Tokyo 2020: Post Round-Robin Recap

Dingers, filth, and bullpen carts!

We have finished 6 Olympic baseball games in Tokyo, with every team having played 2 games. Nearly every game has been decided by 1 run, except for the United States’ 8-1 blowout of Team Israel on July 30. So, assuming we get more of the same in the knockout round, you may need to make a lot of popcorn and regrow your nails quickly.

Here’s the bracket for the knockout stage:

Israel finished as the B3 seed by virtue of their 2 group stage losses. Mexico finished as the A3, so Mexico (A3) and Israel (B3) will face off in the play-in game tonight at 11 pm ET/8 pm PT. The other play-in game will be South Korea (B2) against the Dominican Republic (A2), which will be on August 1 at 6 am ET/3 am PT. The two byes went to the United States (B1) and Japan (A1), as each team won both games on their schedule. The United States and Japan will face off on August 2 at 6 am ET/3 am PT, with the winner heading straight to the semifinals and the loser needing another two wins to get to the semifinals.

With the logistics out of the way, let’s talk about some of the notable storylines from the group stage:


Japan is as Good as Advertised


Japan (#1 team in the World Baseball and Softball Confederation Rankings) came into this tournament as the favorite, by virtue of their WBSC rankings and the level of talent they brought along. Since Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, roughly equivalent to AAA-level competition, built in a month-long break for the Olympics, some of the country’s best players were able to join the team in their quest for a gold medal. With a fairly similar roster to the one that made mincemeat out of the international competition in the 2019 Premier12 tournament, Japan was expected to roll right on through the group stage and into the knockout stage.

However, it wasn’t quite so simple for Japan. The Dominican Republic (7th) battled hard in the opening game of the group round. Japan was buoyed by a dominant performance from RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto (plays for the Orix Buffaloes in NPB), who bulldozed through a lineup that featured former Toronto Blue Jay Jose Bautista and Emilio BonifácioYamamoto pitched 6 scoreless innings, giving up just 2 hits and striking out 9. Yamamoto’s DR counterpart, Cristopher Crisostomos (Yomiuri Giants, NPB), was just as good, scattering 3 hits across his first 6 scoreless innings.

Trouble struck for Japan in the top of 7th, with Koyo Aoyagi (Hanshin Tigers, NPB) on the mound. Juan Francisco (Gigantes del Cibao, LIDOM) and Erick Mejia (Kansas City Royals, AAA) each singled. Charlie Valerio (Sioux Falls Canaries, American Association of Professional Baseball) doubled both of them home to give the DR the lead.


However, Japan was finally able to get to Cristopher Crisostomos (Yomiuri Giants, NPB) in the bottom of the 7th inning. Japan put runners on second and third and scored, thanks to an RBI groundout from Munetaka Murakami (Tokyo Yakult Swallows, NPB). Crisostomos was pulled before the groundout, but was responsible for the two runners, so his final line score ended as 6 IP/3 H/1 ER/7 Ks.

The DR scored an insurance run in the top of the 9th, thanks to a Gustavo Nuñez (Estrellas Orientales, LIDOM) RBI double. But, even that would not be enough to stop Samurai Japan made it 3-2 by piecing together 3 straight singles to score Yuki Yanagita (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks).

And then, Takuya Kai (Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, NPB) pulled off a play that would make a 1980’s manager cry tears of pure joy:


And then, this:

Despite entering the inning down 3-1, Japan didn’t flinch, calmly executing on fundamental plays to overcome the deficit and defeat a serious challenge from the Dominican Republic. That is the mark of a top team, one that will almost certainly make a run in the knockout stage.

Japan had a much easier time in their second game, rolling over Mexico, 7-4. Tetsuto Yamata (Tokyo Yakult Swallows) carried the load offensively, blasting a 3-run homer and tacking on an RBI single to boost the team to victory. Japan’s starting pitcher was once again strong, as Masato Morishita (Hiroshima Toyo Carp) threw 5 solid innings, allowing 2 runs and striking out 3.

One thing to watch out for as Japan continues its tournament run is the play of the bullpen. In the last two games, Japan’s relievers have allowed 5 ER in 7 IP. If that level of play continues, Japan will have a hard time closing out games in the knockout rounds. The starting pitching has been very strong (11 IP, 2 ER), but the bullpen certainly leaves something to be desired.


Relievers Will Enter the Game in Style


Behold, a throne for Jumbo Diaz!

That’s Jumbo, sitting on a glove, being driven from an indoor bullpen with a big screen. Ah, now that is the life!

And it’s not just for the Dominican Republic:

Please, please bring this to Major League Baseball.


Prospect Check-Up


A small handful of MLB’s top prospects are participating in the Olympics this year. The United States’ roster features 3 of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects: Simeon Woods-Richardson (Minnesota Twins), Shane Baz (Tampa Bay Rays), and Triston Casas (Boston Red Sox). Jarren Duran was nearly on the United States roster, but he was called up to Boston’s big league club and was thus ineligible to participate in the Olympics. The Dominican Republic also has star prospect Julio Rodriguez (Seattle Mariners).

Casas did not disappoint, going yard in Team USA’s victory over Korea early this morning:

Julio Rodriguez recorded the first Olympic hit in over a decade:

But, he has also cracked 4 hits, all of them singles, in 9 at-bats for the DR.

Unfortunately, Woods-Richardson and Baz have not seen any action yet for the United States, but Woods-Richardson was traded during yesterday’s trade deadline, moving from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Minnesota Twins in the deal for José Berríos. Here’s hoping that skipper Mike Scioscia will get to use both of them soon!


International Dingers


Because we don’t get enough of them in MLB every day, here are some more dingers to help make your day a little brighter.

Ian Kinsler, who has not played in Major League Baseball since 2019, didn’t even miss a beat:

Ryan Lavarnway (Cleveland, AAA) took one to the opposite field:

Tyler Austin (Yokohama DeNa Bay Stars, NPB) took this pitch out to center and then some:

Joey Meneses (Boston Red Sox, AA) made his mark against Team Japan:


Tetsudo Yamada was able to send this one juuust over the wall:



Some Nasty Pitches


There are two things that I love more than anything else in baseball: dingers and pure, good-old-fashioned filthy pitches.

There was no chance Todd Frazier was going to hit that ball.

Nick Martinez also had his filthy changeup working today:


Brandon Dickson joined in on the fun, tossing this disgusting pitch to Scotty Burcham:


Adam Sloate

Die-hard Angels fan since birth; misses the good ol' days of Vladdy, Kendrys, and Weaver. Temple University alumnus, UCLA Law student.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login