Saturday, March 11, 2006

WBC and Other Thoughts

I have been enjoying the World Baseball Classic immensely...thanks to a local station picking up some of the games shown on tape delay on ESPN, I have been able to watch and score thirteen games. While many of the games have been clunkers, I have enjoyed watching players from foreign leagues who nobody had ever heard of before. The games should be better as the bottom feeders have been weeded out.

There were no real shockers in the eight teams that advanced--I correctly predicted six of them, not that this is any great feat--it is probably below average in fact. I thought for some reason that Canada would edge out Mexico, which wasn’t a horrific pick as both went 2-1, although Mexico trounced Canada head-to-head. And I also thought that the Cubans were over-hyped and not at the caliber of the other power countries--and you could glean support for that viewpoint from their drubbing at the hands of Puerto Rico, but I overestimated the Panamanian team and had no idea they would get no-hit and mercied by the Dutch. Unfortunately that game was not one of the ones I got to see, so I have yet to see a no-hitter from start to finish.

The favorites to advance from this round would have to be the US, Japan, DR, and Venezuela, although Canada showed us that anything can happen. It is only a three game pool, so nothing would be shocking. But I think Korea, Mexico, and Cuba are clearly inferior on paper to their pool opponents. Puerto Rico could surprise, though, although their pitching is not as deep as the Dominican and nowhere near the caliber of Venezuela. But I think they definitely have the best chance to beat out one of the favorites.

On Cuba, I think that the love of Yulieski Gourriel is just a bit excessive. Sure, he looked awesome against Panama and the Netherlands, but Puerto Rico held him in check. He certainly looks like a very talented player, and a great prospect, but some have made claims like he could be a major league star right now, and I just don’t see it. Logically, without considering Gourriel in particular, he is twenty-one years old. How many 21 year olds have ever been among the best players in baseball? Sure, there are some: ARod, Mantle, Kaline, Pujols, and others. But most of those guys are among the truly elite players in the history of the game. The likelihood of any particular player being in this group is small. Like I said, I would think Gourriel would be a top major league prospect, but not a star in the majors. Yet.

I think that what you will see in the next round is that Cuba has no idea what they are up against when playing elite players. Their dominance of international competition has come against amateurs and minor leaguers. I think that their isolation from the rest of the baseball world severely hurts them. Cuba has a population of 11 million, while the Dominican has 9 million. There is no doubt that Cuba is baseball-mad as the Dominican is, and so I have little doubt that Cuba could be a talent source like the Dominican Republic is. But I also think that their relative isolation from the rest of the baseball world can not be good for their player’s development. This also showed with the bush league jawing of their catcher at every call and the batter, I believe it was Urrutia, who felt the need to make a hand signal to the umpire telling him the pitch was outside. I would have drilled him in the ear.

Also, I would not want to be a Cuban pitcher under any circumstance. They have had them on an incredibly short leash. Against Puerto Rico, they ran through four pitchers in the fourth inning. The one poor guy, Suarez, came in with the bases loaded, issued a four pitch walk, and was yanked. That said, the Cuba/Panama game was as gripping and exciting as any game you are likely to see this season.

On other baseball issues, I still do not care about Barry Bonds and steroids. Sorry.

Cuban government officials think that they can control fans’ signs in San Juan. Sorry.

The Book by Tango, MGL, and Andy Dolphin is good. You should get it. I’ll probably post a review eventually, probably eight months after it came out like most of my other reviews have been.

Al Leiter being on the national team of the United States is like...I don’t know, I can’t think of a bad enough analogy. I’ll leave it at, it’s real bad.

Brian Kenny, who did play-by-play for some of the games in San Juan, is one of the worst baseball commentators I have ever heard. He makes me plead for John Kruk and Harold Reynolds. First, he seems to have a chip on his shoulder, a real negative outlook on just about everything and everybody. Second, he several times referred to sabermetrics while making outlandish statements that are not supported by sabermetrics. The one that sticks out was when he complained about the Netherlands batting Andruw Jones fourth instead of third, and saying that this does not make “sabermetric sense” because over the course of a season, the third-place hitter will get 50 more plate appearances. Now leave aside the issue of batting order construction for a moment, and just consider the claim. 50 more plate appearances? For one lineup slot? That does not pass any logical check, let alone actually looking it up like a sabermetricians would do. Thanks to The Book, though, I have a handy table that shows me that the third place hitter gets .11 more PA/game then the cleanup man, and that this difference is pretty constant down the lineup. .11 PA/game is 18 over the course of a season--it would take nearly 3 lineup slots to get a 50 PA difference.

The last piece on rate stats is flawed because I did not use custom LW for the players I added to theoretical teams. I was fully aware of how to do this, of course, I just figured it wouldn’t be necessary. What I failed to think of is that changing the LW value of a home run by even .05 makes a huge difference when your player hits 200 home runs. So whenever I get around to part seven, I will start by going back over those examples.


  1. I think that what you will see in the next round is that Cuba has no idea what they are up against when playing elite players.

    I would say that they now have an idea, after pounding the major league star studded Venezuela team. And this game, unlike Puerto Rico, actually meant something (Cuba had all 3rd string pitchers in there vs. PR). It was a huge game for both but Cuba showed they have the class and poise to not be intimidated, after it may have been easy for them to think so with all the negativity thrown around after the PR loss. They game a loss to J. Santana and their own pitcher Lazo kept the 1-5 Venezuelan players to 1 hit. Cuba has shown they are more than just 1 or 2 players deep, the entire team could play in the majors without a doubt.

    Care to reconsider your analysis now along with the rest of the baseball world how claimed Cuba was overrated after just 1 game that meant NOTHING?

  2. How cute, a socialist sticking up for his buddies in Cuba. As a proud capitalist pig, you have made my day. Thank you comrade.

    Perhaps my analysis of Cuba was incorrect. It wouldn't be the first time.

  3. Russ, you said you scored the games. Do you keep book for all the games you watch?

    Other note: Looks like Cuba is the real deal, but used up their pitchers and may be fighting an uphill battle against ???? (likely Japan at this point, rain delay vs. Korea)

    Russ, one more question if you read these comments. Assuming you play fantasy baseball more than I have (1st time for me) there an advantage of Roto scoring vs. Head-to-Head in scoring systems? I'm the commish and half the league wants Roto, other half wants head-to-head.

    Final words: Nice Blog, I try to check it out. I'm not always convinced with the statistical significance of the statistics tests you run, but they usually give a pretty good idea of what's going on and have helped me to understand baseball stats a little better.

  4. Russ? I don't know who Russ is, but I am the author of this blog and I am not him.

    But thanks for reading. If you are still interested in my answers to your questions, even though I am not Russ:
    1) I keep score of all the games I watch, if I know I am going to have time to watch the whole game without any interruptions
    2) Cuba is better then I gave them credit for. I still don't think they are as good as the US, DR, etc., but they certainly deserve to be in the conversation. Some will dismiss this as sour grapes or excuse making or what have you, but I think it should be noted that Cuba is in the midst of their season right now while the Major Leagues and the Asian leagues are still in spring training mode. Plus of course the tournament is a small sample size--Cuba clearly deserves to be in the WBC final, but that does not make them the "second best baseball nation in the world" as some have tried to pass it off.
    3) I am a very casual fantasy player and have never played head-to-head, so I can't really comment on the pros and cons.

  5. Sorry about the confusion. I got to your blog from a link on another blog and assumed it was part of the same blog.... too many blogs for me to track.

    Thanks for answering. And some of my comments on stats were pointed toward Russ. He posts a lot of stats on

    Take it easy and I'll keep checking in once in a while. Who's blog is this then? Thanks.

  6. I think it is great to see Cuba, Korea, and Japan do well. Nice to see the non-MLB teams do well. With this sample size it is impossible to draw any real conclusions from that.

    I think roto is much better than h2h. h2h is much more luck induced as you have more chances for close wins in categories that would even out over a longer season. The one advantage for h2h is that owners are less inclined to tank at the end of the season, and if they do it can hurt less. But overall roto is best.

  7. Thanks for reading. This is a semi-anonymous blog, so it is easy to see why it might get confusing. I post as "Patriot" on the Fanhome sabermetric board and (very rarely) on Baseball Think Factory.


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