The World Baseball Classic is wrapping up the pools, and Wednesday will begin the quarterfinals when Cuba takes on Australia. Fans have seen some outrageously great and bad baseball so far, with some massive blowouts and on-the-edge games. With pool play winding down, these are the teams that have looked the best and worst so far.
Japan still remains as only one of two undefeated teams in the World Baseball Classic. However, Japan has played all four of their games, while the other undefeated, Venezuela, has only played two. The Japanese squad has looked the best, winning all four of their games and already advancing to the quarterfinals to take on Italy. Stunningly, Japan has defeated Australia, Korea, Czech Republic, and China by a total score differential of 27 runs.
Of course, Japan is led by the amazing Shohei Ohtani, who has wowed in the tournament so far. Ohtani is hitting .500 at the moment while also pitching one game, earning five strikeouts. Japan was one of the favorites to win the tournament, but they were still below the Dominican Republic and the USA in terms of odds.
Now, Japan is making a serious case as the best team in the world, and if they have an impressive outing against Italy, they will likely be seen as the favorites.
Although their pool opponent Puerto Rico have been incredible as well, Venezuela is currently undefeated in the tournament with a 3-0 record. Venezuela started the tournament, shocking the world by defeating the favorites, Dominican Republic, and then defeating the other big name in the pool, Puerto Rico. Venezuela has also defeated Nicaragua, and they look to shock everyone as they are in a position to win their pool, a pool that many thought they wouldn’t get out of.
China leaves the World Baseball Classic without a win on their record, as they went 0-4 in the tournament. China got off to an awful schedule, playing two games on the same day, losing to both Japan and Czech Republic.
However, the biggest shock of how poor China was, was when they played Korea and were destroyed 22-2, the biggest score differential of any game in the tournament. No expert thought that China would make many waves in the pools, but the way they have been playing has been shocking for any that had any hope of the squad coming away with respectable games.
Nicaragua is the only other team besides China that has not won a game so far, as they went 0-4, last losing to Venezuela on Tuesday. Despite a less than average tournament, the Nicaragua team will have something to celebrate as one of their pitchers earned an MLB contract due to the tournament.
Nicaraguan pitcher Duque Hebbert was signed by the Detroit Tigers this week after his inning against the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic were crushing Nicaragua 6-1 in the top of the ninth and it looked likely that the score would increase as the Dominicans had MLB stars Juan Soto, Julio Rodríguez and Manny Machado due up. However, unexpectedly, Hebbert struck out the first two before giving up a double to Machado, but then surprisingly struck out MLB star Rafael Devers to retire the side. The Tigers were impressive with the outing and signed him to an MLB contract.