The World Baseball Classic is almost here. The tournament starts March 2 and runs through March 19 with 16 teams hoping to rule the baseball world. Since international baseball brings new players and storylines, Big League Stew is helping you get ready this worldly clash with previews of each team.
Pool: Pool B, Taiwan
'09 finish: 14th, 0-2, eliminated in first round.
First game: March 2 vs. Australia
Biggest star: Chien-Ming Wang, the former New York Yankees star who won 19 games in both 2006 and 2007. Injuries have knocked him off the "ace" path. He's a free agent currently, who most recently played with the Washington Nationals.
Name you may not know, but should: Cheng-Ming Peng, who is the team's most potent bat. He's led the Taiwan professional league in hitting five times. Looking deeper: Watch out for Jen-Ho Tseng, the youngster of the team. He's 19 and began playing with the national team when he was still in high school. He — and his 95 mph fastball — are supposedly interested in coming to the MLB. He didn't get a ton of playing time in WBC qualifiers, but he did strike out two in an inning of relief again New Zealand.
Important questions to ask about Chinese Taipei:
How'd that spying work out for you? As you might recall, Chinese Taipei got caught spying on rival Korea earlier this week. Did they at least get some good info out of it? Enough to make this year's game between the two more competitive? Korea has shut out Chinese Taipei in the past two WBCs.
Will Chinese Taipei make it out of the first round? In general, the team is regarded as a good one in international ball, but its 2009 WBC showing was a disappointment. It seems like Taipei vs. Netherlands will a game to watch, to see which team can join Korea (the favorite) and advance past Pool B.
Will Chien-Ming Wang find work after this? He's using the WBC as a try-out for MLB teams who want to see if his injury woes of recent years are in the past. He'll have eyes on him, including the Yankees (again).
Can we keep the Wangs straight? Two letters separates Chien-Ming Wang from teammates Ching-Ming Wang. They're both starting pitchers. There are two more Wang pitchers too: Yao-Lin Wang and I-Cheng Wang.
While we're on the subject of names: Can Chinese Taipei muster some Linsanity? There are seven players named Lin on the team. Two more and they could field a whole Lin team.