Before delving directly into the numbers, however, may I briefly add that I'm a major advocate of the tournament and the ideals therein, especially considering that baseball won't be a part of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. With basketball and soccer competing for slices of the international athletic pie, the importance of the WBC now becomes magnified in regard to keeping baseball globally salient.
The timing of the WBC, however, remains something of Major League Turnoff, with baseball fans - at least here in the States -- more apt to concentrate on their own club's spring chances, than to be rubbernecking over to Team USA's results. Said head-swiveling is further muddled with the spring timing of the event when several of the tournament's top draws elect to sit the WBC out to instead enter the ensuing MLB campaign as healthy as possible. Team USA's combined 7-7 record in '06 and '09 are the result.
The Twins had four players compete in the WBC (although several others who were prepped to participate ultimately dropped out for the aforementioned health-concern issues): Justin Morneau and Jesse Crain (Canada); Luis Ayala (Mexico); Nicky "Fugettaboutit" Punto (Italy). Did the WBC jumpstart their respective seasons?
No. Except for Morneau, which comes as no surprise from a numerical standpoint because,in brief, the guy's a stud and a former MVP and really, it may take the Canadian Royal Mounted Police to derail his game. Swinging at a .322 clip through the weekend, Morneau is batting 60 points above the MLB average of .262. Furthermore, the .318 he hit for April is more than 30 points higher than his lifetime average for March/April, which is to suggest that the international cuts in March truly did sweeten his spring swing.
But for the other fellas, the same sanguine start hasn't applied. Punto, at .207, is obviously well below the league average; he hit a lowly .228 in April, a few rungs below his career March/April mark. The Twins' pitchers involved are hoeing the same troubled road. Ayala checks in at 1-1 with a bloaty 4.70 ERA (league average: 4.50); his 5.73 ERA for April was more than a run-and-a-half higher than his lifetime mark for April. Crain has battled further arm setbacks; said struggles are evidenced by his ugly 7.88 ERA, well above the league average.
Of the 44 pitchers that played in the WBC, the numbers weren't quite as impressive in that only 36 percent bettered their respective career ERA's for March/April. Of more gravity, however, may be the recognition that 59 percent of those hurlers were below the league ERA of 4.52.
So while the international competition may not have overtly buoyed the numbers for our boys as a whole, there would seem to be substantial merit - especially for the hitters - to participating in the event. I think a move to a fall tournament, say, directly following the World Series, may prove better timing for the event, whereupon non-playoff players will still have time to heal, and the baseball world will have one final taste of hardball before the onset of winter.
A shift could prove the difference between making the event WBsee? or WBseeyalater.
*photo via Wiki page
**photo via Wiki page