March 29, 2023

Byte Class Technology

Byte Class Technology & Sports Update

World Baseball Classic: Explaining the complicated WBC tiebreaker that sends Cuba and Italy to quarterfinals

World Baseball Classic: Explaining the complicated WBC tiebreaker that sends Cuba and Italy to quarterfinals

The first week of the 2023 World Baseball Classic has featured raucous crowds and upsets galore, and also a massive five-team tie in Pool A in Taichung, Taiwan. All five teams in Pool A — Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Italy, Netherlands, Panama — went 2-2 in their four games. Italy beat the Netherlands early Sunday morning to clinch the massive five-team tie (ITA 7, NED 1).

There are four pools in the WBC and in the first round each team plays every other team in its pool once. The teams with the two best records in each pool advance to the quarterfinals. From there, it is essentially a single-elimination eight-team tournament. For a two-team tie in pool play, the tiebreaker is the head-to-head game. The winner holds the tiebreaker. Nice and easy. 

The tiebreaker rules are quite complicated for anything involving three or more teams, however, and we must dive into them to sort out of the five-team tie in Pool A. Here are the tiebreaker rules for a three or more team tie:

  1. Lowest quotient of fewest runs allowed divided by the number of defensive outs recorded in games between the teams that are tied.
  2. Lowest quotient of fewest earned runs allowed divided by the number of defensive outs recorded in games between the teams that are tied.
  3. Highest batting average in games in that round between the teams tied.
  4. A drawing of lots.

Like I said, complicated. Needlessly complicated, I’d argue. Simple run differential would have been an easy enough starting point, but the rules are the rules. Nowhere else in professional baseball will you find a tiebreaker as complicated as the WBC’s for a three or more team tie. Here is the gory math of the tiebreaker quotient for Pool A:

Cuba

15

108

.139

Italy

17

108

.157

Netherlands

19

102

.186

Panama

21

105

.200

Chinese Taipei

31

105

.295

Cuba and Italy have advanced out of Pool A and to the quarterfinals. Italy will face a powerhouse Japan team Tuesday and Cuba’s opponent is still to be determined. Australia controls its destiny in Pool B and can clinch a quarterfinals spot against Cuba with a win over the Czech Republic on Sunday night.

The Netherlands, Panama, and Chinese Taipei are all going home. The Netherlands finished fourth in the 2013 and 2017 WBCs and was favored to advance out of pool play this year, yet they have been eliminated despite starting 2-0. Their roster featured the most MLB talent among Pool A teams, with Xander Bogaerts headlining a squad that also included Didi Gregorius, Jurickson Profar, and Jonathan Schoop. Cuba advanced after starting 0-2.

Chinese Taipei, the host team for Pool A, finished last in the pool and has been relegated. They will have to go through a qualifying tournament to earn a berth in the next WBC. Panama clinched a spot in this year’s WBC with wins over Brazil and Argentina in a qualifier last fall. They have an automatic berth into the next WBC, so although they have been eliminated, securing an automatic berth is a win in the big picture.

It should be noted the tiebreaker created late-inning drama during Sunday’s game between Italy and the Netherlands despite a fairly lopsided score. The Netherlands put the first two runners on base in the top of the ninth inning, though they ultimately did not score. Had they scored at least four runs in the inning, their quotient would have been lower than Italy’s, and they would be going to the quarterfinals even with a loss.

Pool A in Taiwan is complete and Pool B in Tokyo wraps up play Sunday night and early Monday morning. Pool C in Phoenix and Pool D in Miami began play Saturday. The WBC Championship Game will be played March 21 in Miami. It will feature a team from Pool A or B against a team from Pool C or D.