Baseball is a sport usually played in a series of games. Regular season contests are played in sets of two, three, or four. Postseason matchups are either best of five or seven showdowns. What makes the World Baseball Classic unique is that each "series" lasts just one game. As we were reminded in the 2016 MLB playoffs a shorter series or an individual game favors the team with pitching and a strong bullpen. So while Team USA looks to be fielding its most competitive WBC roster yet, it's still lacking in the arms department.
If all the best players played then pitching wouldn't be a problem for USA. I mean just imagine a rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Chris Sale, David Price, and Max Scherzer. Throw in a bullpen featuring Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, and Craig Kimbrel and the next best pitching staff in the tournament wouldn't come close to matching us. Scherzer was actually supposed to participate but a minor injury is going to sideline him. Miller is playing and if manager Jim Leyland uses him the way Terry Francona has used him recently than he will be an invaluable weapon out of the pen. But as of right now Chris Archer and Marcus Stroman will be leading the rotation. While they're good they don't exactly separate the US rotation from the rest of the pack.
Team USA will therefore rely on a potentially dominant lineup listed above. The list looks even better when you consider the elite defenders the team has landed. Arenado, Posey, Crawford, and Hosmer are some of the best at their respective positions. Add in the offense of Goldschmidt, Murphy, Jones, and McCutchen and the US becomes an instant tournament contender.
Yet despite the lineup, defense, and addition of Miller team USA won't enter the tournament as favorites. The Dominican Republic are the defending champs. Japan has won it all twice already. There are a bunch of other countries that have better starting pitching than the US. Still, until we see who else is added to the roster we can't fully judge it yet. There's also the rumor that Kershaw and Bumgarner could become available should Team USA advance to the second round. Hopefully that happens because we haven't finished higher than fourth in any of the three previous classics. The roster is off to a promising start but it still needs help as we get closer and closer to Spring Training.