What Is The World Baseball Classic?
Baseball is commonly referred to as “America’s pastime,” and while it is undoubtedly most popular in the United States, it has large followings around the world as well, and many fans who are eager to watch baseball games and tournaments. For these fans, and for fans in the US, the major international baseball tournament to satisfy these desires is the World Baseball Classic (WBC), an event that unites baseball teams from around the world in a springtime competition. Read on below to learn all about the World Baseball Classic.
The World Baseball Classic
The World Baseball Classic (WBC) is an international baseball tournament that is hosted and run every four years by Major League Baseball (MLB), the highest level of the sport in America, in coordination with the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), the sport’s international governing body. The WBC is the only international tournament MLB players are sanctioned to play in, and Team USA is made up exclusively of MLB players.
- Venue(s): Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium (Taichung, Taiwan); Tokyo Dome (Tokyo, Japan); Chase Field (Phoenix, Arizona); loanDepot Park (Miami, Florida)
- Location: Taiwan, Japan, United States
- Date: March 8 - March 21, 2023
- Frequency: Every four years
- First Tournament: 2006
- Most Championships: Japan (2)
The World Baseball Classic was first held in 2006, after a joint venture by the MLB and various baseball leagues from around the world established the tournament with the intent to create the preeminent international baseball tournament in the world. The inaugural event took place in Japan, Puerto Rico, and the United States, with 16 teams participating, and Japan emerging victorious in the championship game against Cuba.
The next tournament was held three years later, in 2009, and was hosted by Canada, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United States. Once again, 16 teams participated, with Japan winning their second title in a final game against South Korea. Following the 2009 tournament, the organizers of the event decided that future iterations of the tournament, like the Olympic Games, would be held every four years.
The third edition of the WBC was held in 2013 and hosted by Japan, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, and the United States. With another 16-team field in play, the tournament ended in a victory for the Dominican Republic, who defeated Puerto Rico in the championship game.
In the fourth edition of the tournament, held in 2017, the United States finally exercised its dominance. The tournament that year was hosted by Japan, Mexico, South Korea, and the United States, and the Americans held out against the other 15 participants to earn their first WBC title, defeating Puerto Rico 8-0 in the championship.
After the 2017 tournament, the fifth edition of the WBC was set to be held in 2021: however, the global events of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 caused the tournament to be postponed. After an additional year of postponement in 2022, the fifth World Baseball Classic is set to occur from March 8 through March 21, 2023. It will be hosted by Taiwan, Japan, and the United States. Below, we will go over the teams taking place in the 2023 WBC, and cover the format of the tournament.
The 2023 edition of the World Baseball Classic will be the first tournament to consist of 20 teams, instead of the previous 16. These 20 teams will be divided into four pools for the first round of play, named Pools A-D. The 20 teams in the 2023 WBC are:
- Chinese Taipei (Host)
- Japan (Host)
- Rep. Korea
- P.R. China
- Czech Republic*
- United States (Host)
- Great Britain*
- Puerto Rico
- Dominican Republic
* indicates a team making its first appearance in the WBC in 2023.
The World Baseball Classic consists of three rounds: the First Round, the Second Round, and the Championship Round. In the First Round, the four pools of teams, Pools A-D, will play against each other to determine a winner and a runner-up from each pool. These eight teams will then advance to the Quarterfinal Round.
In the Quarterfinal Round, the eight remaining teams will face off in four games. These games are known as Quarterfinals 1-4, and they are as follows:
- Quarterfinal 1: Pool A winner vs. Pool B runner-up
- Quarterfinal 2: Pool B winner vs. Pool A runner-up
- Quarterfinal 3: Pool D winner vs. Pool C runner-up
- Quarterfinal 4: Pool C winner vs. Pool D runner-up
After the four quarterfinal games conclude, the winners proceed to the Championship Round, which consists of the semifinals and the championship game. The two semifinal games pit the winners of Quarterfinal 1 and Quarterfinal 3 against each other, while the winners of Quarterfinal 2 and Quarterfinal 4 play against each other.
Finally, after the semifinal winners are determined, the two remaining teams meet in the championship, which determines the winner of the tournament.
Rules and Regulations
The rules of the World Baseball Classic are, by and large, the same as those of Major League Baseball. However, there are a few key differences regarding some aspects of baseball.
There are a number of pitching rules the WBC has adopted, including:
Three-Batter Minimum: All pitchers must face a minimum of three batters per pitching appearance, or pitch to the end of a half-inning, with exceptions for injury or illness.
Mound Visits: The MLB limitation of five mound visits without a pitcher change is not included in the WBC.
Pitch Counts: During the WBC, unless they need more pitches to complete a half-inning, a pitcher cannot:
- Throw more than 65 pitches per game in the First Round.
- Throw more than 80 pitches per game in the Quarterfinal Round.
- Throw more than 95 pitches per game in the Championship Round.
- Throw more than 49 pitches per exhibition game for a Federation Team, or the highest number of pitches allowed by World Baseball Classic, Inc. (WCBI), whichever is less.
Pitcher Requirements: A pitcher in the WBC cannot pitch again:
- Until a minimum of four days have passed since he last pitched (if he threw 50+ pitches).
- Until a minimum of one day has passed since he last pitched (if he threw 30-50 pitches).
- Until a minimum of one day has passed since any second consecutive day on which he pitched.
Additionally, no position players other than a pitcher can pitch for a Federation Team in the WBC.
In the First Round of the WBC, umpires are allowed to call a game if a team is up by 10 or more runs at the end of the seventh inning, or if any team is up by 15 runs at the end of the fifth inning.
The Designated Hitter Rule, which states that a defensive player who replaces a pitcher can no longer be the DH for the remainder of the game, applies during the WBC.
If a WBC game goes to extra innings, a “ghost runner” will be placed on second base at the top of each half-inning, and the batter who leads off the inning will be the batter who was next in the lineup at the end of regulation.
Replays occur following MLB regulations in the WBC, with managers receiving one challenge during the first two rounds, and two challenges in the semifinals or championship game.
2023 MLB Rule Changes
The 2023 MLB rule changes regarding the implementation of a pitch clock, the resizing of bases, and the elimination of the defensive shift, are not included in the WBC.
A number of rules govern player eligibility for the WBC. These rules state that a player is eligible to play in the tournament if:
- They previously appeared on the roster of a Federation Team before the WBC Qualifier or Tournament.
- They are a citizen of a Federation Team country or territory, with a valid passport as of three months before the tournament.
- They are currently a permanent legal resident of a Federation Team country or territory.
- They were born in a Federation Team country or territory.
- They have at least one parent who is or was a citizen of a Federation Team country or territory.
- They have at least one parent who was born in a Federation Team country or territory.
- They present evidence that they would be granted citizenship or a passport to a Federation Team country or territory if they were to apply for citizenship or a passport.
What is the World Baseball Classic?
The World Baseball Classic is an international baseball tournament managed by the MLB and the WBSC, which brings together baseball teams from around the world in a three-round tournament to determine an international winner. There have been four WBC events thus far, with a fifth scheduled for 2023.
How often is the World Baseball Classic held?
The World Baseball classic is held every four years. Previously, the tournament was held every three years, before switching to a four-year cycle after 2009. A longer period of time existed between the 2017 and 2023 tournaments due to the effects of COVID-19.
Can MLB players play in the World Baseball Classic?
MLB players are eligible to play in the World Baseball Classic, provided they also adhere to the tournament’s other eligibility rules. MLB players typically make up the roster for the US National Team at the WBC.