Analyzing Israel's Upset Over South Korea In 2017 World Baseball Classic

By JamesRowe
Mar. 07, 2017

Israel came into their game against South Korea just looking to at least hope that it brings more excitement and interest in the sport for their country, but they got a lot more than just that. In a thrilling extra inning affair, Israel pulled off the upset over South Korea winning 2-1. It certainly helped Israel that they had Americans of Jewish faith being eligible to play for Israel, but they were also going up against some of the best players from the Korean Baseball League (KBO). Thats a tough hill to climb. Experiencing their first World Baseball Classic game, Israel certainly played like they had been there before as they looked poised to win the game. However, the game itself was pretty ugly.

Israel had many opportunities with the bases loaded to score runs, but everytime they came up empty as they left 14 runners on base. South Korea on the other hand, looked even worse on offense as they really swinging at bad pitches and also left nine runners on base. In fact they were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. South Korea’s starting pitcher, Won-Jun Chang, didn’t pitch particularly well, but his breaking ball was very hard to pick up for Israel batters, however he was wild and did walk three in the four innings he pitched. He also allowed a run, but he did manage to strike out 5 (though most of his strikeouts he was helped by Israel batters swinging at bad pitches.) Israel was patient enough on offense to draw nine walks, however, they just could not cash in those golden opportunities.

South Korea’s defense certainly hurt Israel’s chance when Blake Gailen lined out straight up the middle in the 7th inning with the bases loaded, it had looked like Gailen got the base hit, but South Korea’s shortstop Jaeho Kim snagged it. Israel, however, was better on defense as their shortstop Scott Burcham made three spectacular plays and helped make two critical double plays on a very tricky playing surface. Sam Fuld, who is known to make incredible defensive plays when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics (even has the nickname Superman for his amazing defensive plays) made a great catch in right center field.

Both teams combined for 2-for-17 (Israel was 1-for-9) with runners in scoring position, but the one hit Israel got that had runners in scoring position came in the 10th inning with a single up the middle by Burcham to score the winning run.

The pitching was also outstanding for Israel as they showed that their bullpen could be a huge factor in this tournament. The starter was Major League veteran Jason Marquis who pitched three solid innings. Marquis is now available for the rest of group play as he only threw 45 pitches (the rule is if you throw 50+ pitches you cannot pitch for four days, so basically the rest of group play, and if you throw 65 in the game, you are done for the game unless you hit that limit when facing a batter, you can finish off the at bat.) Jeremy Bleich, Alex Katz, and Gabe Cramer all pitched great and will be available for the rest of group play. However, it should be noted that Israel’s best reliever in this game was Josh Zeid as he pitched three scoreless innings earning the win while striking out four. Like Marquis, Zeid will not be eligible to pitch against Chinese Taipei in their next game as he threw 49 pitches (still can pitch against Netherlands) as because of the pitch limit rule, he threw more than 30 pitches (here’s the rules to clarify more: http://mlb.mlb.com/documents/2/9/8/215427298/2017_WBC_Rules_and_Rule_Modifications_taqdgzdk.pdf), so that could hurt Israel in their next game. However, they did not use Dylan Axelrod, which could be useful). Zack Thornton is another one of their best relievers who did not have his best stuff, but looks to rebound against Chinese Taipei.

Israel right now is sitting pretty as if they win against Chinese Taipei, their chances of advancing to the second round dramatically increases. By technicality, if Israel beats Chinese Taipei, it will be an upset. However, if they do upset Chinese Taipei, I wouldn’t be surprised and you shouldn’t be either.

Despite an ugly game, it was a very exciting one to watch. Israel made history and could even shock everyone if they win their next contest. Keep an eye on what happens though, they still possibly won’t make it out of the group, but for right now they are in a good position.