Japan and the Netherlands have already qualified for the final four of the WBC, but who will join them? That will be decided in Miami, where three of baseball’s traditional powers are joined by the surprising Italian team to determine who will escape to San Francisco. Go below the jump for my preview of the double elimination round:
About the venue: Marlins Park. Built at great expense, seating over 36 thousand customers, and featuring a freaky home run sculpture machine in the outfield, it is possibly the most controversial stadium in Major League Baseball… and that’s not even bringing in the actions of the Marlins’ front office. It is generally regarded as a pitcher’s park.
About the pool:
Two of the teams in the pool (USA and the Dominican Republic) were expected to be here, another (Puerto Rico) is only a slight surprise, but then there is a totally out-of-nowhere team: Italy.
Got here by: Going 3-0 in Pool C, finishing first
What they call baseball: Béisbol
First Round Star: Robinson Cano, who hit .600 with a HR and 5 RBIs during the first round, where he was the Pool C MVP.
Biggest Rival in the Pool: Traditionally, it would be Puerto Rico, a result of the long Caribbean Series rivalry. However, it’s safe to say that the Dominican Republic is also certainly keeping an eye on Team USA. Amazingly, the two nations that have produced the most MLB players have never faced each other in the WBC.
Will get out of the pool if: They play like they are supposed to and the starting pitching holds up.
Will be eliminated if: Their starting pitching fails them, their bats die or they are hit by just plain bad luck. It’s entirely possible that this team is talented enough where all three would need to happen to stop them. But then again, this is baseball.
United States of America
Got here by: Going 2-1 in Pool D, winning pool due to tiebreaker with Italy
What they call baseball: Baseball, of course.
First Round Star: David Wright, who hit .455 and who’s grand slam against Italy helped keep Team USA alive.
Biggest Rival in the Pool: There is no real rival, but the Dominican is certainly the team that comes closest to being one, again because they are the two largest suppliers of MLB talent yet have never faced each other.
Will get out of the pool if: They play like they are supposed to.
Will be eliminated if: They play like they did against Mexico. Or if Joe Torre screws up badly trying to somehow win the tournament while also paying attention to his buddies in the managerial and front offices around the league.
Got here by: Going 2-1 in Pool C, falling only to the Dominican
What they call baseball: Béisbol
First Round Star: Angel Pagan led the team in OPS during round 1.
Biggest Rival in the Pool: The Dominican- they beat Puerto Rico in Puerto Rico, after all.
Will get out of the pool if: Their pitching continues to do well- of teams still in contention at the classic, the Puerto Ricans have the best ERA and are tied for the lowest WHIP.
Will be eliminated if: The pitching falters and the hitting doesn’t pick up the slack to make up for it.
Got here by: Going 2-1 in Pool D, 2nd place due to tiebreakers.
What they call baseball: Baseball
First Round Star: Chris Colabello. The Italian-American had a HR, 4 RBIs and a .455 BA in the first round.
Biggest Rival in the Pool: None, really. The only rival of Italy, the Netherlands, is on the other side of the brackets.
Will get out of the pool if: The eclectic mix of Italians and Italian-Americans continue to hit then they need to get a little bit of luck.
Will be eliminated if: The luck runs out against the highly-talented teams in the pool.
I predict that the Dominican Republic and USA will advance, but given the madness of baseball, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Puerto Rico in place of either of those two teams. Really, the only surprise would be if Italy gets out of the pool.