There were only two World Baseball Classic games early on this Monday morning. Neither of them were particularly compelling matchups, with Cuba and South Korea figuring to far outstrip their opponents from China and Australia, respectively. Nonetheless, the games were important. Cuba could wrap up a second round berth for both themselves and Japan with a win, while South Korea needed a victory to keep their hopes of advancing past the first round for the third straight tournament alive.
We'll round up last night's action after the jump, and talk about what lies ahead in the final days of group play for Pools A and B.
The first mercy rule of the 2013 WBC! Honestly, I don't know that there's much meaningful to pull out of this game. Cuba crushed the ball, with six of their 15 hits going for extra bases. That includes a game-breaking grand slam and an RBI double by Jose Abreu, a two-run homer by Alexei Bell, a double and a triple by Frederich Cepeda, and double and a single by Alfredo Despaigne, and three singles by second baseman Jose Fernandez that lead to him scoring four times. The Cuban pitchers — starter Danny Betancourt, Yadier Pedroso, Vladimir Garcia, and Alexander Rodriguez — held China to just three hits over seven innings. Betancourt was particularly impressive, striking out eight and walking one with one hit allowed in his 4 2/3 innings.
This puts Cuba at 2-0 and China at 0-2. With Japan also at 2-0 and Brazil also at 0-2, that means that Cuba and Japan qualify for round two and that Brazil and China are eliminated. Japan and Cuba will play the very last game of this first portion of pool play on Wednesday morning at 5:00 AM on Wednesday morning. It will have seeding implications, and by the time they take the field they'll know who the winner and runner up from Pool B are. Given that Cuba and Japan will be the favorites to advance no matter who qualifies from Pool B, this game is pretty meaningless. It won't be more meaninless than Japan and Brazil, though. They'll play the sandwich game tonight/tomorrow morning, battling for pride and maybe an automatic berth into the next WBC, assuming that they use the same dumb qualifying system in 2017 that they did in 2013.
I woke up a little early this morning hoping to catch the end of this one, but by the time I got out of bed South Korea was already up 4-0 and shuffling pitchers to keep their bullpen fresh for their big showdown with Chinese Taipei at 6:30 tomorrow morning. In fact, I'm much more interested in tonight's Pool B action than I am in talking about this boring game, so let's just skip ahead.
Currenly, Chinese Taipei leads Group B with a 2-0 record, while South Korea and the Netherlands both sit at 1-1 and Australia lags behind at 0-2. All four teams will be in action overnight tonight to wrap the pool up. Thanks to the vagaries of time zones and the international date line, Australia was playing baseball when you woke up this morning and they'll be playing baseball when you go to bed tonight; as they play the Netherlands at 11:30 PM ET tonight. At 5:30 AM ET tomorrow, Chinese Taipei and South Korea will face off.
There are two straightforward qualification scenarios here. If Netherlands and Chinese Taipei win, they both advance and that's that. If Netherlands loses to Australia and Korea beats Chinese Taipei, Korea and Chinese Taipei both advance. Those are the easy ones. There's one fairly plausible scenario, though, that will make things significantly more complicated: if Netherlands wins and South Korea wins, those two teams and Chinese Taipei will all be 2-1. Now, you might think that this would mean that the two teams with the best run differential will advance (and, in fact, I did think that myself and wrote out an elaborate breakdown of the pool in light of that scenario exactly until helpful Twitter user @chalupatime pointed out how wrong I was), but THIS IS THE WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC, which means that you occasionally have to throw traditional thinking and possibly logic out the window in favor of … something else. In THE WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC, ties are broken with something called "TQB." TQB is calculated with the following formula: (Runs scored – innings played on offense)/(runs scored – innings played on defense). Run differential, but with innings factored in basically. Except that there's also another WBC twist: only games among the tied teams count. Yonhap News Agency breaks it all down nicely, but let's cover the most likely scenario for the group here.
Assuming that Netherlands beats Australia and South Korea beats Chinese Taipei in a normal length nine-inning game (that is, no run rule, no extra innings), all three of the tied teams will have played the same number of innings in the field and batted the same number of times, so we can use run differential as a TQB short-hand. Netherlands is fixed at zero no matter what since they're not playing Korea or Chinese Taipei tonight, while Chinese Taipei is +5 (the score they beat Netherlands by) and South Korea is -5 (the score they lost to Netherlands by) which means that in order for South Korea to advance in the event of a three-way group tie, they'll have to beat Chinese Taipei by six runs or more to ensure qualification. A win by four runs or fewer simply won't do it for South Korea. If they win by five exactly, we go way down the rabbit hole into tiebreakers involved (horror!) earned runs or even (horror of horrors!) batting average. Let's hope it doesn't come to this.
Of course, a second TQB tiebreaker scenario is possible, if unlikely. This one involves both Australia upsetting Netherlands and South Korea beating Chinese Taipei. That would mean that TQB would have to be used to separate Australia, Netherlands, and South Korea, all of whom would be 1-2.
So … this isn't complicated at all, is it?
*Post has been edited with my new understanding of the WBCs tie-breaking procedures. Previously, tie-breaker scenarios were laid out based on a poor understanding of the WBC rules.