In 2006, Australia went 0-3 and in 2009 the Australians only did slightly better, going 1-2 (upsetting Mexico and then losing two straight, although they came close to upsetting Cuba). So how might they do this time around?
Well, Australia won’t have it’s most notable pitchers, but it’s still a team that could pull an upset or two, although it’s unlikely that they will get past the first round group that also has Korea, Taipei and the Netherlands.
Go below the jump for the analysis:
Face of the Team: A tough one, as the two most notable MLB players (Grant Balfour and Travis Blackley) won’t be taking part. Instead, the face of the Aussies will probably be either MLB free agent Luke Hughes or reliever Peter Moylan, who recently signed with the Dodgers.
Strengths: The Aussies’ greatest strength comes with familiarity with each other. While many of the other teams in the tournament will have only been together for a few weeks (or a few months for the Asian teams that get started early), the Australian teams usually remain relatively constant, with many of the players having already played with each other either growing up or in domestic competition. This may seem a small thing, but it really isn’t.
Weaknesses: That said, that strength doesn’t help the fact that Australia’s pitching is extremely suspect and that, overall, the talent level of the Aussies is below that of many of the other teams. Only a few of the players have played in the big leagues for very long, and most of the players on the team have never touched a big-league ballfield, playing mainly in the minors or even just the domestic (albeit high-level) Australian Baseball League.
Player to watch: Moylan, who’s entire career was revived when he played for Australia in 2006, should be interesting to watch, both because he is one of the best pitchers on Australia but also because it could give hints as to how he will fit in with the Dodgers.
Outlook: Not good, but could be worse. Had Liam Hendricks (injured), Travis Blackley and Grant Balfour were playing, it would be entirely reasonable to think the Australians a possibility of advancing in the pool. However, they aren’t playing. The Aussies are still good enough to perhaps pull an upset or two, and maybe advance to the second round if they are able to do so. That said, Australia is unlikely to last long if they do get to the second round. So, right now, it looks bad-but not impossible- for Australia.