Another World Baseball Classic is going by, and once again the USA baseball team is watching the Championship Round from the sidelines.
The US struggled early, dropping Game 1 of their tournament to Mexico, but the team quickly rebounded by winning its next three in a row.
Then came the heavy-hitting Dominicans, who dropped the US 3-1. And finally a 4-3 loss to the Puerto Ricans—despite a 7-1 win three days earlier over the same team—eliminated the USA from the semis.
In three WBC's, the US has now advanced to the semifinals just once. That was 2009, where the Americans inevitably lost to Japan 9-4.
It seems strange that in a sport invented by the United States—whose professional league is the creme de la creme of the world—the US continues to fall short on the world stage.
Taking a step back and looking at the 2013 tourney, there are several players whose disappointing play can be attributed to this year's early WBC exit.
Ryan Braun, OF
The WBC is played in spring, and just like spring training, it's impossible to expect every player to show up and be ready to bring their A-game.
But for a guy like Ryan Braun, an MVP who has been one of the premier players in the MLB his entire career, you expect more than what he gave at this year's WBC.
In six games, Braun posted an abysmal .693 OPS, with no home runs, a team-leading seven whiffs and only two extra-base hits.
He was particularly bad in the USA's final two losses. In those games, he went a combined 1-for-8, with a whiff and three men left on base.
Braun is a great player, but he failed to show that on the world stage this year. With him batting third for the US, that lineup was bound to fail eventually.
Adam Jones, OF
Adam Jones isn't as big a name in the MLB as Braun, but he enjoyed a breakout season last year and is a talent on the rise.
Despite that, Jones struggled in this year's WBC and turned in a terrible effort.
The 26-year-old finished his tourney hitting .182 with a .467 OPS. His five total bases was the lowest among players who appeared in all six games for the US.
In the United States' elimination to Puerto Rico, Jones went 0-for-4 at the plate with two strikeouts and two men left on base.
The young outfielder has a great career ahead of him, but here's hoping his next WBC appearance goes a little better.
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Despite a strong rookie season, Eric Hosmer struggled last season. So he certainly wasn't one of the premier players on this year's WBC squad.
But as the starting U.S. first baseman—a position attributed to power hitters—Hosmer could have played a little better than his .471 OPS.
The big disappointment for Hosmer came in the elimination game to Puerto Rico.
Down 4-0 in the eighth, the Americans started to rally. With the score 4-3 and the bases loaded, the Puerto Rican pitching was imploding and Hosmer was coming up to bat.
As you probably suspect—since the U.S. was eliminated—Hosmer ended that rally with an out. In fact, it was a grounder to second base on just his second pitch of the at-bat.
While expectations weren't high for Hosmer, that out in the eighth helped to single-handedly ensure the U.S.'s elimination.
It's hard to pick out one real scapegoat from the pitching staff, because overall things went smoothly. But there are a few players who pitched poorly at all the wrong times, leading to big U.S. losses.
Reliever Craig Kimbrel didn't have the best WBC (0-1, 4.91 ERA) and he was at his worst when the U.S. needed him most.
Facing off against the Dominican Republic, Kimbrel squandered a 1-1 tie in the ninth by giving up three hits and two earned runs in 0.1 innings. That implosion resulted in a big loss for the U.S.
Then there was Ryan Vogelsong and Vinnie Pestano, both of whom were roughed up in the elimination game to Puerto Rico.
Voggy had a strong first start, but he gave up two runs in 5.2 innings to the Puerto Ricans. He was relieved by Pestano, who gave up two more runs in 0.0 innings, putting the US in an early 4-0 hole.
While there was plenty of good and bad from U.S. pitchers, the overall staff needs to improve in the future. Isn't it about time the Clayton Kershaws and Justin Verlanders showed up?
World Baseball Classic stats available at the WBC's official website
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