mauer walked and then Ryan Braun hit a short single to left to load up the bases. The bases were loaded with nobody out and Giancarlo Stanton coming up.

But then Richmond did something of an escape: Stanton popped up behind the plate, Wright flied out to left (Zobrist scored, making the game 1-0) and then Mark Teixeira flew out to center.

Team USA had 2 hits, one run and 2 left on base, and led 1-0.

Bottom of the 1st:

Ryan Vogelsong took the mound, and Tyson Gillies (a CF in the Phillies’ system) promptly stroked a single to right. Brett Lawrie then came to the plate and flew out to deep left- Gillies tagged and was able to beat out the throw to second. Canadian manager Ernie Whitt continued this agressive baserunning strategy, having Gillies try for third on the first pitch of the next at-bat. Gillies beat out the Mauer throw and then came home to tie the game when Joey Votto hit a single. 1-1 with 1 out and a man on, Justin Morneau was coming to the plate.

And, on the 2-2 pitch, Morneau slammed a ball into deep right, a ball that might have been a HR in a lot of ballparks… but which found itself in the glove of Ben Zobrist in the rather spacious Chase Field. Vogelsong struck out Mariners’ OF Michael Saunders looking to end the inning. The score was tied at 1.

Top of the 2nd:

Adam Jones drew a walk to start the inning and then Jimmy Rollins lined out to left. On the 1-2 pitch to Brandon Phillips (a ball to make it 2-2), Jones steals 2nd. Then, a pitch later, as Richmond prepared for the payoff pitch, he balked, sending Jones to third. Phillips, however, wasn’t able to take advantage of it, flaring the 3-2 pitch into right field into the glove of a waiting Adam Loewen.

Ben Zobrist wouldn’t let the opportunity pass him up, however, as he smashed the first pitch he saw deep into right-center field for an RBI double. 2-1 USA, 2 men out, a man on second, and Joe Mauer was coming to the plate. Scott Richmond, however, was able to strike out the Minnesota catcher on a 3-2 count to end the inning and limit the damage to one run.

Bottom of the 2nd:

Russell Martin lined out, Adam Loewen grounded out, and Pete Orr also grounded out as Vogelsong through a quick 1-2-3 inning. The score remained 2-1 Team USA.

Top of the 3rd:

With Richmond at 43 pitches, Ernie Whitt began to warm up Phillies pitcher Phillippe Aumont. Although Vogelsong had only thrown 35 pitches, Joe Torre began to warm up Glen Perkins and Heath Bell in the bullpen as a precaution (besides, they needed to get some throwing in anyway).  Richmond, meanwhile, struck out Ryan Braun to begin the inning. Stanton popped up, and then David Wright went down swinging to end the inning. The score remained 2-1 USA.

Bottom of the 3rd:

Vogelsong struck out Detroit minor league Cale Iorg to start the inning, and moved back to the top of the lineup. Gillies then picked up where he left off at the plate, lining a hot grounder just past the perennial Gold Glove of Mark Teixeira for a single. And, much like earlier, Ernie Whitt was aggressive with Gillies- who once stole 44 bases back in A-ball, as he sent him during Lawrie’s AB. Gillies just beat out the tag to put a runner in scoring position for Canada, but Lawrie wasn’t able to get him home, hitting a fly-out to Ryan Braun in left. Joey Votto wasn’t able to either, as he grounded out to end the inning. It remained 2-1 USA.

Top of the 4th:

Scott Richmond came to the mound with 53 pitches for what would almost certainly be his last inning. He then promptly walked Mark Teixeira, ensuring that it was his last inning, as Ernie Whitt replaced him with Phillippe Aumont of the Phillies.

Aumont hardly had a good entrance, as his first pitch crossed Russell Martin up, allowing Teixeira to move to second. Thankfuly for Aumont, Adam Jones then promptly popped up.

But the jitters then returned to Aumont, who again had a wild pitch, allowing Teixeira to reach third. Whitt, perhaps realizing something might wrong, began to warm up Dustin Molleken of the Rockies organization in the bullpen. Aumont, perhaps getting the hint, then promptly struck out Jimmy Rollins.

But then, shockingly, Aumont made another mistake, balking on the 0-2 pitch to Jimmy Rollins, letting Mark Teixeira just walk on home for the third run. Canadians took to Twitter to accuse the umpire of showing favoritism to the Americans. But most of all, Aumont still was messing up: he then struck out Brandon Phillips… but the pitch was wild and Phillips was able to beat the throw to first. Phillies fans took to Twitter to accuse the World Baseball Classic of putting a hex on one of their relievers. Ben Zobrist came to the plate. After Zobrist was walked, Whitt had had enough and brought in Dustin Molleken and began to warm up Chris LeRoux of the Pirates.

Molleken, however, had the poor chance of facing Joe Mauer as his first batter. Mauer hit a bloop single to center that was then bobbled by Gillies, allowing Brandon Phillips to score and Mauer to move up to second. There were now 2 outs, but two men had scored and two men were in scoring position for Ryan Braun.

And then, Ryan Braun put an exclamation mark on a very bad inning for the Canadians, slamming a ball to one of the deepest parts of Chase Field for a 3-run homer. It was now 7-1 USA.

Stanton then grounded out, but the damage was done. Team USA had scored 5 runs on just two hits and now led 7-1.

Bottom of the 4th:

Joe Torre, showing some caution and worried about the long wait that Vogelsong had had during the inning, put Glen Perkins in, ending Vogelsong’s day. Going 3 innings and 51 pitches, Vogelsong had given up 3 hits, one earned run and struck out 2. And now Perkins, who lefties had only hit .192 off of in 2012, came in to face the lefty-heavy portion of the Canadian order, starting with his Twins teammate, Justin Morneau.

Morneau flew out to right to begin the inning, but then a ball got away from Perkins as he accidentally plunked Michael Saunders (Mariners fans promptly went to Twitter to complain). Then Russell Martin- a righty amongst a sea of lefties- pulled the ball for a double down the left field line, to put runners on second and third with one out.

Adam Loewen and Pete Orr were unable grab those much-needed runs, however, as Loewen popped up to shallow center and Orr struck out to end the inning. It remained 7-1 USA.

Top of the 5th:

Chris LeRoux came in and struck out David Wright to begin the inning. Teixeira singled. Adam Jones then reached on a fielders choice, beating out the play at first on what would have been a 5-4-3 double play. Rollins then grounded out to end the inning. It remained 7-1 USA.

Bottom of the 5th:

Glen Perkins remained in as Heath Bell again began to warm up, now joined by Mitchell Boggs. Perkins struck out Cale Iorg, got GIllies to pop up and then Lawrie was thrown out at first on a nice play by David Wright to end the inning 1-2-3. MLB Network cameras caught Torre and pitching coach Greg Maddux giving Perkins a well-deserved pat on the back, indicating it was likely the end of the day for him.

Top of the 6th:

Because of the quick 7-pitch inning he threw in the 5th, Whitt stuck with LeRoux but had Mark Hardy of the Padres organization warming up as the 6th began. Phillips lined out to center to begin the inning, then Zobrist struck out and Mauer was thrown out by Cale Iorg to end the inning. It remained 7-1 USA.

Bottom of the 6th:

Mitchell Boggs of the Cardinals came in. Votto flew out, Morneau grounded out (a single robbed by a quick-moving Jimmy Rollins), but then Canada finally found itself back on the board, as Michael Saunders found himself a juicy changeup from Boggs which he sent over the yellow line in deep center field. It was now 7-2, still USA advantage. And it would remain that way for the rest of the inning, as Russell Martin went down to a sinker from Boggs for the third out.

Top of the 7th:

Jesse Crain of the White Sox came in (although Mark Hardy again began to warm up) and Ryan Braun welcomed him with his second home run of the game to make it 8-2, USA.

Stanton flew out, Wright walked but then Teixiera ground into a double play to end the inning. 8-2 USA.

Bottom of the 7th:

Vinnie Pestano of the Indians came in to pitch. He struck out Adam Loewen to begin the inning and then Pete Orr grounded out. Then up came Cale Iorg, who had already struck out twice. But three times was the charm for the light-hitting shortstop, as he blooped a single to get on base.

Pestano, not amused, struck out Gillies to end the inning.

Top of the 8th:

A call to the press box informed everyone that to protect Joe Mauer’s legs he was going to play the rest of the game at first and Jonathan Lucroy will be playing at catcher, taking Mark Teixeira’s spot in the lineup. Canada, meanwhile, brings in Mark Hardy- their only left-hander- to start the 8th.

Adam Jones begins the inning by hitting a single to left. Rollins then hit a texas-leaguer between Orr and Loewen, and Jones was able to move to third on the play.

Brandon Phillips then drove home Jones to make it 9-2 on a fielder’s choice when Orr was unable to turn the double play.

With another run on the board for Team USA, Ernie Whitt called in Jim Henderson of the Brewers. Henderson, continuing a theme of Canadian pitchers not doing well on their first batters, then walked Ben Zobrist. However, thankfully for Henderson, he then got Joe Mauer to ground into a double play to end the inning. It was 9-2 USA.

Bottom of the 8th:

Chris Perez of the Indians came in. He struck out Lawrie, got Votto to ground out, and then did the same to Morneau to have the inning go 1-2-3.

Top of the 9th:

John Axford, the closer for the Brewers, came in in order to try and keep the game even remotely within range for Canada. Sadly for Canada, Axford walked lead-off hitter (and Brewers’ teammate) Ryan Braun to start it off. He then calmed down, though, striking out Giancarlo Stanton… before walking David Wright. Jonathan Lucroy, who normally would be catching Axford, came to the plate. Axford struck Lucroy out, no doubt winning bragging rights in the Milwaukee clubhouse for months. Adam Jones then grounded out to end the inning.

Bottom of the ninth:

With a 7-run cushion, Joe Torre decided to rest Craig Kimbrel, Team USA’s usual closer, and instead sent out Steve Cishek of the Marlins (it should be noted that Cishek and Giancarlo Stanton are probably the only Marlins who are any good) to pitch the ninth. Cishek struck out Saunders and then Russell Martin flew out to right. Adam Loewen then seemed to hit into the game-ending flyout to right… only for Zobrist to drop the ball! Canada remained alive and Loewen found himself at second. Rene Tosoni went and pinch-ran for Loewen as Pete Orr came to the plate. But any sort of miracle rally dissolved quickly, as Orr grounded to 2nd to end the game. Final score: 9-2 USA.

Click the below images to enlarge them (note that the abbreviation that Lucroy pinch-hit for Teixeira isn’t true, it’s just a result of me making that move while Team USA was batting, not in the field). Also note that Vogelsong would likely be named the winner of this game in the WBC, since there are different rules about when a player is eligible to be the pitcher of record:

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 5.05.37 PM

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 5.06.00 PMScreen Shot 2013-01-18 at 5.06.12 PM

So, what, exactly, does this teach us?

1) Team USA is way more well-rounded than Canada is, making it less noticeable if certain players don’t have a good game. 

Giancarlo Stanton, the clean-up hitter for Team USA, went hitless. But that really didn’t matter much, since other players were more than able to make up for it. But Lawrie, Votto and Morneau went 1-12, and there weren’t many other players in the Canadian roster that were able to pick up the slack (Michael Saunders and Tyson Gillies notwithstanding). If those three players have a similar line in the real game between Canada and the USA, it’s highly unlikely that Canada would win.

2) Team USA’s pitching is far more deep than Canada

For one thing, Canada lacks any MLB starters of recent vintage, but for another they lack the depth of Team USA. Every single relief pitcher on Team USA is a big league reliever, but Canada has to resort to minor leaguers. Perhaps this wouldn’t be a problem if not for the pitch-count rules, but one must think that even if there wasn’t one, the fact that Canada’s starters would get knocked around would have meant that they would still need to rely upon the bullpen heavily.

3) Canada has far too many lefties.

Russell Martin, Brett Lawrie and Cale Iorg were the only right-handers in the starting lineup for Canada in this game, allowing a pitcher like Glen Perkins to get through them pretty easily.

Of course, this is all nice and interesting, but it is what it is: a computer simulation. Perhaps the simulation underestimates how well Phillippe Aumont will pitch, perhaps it overestimates how well Ryan Braun will hit Canadian pitcher, or perhaps different pitchers would be used. Nobody knows yet. But it’s fun to consider.

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