A Look Into the Netherlands Upset(s) of the Dominican Republic

How does an upset like this occur? TWICE?? How does a team made up of MLB outcasts-at-best defeat one of the favorites in the tournament, the Dominican Republic?

Eugene Kingsale has dabbled in the major leagues, and Randall Simon once hit an Italian sausage with his bat and gained fame that way... But other than that, these Netherlands players are unknowns to even the trained baseball fan's eye...

Sidney Ponson has had the best MLB career out of the Netherlands roster. Sid also has a 90-106 career record through 2008 with a 4.95 ERA... Less than impressive overall, obviously.

On the other hand, for the Dominican team you have some of the best players in the world in Big Papi, Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, Willy Taveras, Robby Cano, Pedro, Ubaldo Jimenez... the list goes on! How does a Netherlands team with literally ZERO signed MLB players on the team defeat the team with virtually every one of their players not only on a MLB roster, but starters on their respective teams?

I understand I have only asked questions thus far in this blog post, but I am trying to convey what an enormous feat this is! This just should not happen!

Reason Number One for these upsets: Bert Blyleven.
Yes he was born in the Netherlands (Zeist), and Blyleven is the pitching coach for the team. Blyleven is not only the most accomplished pitcher not in the HOF, but is also evidently a tremendous pitching coach. Steve Phillips of ESPN was talking about how Blyleven has coaxed a tremendous amount of self-confidence in the Netherlands' pitching staff. He taught them to bring the bill of their caps down to right over their eyes in an effort to avoid all of the distractions and simply pitch their guts out. While Ponson is a decent enough pitcher, they have won two games against the D.R. with other pitchers too... Keep in mind Ponson has only pitched four innings out of the 18 total against the Dominicans...

Remember these rules:
A pitcher may:
Not pitch until a minimum of four days have passed since he last pitched, if he threw 50 or more pitches when he last pitched;
Not pitch until a minimum of one day has passed since he last pitched, if he threw 30 or more pitches when he last pitched;
Not pitch until a minimum of one day has passed since any second consecutive day on which the pitcher pitched;
Throw no more than
70 pitches per game in Round One of the tournament;
85 pitches per game in Round Two of the tournament; and
100 pitches per game in the Semifinals and Final of the tournament; unless the pitcher needs more to complete a batter's plate appearance; and
Throw no more than
50 pitches per exhibition game for a Team, or the maximum number of pitches that WBCI sets forth for such pitcher for such exhibition game, whichever is less, if the pitcher is under reserve to an MLB Club. WBCI may set forth such a maximum upon the written request of the pitcher's MLB Club.

(Courtesy of http://web.worldbaseballclassic.com/about/rules.jsp)

This allows unknown pitchers like Alexander Smit, Robbie Cordemans, Tom Stuifbergen, Dennis Neuman and Leon Boyd the opportunity to shut down the potent D.R. lineup for 5 innings in the first game and nearly the entire second game. The Dominicans knew how big of an upset this was going to be if they lost, so they panicked, swinging at pitches they definitely should not have. Kudos to Blyleven and his pitchers for capitalizing on these over-anxious mistakes.

The first game was basically given to the Netherlands with Eugene Kingsale scoring on a wild pitch by Edinson Volquez, and two more runs scoring in the first on a throwing error by Hanley Ramirez. That lead held up and the Netherlands won.

The second game, and the reason this is such a tremendous story, featured tremendous pitching on both sides. Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies struck out 10 batters in four innings for the Dominican team, while Team Netherlands didn't allow an earned run the entire game, allowing just one run (Jose Reyes scored) on a miscue by Kingsale.
The tremendous team pitching for the Netherlands, coupled with solid defense proved successful in extra innings and created one of the biggest upsets we've seen in any sport in a long time. This team showed a lot of heart and will go on to face Puerto Rico on Wednesday... You know what they say... If you ain't Dutch, you aint much.