WBC Semi-Final Preview: Japan vs. Puerto Rico

The game between Japan and Puerto Rico, on paper, should belong to the Japanese team, a seasoned squad that relatively breezed into the San Francisco round and which will be playing with far more rest than Puerto Rico, which will be playing it’s third game in as many days. But, as has been shown time and time again, in baseball weird and unexpected things can happen. Go below the jump for a more in-depth preview.

Tale of the Tape:

Starting Pitching Matchup: Kenta Maeda, Japan’s likely starter, is one of the finest pitchers in Japan and could be headed to America within the next few years. In NPB action last season, the righty went 14-7 with a 1.53 ERA, and he has been just as impressive in WBC action, having given up only 2 hits in 10 innings during his two starts, while chalking up a tournament-leading 15 strikeouts. Puerto Rico will counter with Mario Santiago, a right-handed Dodgers farmhand who has a career 4.04 ERA over parts of seven Minor League seasons. So far in the WBC, Santiago has been less-than-stellar, having given up 3 earned runs in 4.1 innings pitched in his lone start. Advantage: Japan.

Bullpens: Puerto Rico’s bullpen has been a bit troubling during the WBC- almost blowing it against Team USA, for example. The fatigue of playing three games in three days doesn’t help it that much, either. Japan, on the other hand, will be relatively well rested, and Japan has had some good success in the past by stacking their starting pitchers. While Puerto Rico’s pitching statistics are better on paper than Japan, Japan’s opponents have in general been better-hitting than those that Puerto Rico has faced. Advantage: Japan.

Hitting: Japan has better stats than Puerto Rico in almost every offensive category, and although Puerto Rico has faced better pitching than Japan has, the differences in statistics- and my eyes- have suggested to me that Japan is still probably the better hitting team than the Puerto Ricans. Advantage: Japan

Depth: Every player on Team Japan is a NPB player, so it is perhaps safe to say that every player on Team Japan- including reserves- is at least AAA in quality, with many of them being Major League in quality. Puerto Rico, by comparison, is more of a mix of various minor league levels, especially after you leave the starting lineups. So… Advantage: Japan.

Managers: Sorry, I don’t know enough about Koji Yamamoto and Edwin Rodriguez to really say either way, so I’m going to leave this part blank.  Advantage: ????

Experience/Intangibles: The World Baseball Classic is one of the biggest sporting events in Japan, and they go at it more seriously than perhaps any other nation: they have more scouting done, they have more training done, and they try to have video available for their players to study of their opponents. Add to that the experience that some members of the Japanese team have had in previous WBCs, and they definitely have an intangible edge. This isn’t to say that Puerto Rico doesn’t also have some things going for it: they have players with plenty of experience in both the WBC and postseason baseball, most notably the Molina brothers and Carlos Beltran, and they probably are more in game mode right now since they haven’t had as long a wait, but I still have to say… Advantage: Japan.

So, as you can see, Japan has a big edge in this game… but, well, you know what I’m about to say:

Games aren’t played on paper.

11 thoughts on “WBC Semi-Final Preview: Japan vs. Puerto Rico

  1. One question, why do you say that Japan’s opponents have been better hitting than PR’s when PR has faced what were arguably the 3 best hitting teams in this tournament(USA, Venezuela, DR) ??? Any of those 3 teams would lead the MLB in runs scored if they played in it.

      • Come on man. You have to give some credit to the pitchers that were able to stop the US hitters, pretty much every team was saving their best pitchers for their game against the US.

        PR faced the US twice, the DR twice, Venezuela, Spain, Italy once. Notice that even Italy had several major leaguers in its line up.

        Japan faced Netherlands Twice, Taiwan, Cuba, China and Brazil once. The only line ups they faced with Major league caliber hitters were Cuba and Netherlands. Cuba probably has like 3-4 mlb-caliber hitters and the netherlands has like 3-4 as well…. The US, Venezuela and the DR are pretty much MLB players 1-9 .

        PR faced a much tougher competition than Japan in order to make it to the semi finals, they faced better pitchers and better hitters.

  2. A flaw of the tournament is that PR has pitchers that are not available because of pitching rules. Japan will have everyone available. As PR had to travel and are probably emotionally and physically spent. Japan has everything in their favor. PR in a huge disadvantage. All of round 2 should have been played in US.

      • Looks like it screwed up the timing for Japan. Unusual base running errors! Their hitting was cold! What a WBC for PR!

      • I doubt that is the case, remember that Japan played 2 practice games before the semifinals. They were rested and took some swings during those games, PR just played better than them.

    • Mex, that’s why the game yesterday between the DR and PR was so important. And it’s just like you said, Japan has everything going for them. All their players are available and well rested and on top of that they even get a day of rest before the finals on Tuesday…

      The DR also won’t be able to use Wandy Rodriguez(who’s arguble the best starter on the team) for the rest of the tournament.

      • I think the DR’s best shot- assuming the Netherlands doesn’t upset them (again)- may be to try and pull the Japanese into a slug-fest. Problem is, AT&T is a pitcher’s park, at least dimension-wise.

      • So two flaws that will have to be fixed is the timing of where groups are played. The second using runs allowed as opposed to margin of runs scored and allowed. While the Canada-Mexico brawl probably hyped up the tournament more of that could really jeopardize teams releasing players. However flaws aside, this has been the most exciting of the 3 WBC so far.

  3. Dan,

    I think it could either way, both teams have good pitchers and hitters.

    From the beginning of the tournament I thought that DR had the second best pitching staff, not because of its starters of course, but because of the pen which is really important in a tournament with pitching counts. Deduno probably won’t pitch more than 4-5 innings in that game… after that all you’ll see is Herrera, Dotel, Strop, Casilla, Rodney, etc… so I think that the DR is also capable of winning a pitching duel.

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