Saturday, February 4, 2017

WBC 2017 preview: Breaking down Australia

How they fared in the past
Australia has never advanced past the first round in any of the three World Baseball Classic tournaments it's participated in.
In '06, Australia lost all three games it played. In '09, after opening with a 17-7 win over Mexico, Australia played Cuba in a tight game that featured a Hughes double off Aroldis Chapman in the fourth inning -- Hughes eventually came around to score the tying run. Cuba would go on to defeat Australia, 5-4. In a rematch with Mexico in the next contest, Australia was eliminated in a 16-1 loss. In the '13 Classic, Australia was once again winless, falling to Chinese Taipei, South Korea and the Netherlands.
What they should do well
Australia returns several players who have had success at the plate in previous Classic tournaments: Welch was 3-for-10 with a homer in '13, Walker was 5-for-11 (.455) in '13, Hughes homered and drove in three runs during the '09 Classic, and Harman has a .269 batting average (7-for-26) over all three tournaments Australia has participated in. Oeltje hit .500 (6-for-12) in the '09 WBC.
Where they could struggle
Australia's pitching has been a weakness in each of the three Classic tournaments it's been a part of, and that could very well hamper the team again this year. Of the four pitchers on Australia's National Team who have previous Classic experience, only Kent has an ERA below 7.50 in tournament play.
How far they could go
Finding itself in Pool B with the likes of two-time World Baseball Classic champion Japan and the always formidable Cuba, it would be an improbable feat for Australia to advance past the first round of the tournament for the first time.

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