It's WBC Time!
The World Baseball Classic has made it through the pandemic and the international baseball community could not be happier about the opportunity to root for the homeland once again!
Europe kicks things off with Regensburg, Germany hosting the first qualifying round this week. For fans abroad, this is a first-look at Germany and France. The Czech Republic, Great Britain, South Africa and Spain, who last made their appearances at the Olympic qualifier in 2019, round out this week’s pool.
There are 12 teams already slotted for quarter-final play in 2023. By mid-October, the final four teams will have secured their seeds. Four teams, the top two from Regensburg this week and Panama next, advance to quarter finals in Tokyo and Miami in March 2023.
The top two teams from this double elimination tournament will join their continental counterparts, The Netherlands (WBSC ranked #8), Italy (#17) and Israel (#20), who have already qualified. The Netherlands and Italy will compete in Tokyo, Israel in Miami. One qualifying team from each of this month’s events will take the final position in each of the four quarter-final pools.
The WBSC world rankings for each of the tournament teams heading into 2022 season were as follows. The Czech Republic moved up two slots to #14. Germany (#18), Spain (#19) and France (#22) all held their positions year-over-year while Great Britain was a top mover in the rankings jumping 9 slots to #23. South Africa is the only qualifying contender to drop in the rankings, falling three positions to #26.
The headline, in terms of rule changes, for this tournament is new pitching limitations. Traditionally, many continental teams have relied on one or two strong arms to push them through international competitions.
Under the new limits, any pitcher who throws 30 or more pitches must rest at least a day. If they throw 50 or more, they have to rest four days. No pitcher can through more than 85 pitches during a single game in the qualifying round. Intentional walk pitches are excluded from the count totals. There are no mound visit limits.
This is a long-overdue idea for the development of Europe’s game. If maintained moving forward, it will force EU programs to develop rotations and create pitchers rather than wear out the one or two naturally-gifted arms that happen onto their fields.
Video review is also being utilized during the qualifiers but the umpires are not mic’d. The designated hitter is in play for the qualifying round. The mercy rule goes into effect when a team is ahead by 15 or more through the 5th, 10 or more after the 7th. As usual, in the event of a tie, runners are placed on the bags to start the innings.
All games are being livestreamed for free with several spots for viewing. The World Baseball Classic’s website, Facebook page and YouTube Channel. Hashtags to follow include: #WBCqualifier and #WBC2023.