If the World Cup in Qatar splendidly decorated the end of 2022, the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in 2023 is coming to sports fans. The WBC, which can be called the ‘Baseball World Cup’, is the 5th tournament.
After the first competition was held in 2006, the second competition was held in 2009, three years later, followed by the third in 2013 and the fourth in 2017, four years apart. I tried to open the 5th competition in 2021, but it was pushed back to this year in the aftermath of the corona, and the WBC was held in 6 years.
In Korea, coach Lee Kang-cheol, who led KT Wiz to win the KBO League in the 2021 season, takes the baton. The infield is considered a strong point.
Tommy Edman (St. Louis Cardinals), who won the Gold Glove for second baseman in 2021, which is awarded to the best defender by major league position, and Kim Ha-seong (Sen Diego Padres), shortstop Gold Glove candidate last season, are highly anticipated. there is. Edmund, whose mother is of Korean descent, joined the South Korean national team under WBC rules that would determine a country’s appearance based on the parentage of one of his parents or grandparents.
Choi Ji-man (Pittsburgh Pirates), an eight-year major leaguer, is highly likely to take over as first base, but the key is whether his team will allow it.
Third baseman Choi Jeong (SSG Landers), who represents the KBO League, guards the infield with major leaguers. ‘Maid in the House’ must be Yang Eui-ji (Doosan Bears).
Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes), who won the MVP for last year’s KBO league hitting 5 crowns, and Kim Hyun-soo (LG Twins), the captain of the WBC national team, are expected to occupy two outfield positions. Na Seong-beom (KIA Tigers), Park Gun-woo (NC Dinos), and Park Hae-min (LG Twins) are expected to compete for the starting spot.
It is true that the pitching staff has less weight compared to the previous national team. Along with Park Chan-ho, Ryu Hyun-jin (Toronto Blue Jays), one of the best pitchers of all time in Korea, was unable to work together due to injury, and An Woo-jin (Kiwoom Heroes), the current KBO League best pitcher who received the Golden Glove by ranking first in ERA and strikeouts last year, has a history of school violence. It was excluded because
Lefty duo Kim Gwang-hyeon (SSG Landers) and Yang Hyeon-jong (KIA Tigers), a lefty duo born in 1988, will scramble together in what may be their last national competition. For Korea, it is very important whether Chang-mo Koo (NC Diners), who caused a sensation in the KBO League with 9 wins and an ERA of 1.55 in the first half of the 2020 season, will be active.
Lee Kang-cheol will be training for the WBC in Tucson, Arizona, USA from February 14th to 27th. Korea, which belongs to Group B, will play Australia on March 9, Japan on March 10, Czech Republic on March 12, and China on March 13 at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. The 1st and 2nd places in the group advance to the quarterfinals.
The introduction is long. Today’s topic is not the Korean national team. I’d like to tell you about the Japanese national team that will face us on March 10th. It is said that it is the strongest power of all time, and Japanese fans are expecting a lot, so I want to see how great it is.
Japan, the winner of the 1st and 2nd WBC tournaments, is full of dreams of winning the tournament for the first time in 14 years. While the Dominican Republic won the 3rd and the USA in the 4th tournament, Japan only won 2 bronze medals in a row.
Tickets are already sold out. Tickets for the first round and quarterfinals at the Tokyo Dome have all been sold out. Tickets worth more than 2 million won are also available on resale sites. Basically, there are many tickets worth more than 1 million won.
Even if I’m a Japanese baseball fan, I think it will appeal to me. You can see Shohei Ohtani (LA Angels), the Japanese baseball hero who conquered the major leagues, play right in front of you.
The pitching rules for this tournament are strict. The maximum number of pitches thrown by a pitcher per WBC round is a maximum of 65 in round 1, a maximum of 80 in the quarterfinals, and a maximum of 95 after the semifinals.
If you throw more than 30 balls, you must take a day off, and if you throw more than 50 balls, you must rest for four days. Also, if you fight for two days, you should take a day off. So the more starting pitchers there are, the more advantageous it is.
In addition to Ohtani, many stars from Japan have joined the national team this time. In particular, the starting pitching staff, which is considered one of the ‘Big 4’, is really splendid. Let’s take a look at the main starting pitchers of this ‘Samurai Japan’, which are considered the strongest of all time.
Two swords that dream of conquering the world
♣ Shohei Ohtani
★ Born on July 5, 1994 (28 years old)
★ Los Angeles Angels
★ Pitching (pitcher/designated hitter, right-handed left-handed hitter), outfielder
★ Major Career
2015 NPB Pacific League Most Wins King
2015 NPB Pacific League ERA 1st place
2016 NPB Pacific League MVP
2016 NPB Japan Series Champion
2018 MLB American League Rookie of the Year
2021 MLB American League MVP
2021 MLB American League Outfielder Silver Slugger
Sports Nippon, a Japanese sports magazine, reported on the 18th that “there is a possibility that Ohtani will start as a starter in the fateful Korea-Japan match.” Korea and Japan will play the first round of the WBC finals at Tokyo Dome on March 10th at 7pm.
If you’re a Korean baseball fan, you can’t help but feel the horror of Ohtani. Because of the painful memories of the 2015 WBSC (World Baseball Softball Confederation) Premier 12 competition. Ohtani took the lead in a 5-0 victory with 10 strikeouts in 6 innings as a starter in the opening game against Korea at the time.
He also started in the semifinals. He faced Korea, and this time he blocked 7 scoreless innings (1 hit). He struck out 11 with a 160 km/h fastball and a mid-140 km/h forkball. It was such a perfect pitch that no Korean hitter could step on second base.
However, Hiroki Kokubo, coach of the Japanese national team, threw Ohtani with only 85 pitches in the 8th inning, which became an opportunity for Korea to write a ‘drama of reversal’. Korea, which trailed 0-3 until the 8th inning, caught up to 2-3 in the beginning of the 9th inning with 3 consecutive hits, a hit ball and a walk.
Lee Dae-ho (then Japan Softbank), the ‘4th hitter of Joseon’, who appeared in the bases loaded safely, hit Hirotoshi Masui, who was on the mound as the fourth pitcher, and hit 2 RBIs in a timely manner. Korea won 4-3, and this match became a memorable match in Korean baseball history.
Ohtani’s impact on Korean baseball was so strong that Kim Hyun-soo said, “I was watching Ohtani’s ball and then seeing other pitchers’ balls. It was too slow.”
Ohtani has been a member of ‘Samurai Japan’ for the first time in 8 years since 2015. He missed the 2017 WBC due to an ankle injury. Since then, Ohtani has successfully doubled as a pitcher on the major league stage and has grown into a star representing the league. He even won the American League MVP with his ‘double sword style’.
It was a valuable result achieved by overcoming the many voices that discouraged the two-hitter, saying, “It is difficult to do either of them properly.” For the first time in league history in the 2021 season, Ohtani exceeded ‘100’ in all five categories, including innings, strikeouts, hits, RBIs, and runs scored. He ranked 3rd in the American League (AL) with 46 home runs, and showed off his hot-tempered side by joining the 20-20 club with 26 stolen bases (5th in AL).
As a pitcher, he went 9-2 and had a 3.18 ERA as one of the league’s top starters. In the All-Star game, he served as the AL starting pitcher and designated hitter, and eventually enjoys the glory of the AL MVP in the 2021 season.
Last season, he became the first player in major league history to achieve double-digit wins and 30 homers, showing off the dignity of the ‘two swords’. He surpassed his first 10 wins as a starter and went 15 wins (9 losses) with a 2.33 earned run average. He drew 34 arches at the plate. It’s a really cartoonish grade.
Ohtani was initially expected to play an active part as a hitter in the WBC. It’s time to prepare for the new major league season, so it won’t be easy to digest from the WBC to the starting pitcher.
However, Japan national team coach Hideki Kuriyama said, “The WBC is considering Ohtani’s double career as a pitcher.” At the national team press conference on the 6th, Ohtani said, “He only aims to win, and he will work hard to do what he can to win.”
Will Ohtani really go for the ‘double sword’ in the WBC? Baseball fans around the world are paying attention to Ohtani.
I was thrilled 14 years ago once again
♣ Yu Darvish
★ Born on August 16, 1986 (age 36)
★ San Diego Padres
★ Pitcher (right-handed)
★ Key careers
2006 NPB Japan Series Champion
2007 NPB Sawamura Award
2007 2009 NPB Pacific League MVP
2009 2010 NPB Pacific League Average 2009 WBC
2007 2010 2011 NPB Pacific League Strikeout King
2013 MLB American League Strikeout King
2020 MLB National League Most Winning Champion
Born to an Iranian father and a Japanese mother, Darvish Yu is a superstar with the highest winning contribution by an Asian pitcher of all time.
Shall we take a look at Wins Above Replacement (WAR)? WAR refers to the contribution to victory compared to substitute players, and it is data that indicates how much the player contributed to the team’s victory compared to a general average player, that is, a substitute-level player.
The most representative WAR is the fWAR estimated by fan graphs and bWAR calculated by Baseball Reference. For reference, Park Chan-ho’s career bWAR is 19.9 and Ryu Hyun-jin’s is 19.5.
Darvish was also selected as an All-Star five times, holding the record for the most by an Asian pitcher.
He was the ace for the San Diego Padres last season with a 16-8 record (3.10 ERA). In fact, it was not expected that the 36-year-old veteran who threw close to 200 innings would compete in this WBC. This is because Darvish has not competed internationally since entering the major leagues in 2012.
However, in December of last year, he said, “I decided to participate in the WBC at the request of the coach of the Kuriyama national team.” The protagonist of the 2009 WBC championship has been competing in the tournament for the first time in 14 years.
Darvish’s career with the national team is largely divided into two competitions. 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2009 WBC.
For Darvish, the 2008 Beijing Olympics was not a very good memory. He was in poor shape, perhaps because he threw too much in NPB, and in his first match against Cuba, he lost 4 runs in 4 innings. After that, he won’t be judged, finishing the tournament with an ERA of 5.14. While Korea won the gold medal, Japan was unable to even win a bronze medal, receiving huge criticism from their fans.
Darvish, who vowed revenge, will be active mainly as a bullpen agent in the 2009 WBC. In particular, he came up from a save situation in the bottom of the 9th inning with a 3-2 lead in the final game against Korea. However, in a self-inflicted two-out 1st and 2nd base crisis, Lee Bum-ho got a timely hit to tie the game.
Japan took a 5-3 lead thanks to Ichiro Suzuki’s two RBIs in the top of the 10th inning, and Darvish returned to the mound in the bottom of the 10th inning. Lead batter Kang Min-ho was sent out on a walk, but afterwards Choi Jeong, Lee Yong-kyu, and Jung Geun-woo were all caught, confirming Japan’s WBC championship.
How will Darvish, who has become a veteran who has gone through a series of battles in the major leagues, show in an international competition he has participated in for the first time in 14 years? He is already interested in going head-to-head with big leaguers from the US or the Dominican Republic.
Current best pitcher in Japanese professional baseball
♣ Yamamoto Yoshinobu
★ Born on August 17, 1998 (24 years old)
★ Orix Buffaloes
★ Pitcher (right-handed)
★ Key careers
2019 WBSC Premier12 championship
2019 2021 2022 NPB Pacific League No. 1 ERA
2020 Tokyo Olympic Gold Medal
2020 2021/2022 NPB Pacific League Strikeout King
2021/2022 NPB Sawamura Award
2021/2022 NPB Pacific League MVP
2021/2022 NPB Pacific League Most Winning King
2022 NPB Japan Series Champion
Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the best pitcher in Japanese professional baseball. Despite his small physique of 178cm and 80kg, he perfectly uses excellent pitches and various pitches.
He cooks opponents with a fastball that tops out at 160km/h, a splitter that can reach 150km, a cutter in the high 140km, and a curve in the mid-120km. In particular, the splitter is rated at the highest level of NPB. Since he sometimes mixes the slider, it is inevitable for a hitter.
Having had a phenomenal season with 18 wins and 5 losses in the 2021 season, an average ERA of 1.39 and 206 strikeouts, he recorded 18 wins and 5 losses, an average ERA of 1.68 and 205 strikeouts in the 2022 season. He achieved the pitcher’s triple crown for two consecutive seasons (most wins, strikeouts, and average ERA).
It is true that he is always worried about his injury because he throws a fastball from a small size for a pitcher. He has never pitched 200 innings in a season.
Yamamoto, who was the lone ace of a low-ranking team in his early days as a pro, rises to the top of the Japan Series as his team’s strength improves as well as his performance. Yamamoto’s Oryx is up for the 2021 Japan Series. In Game 1, he pitched well with 1 run in 6 innings, but after losing 2 wins and 3 losses, he started Game 6 and gave up 1 run in 9 innings (11 strikeouts). However, the team lost 1-2 in overtime and lost the championship to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
Orix advanced to the Japan Series for the second year in a row last year. After giving up four runs in Game 1 and breaking early in the fifth, Yamamoto has been sidelined due to injury, but will put on the championship ring thanks to a hard fight from his teammates. Orix defeated Yakult 4-3, avenged the loss a year ago, and won the Japan Series for the first time in 26 years.
Speaking of Yamamoto, domestic fans will remember the Tokyo Olympics held in 2021.
Yamamoto, who threw well with 9 strikeouts and 6 scoreless innings in the opening match of the Tokyo Olympics against the Dominican Republic, started again in the semifinals against Korea. He sent an ace on the most important game. I was also at the Yokohama site.
Yamamoto, who was dominating the NPB stage with a tremendous pitch, but perhaps nervous from the pressure of the Korea-Japan match, he was hit with a double by Lee Jung-hoo in the first inning and faced a crisis with one out, second and third base. The main weapon, the cutter, instead of the splitter, was uncontrollable, and it seemed to be shaking. However, he struck out Eui-ji Yang and Hyun-soo Kim in a row to put out the fire. Japan scored 1 point each in the 3rd and 5th innings.
Yamamoto, who blocked the scoreless until the 5th inning, allowed a timely hit to Baek-Ho Kang after Hae-Min Park’s double in the top of the 6th and scored the first run. Afterwards, he was hit by Lee Jung-hoo, and came down the mound in a situation of 1 out 1 and 3 base. Kim Hyun-soo then hit Suguru Iwazaki, who took the mound, and the game was tied 2-2. In the end, the game ended with Japan winning 5-2, with Tetsuto Yamada hitting a 3-run double in the bottom of the 8th inning.
Yamamoto also won his dream gold medal as Japan defeated the United States in the final. He was Japan’s first Olympic gold medal in baseball.
After winning consecutively at the 2019 Premier12 and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Yamamoto is now challenging for the WBC championship. For him, this tournament could be an opportunity to learn a lot from his major league seniors, Darvish and Ohtani. He gets free agent status in 2026, so he’s a major league catcher.
The Man of the Perfect Game
♣ Sasaki Roki
★ Born on November 3, 2001 (21 years old)
★ Chiba Lotte Marines
★ Pitcher (right-handed)
★ Key career
April 10, 2022 Youngest perfect game (20 years, 5 months, 8 days)
Most strikeouts in a single game ( 19)
World record for consecutive batters and strikeouts (13 batters) World record for consecutive hits
on April 17, 2022 (52 batters)
Rocky Sasaki is the future of baseball in Japan. His hometown is Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture, one of the hardest-hit areas in the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.
At the age of 10, Sasaki lost his father and grandparents who taught him about baseball in the tsunami. He moved with his mother to nearby Ofunato, where he continued to play baseball.
Sasaki saw that the people of Tohoku gained great courage and comfort from the great fight of Masahiro Tanaka, ace of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, a professional baseball team whose Tohoku region (Aomori, Iwate, Akita, Miyagi, Yamagata, and Fukushima prefectures) was affected by the earthquake. I have a dream that I want to succeed so that I can give a lot to people too.
Since middle school, Sasaki threw a ball that exceeded 140 km per hour and received love calls from prestigious baseball high schools nationwide. But along with his middle school friends, he went on to his local high school, Ofuna Togo. In his senior year of high school, he broke Ohtani’s high school record (160 km) by throwing a ball at 163 km/h.
Wearing a Chiba Lotte Marines uniform with the first pick in the 2020 draft, he had no first-team appearances that year. Coach Tadahiro Iguchi did not put him on the mound, saying that he was not in shape yet.
Director Iguchi’s judgment was correct, and Sasaki, who had prepared well for a year, played 11 games in the 2021 season and received a passing score with 3 wins and 2 losses and an average ERA of 2.27.
And in the 2022 season, Sasaki causes a sensation. In his third appearance against the Orix Buffaloes, he ended the inning by striking out Masataka Yoshida with two outs in the top of the first inning, then struck out Ryo Nishimura who came out with two outs in the top of the fifth inning, setting a record for striking out 13 batters in a row.
This was a new record not only in the NPB but also in the major leagues and the KBO league. In the end, he struck out Yutaro Sugimoto, the home run king of the 2021 season, in the top of the 9th inning and set a tie record (19) for the most strikeouts in a single NPB game. 먹튀검증
Even greater than the strikeout record was Sasaki’s first perfect game in 28 years since Hiromi Makihara of the Yomiuri Giants in 1994, not allowing anyone to step on first base. At the time, he was 20 years, 5 months and 8 days old, which was the world’s youngest perfect game record.
For reference, in the major leagues, there has been no perfect game for 10 years since Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners on August 16, 2012. In Korea, 40 years have passed since the launch of professional baseball in 1982, but no one has achieved a perfect game.
In the next game, April 17th, against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Sasaki showed off his strength by striking out 14 up to the 8th inning and recording 17 consecutive perfect innings. If he blocked one more inning, the first two consecutive perfect games in history would have been possible, but Lotte was unable to score and Sasaki came off the mound at the end of the eighth inning.
Sasaki didn’t make the crazy impact of the previous two games after that, but he still finished the season with 9-4 and a 2.02 ERA. He, who failed to fill the regular innings under manager Iguchi’s management, is likely to become a full-time starter in the 2023 season. He is also expected to compete with Yoshinobu Yamamoto for the NPB top pitcher spot.
Sasaki is one of the best fastball pitchers not only in Japan but also in the major leagues. In the 2022 season, his fastball average velocity was 158.3 km/h, ranking first in NPB’s all-time average velocity. As befits a top Japanese pitcher, his forkball is also excellent, reaching speeds of up to 150 km/h.
The 2023 WBC is likely to be the stage where Sasaki will be known to the world. Japanese baseball fans expect world-class hitters to get stuck on his fastball.
‘Samurai Japan’ has not only a strong starting lineup, but also a splendid batting line. Murakami Munetaka (Tokyo Yakult Swallows), who is the protagonist of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics gold medal and set the record for the most home runs in a Japanese single season in the NPB with 56 homers in the 2022 season, is expected to be the starting third baseman.
Outfielder Masataka Yoshida is also a player to watch. He played for the Orix Buffaloes and achieved his dream of winning the Japan Series in the 2022 season. This season, he signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Boston Red Sox.
Seiya Suzuki (Chicago Cubs), who won the NPB Central League hitting king in the 2019/2021 season, is also an outfielder that the Japanese national team is proud of. He entered the MLB stage last season, where he posted a batting average of 0.262, 14 homers and 46 RBIs.
In Japan, there are players who are selected for their lineage, such as Korea’s Tommy Edman. Edmund’s St. Louis Cardinals teammate, Lars Nuthba, has Dutch ancestry by his father and Japanese ancestry by his mother. He posted 40 RBIs along with 14 home runs in the 2022 season.
Can Japanese baseball build Asian pride against teams from the United States, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, where major leaguers are mobilizing in this WBC? First of all, I hope that Korean baseball will show a spicy taste against Japan, the ‘luxury corps’, and win a thrilling victory.