Last night's Japan-Korea final was certainly the best WBC game I've ever seen, and probably the best one in the WBC's short history. The live chat I hosted during the game was missing a few of the usual suspects but was a great one - thanks everyone who participated.
Here are my bullet points on the good...
- Both Japan and Korea should be proud of the game they played. Both teams had a chance to win and I think they both earned a lot of respect internationally. I've always been interested in Korean baseball, but I'll certainly follow the KBO a little more closely this year. Rather than winning bragging rights over each other, I think they've both earned bragging rights in the international baseball world.
- For my money, Hisashi Iwakuma was the tournament MVP.
- Japan executed small ball tactics pretty well over the last three games. I saw at least three successful hit and run plays, and a number of good bunts and lots of good defense.
- The Japan-Korea rivalry created an electric atmosphere. I'd love to see the two countries get together for something like The Ashes.
- Everyone is second-guessing Korea manager In-Sik Kim's decision to pitch to Ichiro in the 10th, but to me the decision wasn't totally cut and dry. Ichiro hadn't performed in the WBC until the final game, and Hiroyuki Nakajima had had a pretty good tournament. I'm not saying I agree or disagree with his call, but had he walked Ichiro we might be wondering why he loaded the bases for Nakajima.
- I actually think Hara made pretty good moves over the last few games.
- Unheralded players of the tournament for me are Toshiya Sugiuchi and Satoshi Komatsu.
And the less good...
- Yu Darvish really struggled with his command in the 9th inning last night. Ultimately it made the game more exciting, but he could have challenged hitters with his excellent fastball a little more, particularly with no one on base.
- Daisuke Matsuzaka, like Darvish had a bad habit of nibbling until he got into trouble, and then challenging hitters. Guys, you have good stuff! Go after hitters.
- Japan played five games against Korea, two against Cuba, and one each against China and the USA. It didn't detract from the final, but the seeding game was pretty mellow compared to the others.
- Japan won despite having Yoshiyuki Kamei on the roster.