WBSC Baseball Rankings
The first baseball rankings of 2022 have just been released by the World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC).
Four of the top five climbers in the rankings hail from Europe. Sweden, up 33 places, the largest jump in the rankings, takes the 40th spot in a pool of 85. Hungary hopped 15 spots to 52nd, Croatia, up 11 places, is now ranked at 32nd and Great Britain, up a more expected nine spots, sits at 23rd.
Asia topped the worldwide rankings with Japan, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) and Korea ranked 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively.
The United States, who claim the sport as their nation’s pastime, didn’t even make the top four of countries around the world. In fact, their neighbors to the south, Mexico, outranked them with the two teams switching places at 4th and 5th.
The Netherlands, who remained unmoved in the rankings at #8, won the 2021 European Championship and was the only team to crack the top 10 for European countries. The remaining Americas took over the spots in between. Ranked 6th is Venezuela, 7th the Dominican Republic and 9th Cuba. Australia rounded out the top of the field in 10th.
Israel, who took silver in the European Championship and represented Europe in the Olympic Games, jumped four spots to #20. Great Britain hopped ahead nine spots, hitting #23 and breaking the top 25. Belgium followed their lead jumping three spots of their own to land just behind them at #24.
Russia slid up three places to #28 and Austria jumped ahead by four to take over at #30. Greece got into the action jumping into #34, up three from their last rating. Switzerland and Finland each hopped up a spot to take over the #49 and #56 positions. Up a spot, Norway tied for 80th with Nepal, Haiti, Singapore and the Bahamas in the rankings.
Slovakia fell two positions to #35 with Lithuania, down a spot, just behind them at #37. Ireland dropped two spots, to #41. Poland dropped five sliding into 58th. Bulgaria and Slovenia also fell a place to #63 and #70 respectively.
Italy, who took bronze at the 2021 European Championship, Germany and Spain all held steady in the 17th, 18th and 19th spots respectively. France stuck at 22nd while the Ukraine stayed in the top 30 at #29. Ranked last in the world, because someone has to be, Turkey remains at #85.
The women’s baseball rankings include 20 teams, three from Europe. The top 5 teams worldwide are Japan, Chinese Taipei, Canada, the United States and Venezuela.
Down two spots from the 2020 rankings, The Netherlands top the European teams ranked at #13. France jumped ahead by two to land at #16 and the Czech Republic remain unchanged at #20.
In 2019, Europe held their first-ever women’s baseball European Championship. This event represented the expansion of women’s baseball from one team, The Netherlands, to three across the continent. During that event, France took Gold from The Netherlands. That loss, along with the team’s performance at the previous World Cup, account for the French jump and the Dutch decline, in the rankings since.
The last time women’s baseball played international competition was in 2018. The Netherlands represented Europe and placed last, 12th overall, losing all 8 games they played. This was the fourth time the team, run independently from the Dutch Federation, sent representation.
In the 2020 Women’s Baseball World Cup France would have represented Europe. They were to be the first European country besides The Netherlands to do so. The tournament, cancelled due to the pandemic, has now been rescheduled for 2024.
Europe will hold the second Women’s Baseball European Championship in 2022. In 2019, while women’s softball was determining their Olympic representation, Europe hosted the first ever Women’s Baseball European Championship with just three participating teams: France, the Czech Republic and The Netherlands.
Most notably, on the roster of both the softball qualifier and the baseball European championship for France was Melissa Mayeux who, at just 16 years old, became the first woman ever determined draft eligible in the MLB.
During the 2022 event, there will be five teams competing with Great Britain and Poland each throwing their hats into the ring. The addition of Great Britain is not a surprise. The baseball and softball teams, run primarily by collegiate athletes like Laura Hirai who started as a baseball player and transitioned to softball to continue her playing opportunities in university, have been scrimmaging each other while teaching one another their respective games in an effort to grow British baseball and softball on the international stage.
With the addition of these new teams comes a new ranking format as well. The European Championship will now serve as the 2023 qualifier for the 2024 IX Women’s Baseball World Cup. Clean slates all around should make for an interesting competition come August when France will have homefield advantage as they defend their title in Montpellier.