Japan and China opened up the World Baseball Classic Thursday morning from Japan. The Ichiro-led Japanese team is defending WBC Champsions, and they opened up defense of their title with a 4-0 shutout victory over the Chinese.
The Japanese team isn’t as flush with Major League talent as some of the Latin American countries, but they are stacked with talent in comparison to Team China.
You know most of the Japanese Major Leaguers by one name:
Yu Darvish (who doesn’t play stateside) turned out to be the hero of the WBC opener. Japan’s ace struck out three in four innings, facing 12 batters and not giving up a hit. During four seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball, Darvish has a career record of 48-19 with 27 complete games and 8 shutouts in 89 starts. The guy’s career ERA is 2.89 and he has struck out 585 batters in 652.3 innings. Darvish was heavily recruited by Major League teams out of high school, but seems committed to playing baseball in Japan.
Too bad – because this guy seems to be one of the toughest pitchers to hit in the world.
China has three players affiliated with Major League teams – pitcher Kai Liu and catcher Zhenwang Zhang are both in their early 20′s and playing in the New York Yankees farm system. Ray Chang is a right-handed hitting shortstop in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
There’s not much to be said for any of the active Major Leaguers who played in Game 1 of the WBC. Besides four walks and a run scored by Fukudome, none of the other big name MLB-active Japanese players logged a single useful statistic. In his first MLB season, Fukudome hit .257 with 10 homeruns, 58 RBI, 79 runs and 12 steals for the Cubs. He turns 32 at the end of April, so hopefully last season was a year of adjustment for “Fook” and he can put up numbers more resembling the produced in Nippon.
Before an injury-plagued 2007 season, Fukudome produced 5×5 numbers of .351/31/104/117/11 in his last full Japanese season. Do you love the potential of that kind of production from a guy who is more than likely going undrafted in 10-team mixed leagues right now?
If you have a solid starting outfield and Fukudome is available late in your draft, consider taking him on a flyer. If he can win back his starting spot in the Cubs outfield, he might be able to live up to the numbers everyone expected from him last season.
In today’s WBC action, Chinese Taipei took the field against Korea at 4:30 AM EST. The loser then gets the privilege of beating up on Team China at 10:30 PM EST. Both games are on the Deuce – Desportes if you want to watch it en espanol.