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South African Baseball
   
SOUTH AFRICA WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC QUALIFIER 2012

Observations from South Africa's World Baseball Classic Campaign in 2012

In the light of the inevitable calls from the Monday Morning Quarterbacks for the removal of the US coaches that litter the social media, I thought I would share my observations from the recent event.

South Africa World Baseball Classic 2012
South Africa celebrates its first World Baseball Classic win over France in 2012

The Good

Pitching - with half the WBCQ completed South Africa ranks 5th out of 8 teams in terms of pitching. Six of the South African pitchers are currently in the early stages of affiliated ball and under the age of twenty-one. Special mention must be made of Dylan Unsworth (6.0 IP ERA 1.50), Dylan DeMeyer (who pitched South Africa to a win against France), Robert Lewis-Walker (2.1 IP ERA 0.00), Hein Robb (5.1 IP ERA 0.00) and the more seasoned Wade Mackey (4.0 IP ERA 4.50).

 

Dylan Unsworth Dylan DeMeyer Robert Lewis-Walker Wade Mackey Kieran Lovegrove
Unsworth DeMeyer Lewis-Walker Mackey Lovegrove

Kieran Lovegrove, the baby of the group having just turned eighteen, showed flashes of the electric stuff that got him drafted in the third round but he might have succumbed to the expectations and the conditions. Despite the fact that the Chicago Cubs shut Tayler Scott down after a long season, he is part of this highly talented young pitching "brat-pack" that is poised to take South Africa to the next level.

Team Pitching
Team
W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR HB BB SO WHIP HLD GF
Spain 3 1 2.19 4 4 0 1 0 37 21 14 9 2 6 20 29 1.11 1 4
Canada 3 0 3.38 3 3 0 0 1 24 19 9 9 2 3 5 17 1.00 0 3
Isreal 2 1 3.86 3 3 0 0 1 28 26 14 12 0 2 14 13 1.43 6 3
France 0 2 5.21 2 2 0 0 0 19 21 13 11 1 2 16 14 1.95 2 2
South Africa 1 2 5.28 3 3 0 0 0 29 35 22 17 2 7 15 18 1.72 0 3
Germany 2 2 6.98 4 4 1 0 0 29.2 40 29 23 8 0 13 27 1.79 0 3
Great Britain 1 2 10.88 3 3 0 0 0 22.1 34 32 27 3 4 15 17 2.19 0 3
Czech Republic 0 2 14.73 2 2 0 0 0 14.2 23 28 24 2 5 11 8 2.32 0 2

Chemistry - despite facing teams that had definitely redefined the term "citizen", the team remained positive and cohesive and were not overawed by the number of established players they encountered. Let's look at the caliber of the opposition; Engele Beltre (AA Texas, 13 HR - from Dominican Republic, Played for Spain); Adrian Nieto (Washington Nationals, 16 HR - from Havana, Cuba, played for Spain); Israel had 21 Minor League players and two with Major League experience - not one of them from Israel (Nate Frieman, 71 HR, 1876 Minor League ABs, Texas AA; Cody Decker 87 HR, 1385 Minor League ABs, Texas AA: Josh Satin 16 Major league games; 2036 Minor League ABs, 14 HRs in AAA this year, New York Mets; Eric Berger has pitched 133 Minor league Games; Richard Bleier has pitched 124 Minor League games - and the list goes on and on.

The Bad

Hitting - the team batting average for the tournament was .103. In 97 at bats, South Africa managed only 10 hits. The batters looked to be tentative against some ordinary pitching (France). over-matched once the velocity got into the 90 mph region (Israel) and unaware of their strengths once the ball started moving around (Spain). Batters seemed to be content to adopt a "cricket-like" approach at the plate, using very hittable pitches to "get their eye in", taking strikes on hitter's counts and swinging at the pitcher's pitch when they were behind in the count. To make matters worse, early in the tournament, batters appeared to be swinging for the fences in a renowned pitcher's park with extremely adverse atmospheric conditions. Despite being gifted with numerous walks, we struggled to get hits with runners in scoring position. Indications of ability were definitely evident with the likes of Karl Weitz, Jonathan Phillips, Wesley Hoskins, Richard Holgate and Paul Bell but it was evident that there is a dire need to expose our batters to quality pitching. It was obvious that South African batters are thousands of repetitions behind their counterparts and I am not sure how the scapegoat US coaches could have impacted this aspect of their preparation. A significant portion of the blame must go to the players themselves. This event did not just sneak up on them. They have known about it for almost a year.

Team Batting
Team
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG AVG OPS
CAN 3 116 38 44 7 2 9 35 82 16 20 2 1 .455 .707 .379 1.161
ESP 4 148 32 53 7 2 1 29 67 18 11 4 0 .451 .453 .358 .904
GER 4 124 40 38 7 1 4 39 59 18 16 1 1 .422 .476 .306 .898
CZE 2 58 6 15 1 0 0 4 16 5 11 1 0 .317 .276 .258 .593
ISR 3 102 18 24 2 0 4 15 38 17 19 4 0 .381 .373 .236 .754
FRA 2 72 2 16 3 0 0 2 19 6 16 1 0 .300 .264 .222 .564
GBR 3 87 14 19 4 0 2 10 29 5 22 1 0 .284 .333 .218 .618
RSA 3 97 11 10 4 0 0 9 14 24 28 3 1 .281 .144 .103 .426

 

Athleticism - It was evident that the South African team, with a few exceptions, are nowhere near as athletic as the other teams in the competition. Should the South African team have made it through to the WBC, this glaring differential would have been even more evident. As this is a factor that is not necessarily affected by the coaches or conditions in South Africa, the expectation is that this will be remedied by the individuals prior to South Africa's next international campaign. With South Africa's current dearth of batting, giving the opposition extra outs did not help their cause.

Fielding - with the possible exception of the middle infielders, South Africa committed far too many physical and mental errors. Once again they gave their opponents extra outs and free passes at crucial moments in the games. Although the conditions played a role, there was a tendency to go for the big play instead of sticking to the fundamentals. An errant throw to first for the third out is bounced, the runner is called safe and it leads to a three run inning. A cut-off is missed and instead of keeping the batter at first, he ends up in scoring position and they give up another big inning. A wild throw from the outfield results in a four run inning and they again take themselves out of the game. These are fundamentals and no player who took the field could possibly plead ignorance or blame the coaches.

The Future

We can assume that the six members os the "brat-pack" alone will collectively have approximately 1000 games in the Minor leagues under the belt before the next WBC event. There is a hope that South Africa will have a professional league in place sanctioned by MLB, so that their professional pitchers can do their winter workouts in South Africa and expose more players to quality pitching. Hopefully the Youth Development program will drive youth participation around the nation although there does seem to be a level of mistrust in this particular area. The Player Development initiative and the Intensive Training Centre Program will hopefully achieve the goal of elevating South Africa's players although it might require the full-time participation of international coaches, and the participation by the identified elite athletes in the same events attended by their US and Caribbean counterparts.

 

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