World Baseball Classic: Four reasons powerhouse Dominican Republic retired early from the WBC

In the spring, the Dominican Republic was considered one of the favorites to win the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Their impressive lineup included players like Manny Machado, Juan Soto, Julio Rodríguez and other fearsome hitters that resembled a nine-start All-Star game. But a 5-2 loss to Puerto Rico on Wednesday night eliminated the Dominican Republic from the WBC after playing just the minimum four games. Pool D sends Venezuela and Puerto Rico instead – who won in bittersweet fashion as Edwin Díaz was injured at the post-game celebration – to the quarterfinals.

What went wrong for the Dominican Republic? Here are four factors that led to their earlier-than-expected exit.

1. Bad sequencing

On an aggregate, team-wide level, the Dominican Republic played well. Need proof? They placed third in ERA as pitching staff and ninth in OPS as lineup. The catch is that they didn’t get as many runs as one would expect based on part two, as they checked in 12th in that category.

For comparison, each of the eight teams with a higher OPS than the Dominican Republic scored at least 23 runs. The DR, on the other hand, only scored 19 points. Would four more runs have made the difference? Well, they wouldn’t have hurt. The Dominicans lost to Venezuela by four and Puerto Rico by three.

Additionally, the Dominican Republic’s lineup left a total of 20 runners on base in two losses. Had they made money a few more times, they might have been able to advance to the next round. They didn’t do it, so they won’t do it.

2. Hard pelvis

We’ve highlighted some of the Dominican Republic’s stats above, so it’s only fair that we print more numbers to illustrate Pool D’s resilience.

That said, the pool had three of the top 10 OPS in the 20-team tournament between Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico placed fourth in runs scored and fourth in the ERA. Venezuela finished ninth in runs scored and second in ERA. Consider how the Dominican Republic finished third in ERA and there were clearly three worthy teams in the division.

To the chagrin of the Dominican Republic, they ended up losing out.

3. Compromised roster

To be fair, nearly every WBC team has lost a player or two to injury. The Dominican Republic squad was no different, having been weakened by unfortunate ailments. First baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was forced to retire in the spring after suffering a knee injury, and assists José Leclerc and Jarlin Garcia also retired.

Would the Dominicans have fared better if these three had been available? It’s impossible to tell. Guerrero’s substitute Jeimer Candelario batted well, but it’s easy to underestimate the importance of having two other top-notch sidekicks to fall back on in a tournament with strict attribution rules.

We will point out that before the tournament, Soto was struggling with a calf injury himself. However, he still played well, making it a moot point.

4. The WBC structure

Let’s face it, strange things happen in baseball with small samples. In other words, the smaller the sample, the larger the error bars. Just last season, the tiny Pittsburgh Pirates won five of the six games they played against powerhouse Los Angeles Dodgers. That didn’t mean the Pirates were good, and it didn’t mean the Dodgers were bad. It was just baseball.

In this case, the Dominican Republic played four games and lost two of them. Both of those Ls came against the teams advancing from their pool. If the Dominican Republic had a three-game set against everyone or a best-of-seven streak, who knows? Perhaps the Dominicans are advancing.

Unfortunately, the WBC is not as long as the Major League Baseball regular season. It’s not even the length of the postseason. It’s just organized chaos disguised as baseball, a quick pool sprint followed by a series of knockouts. The last team standing will be crowned champions, but it’s not necessarily the best team – it was just the best surviving team.

That wasn’t the Dominican Republic this year.

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