Baseball 2023: The World's Game!

Spring training has started for the teams of Major League Baseball (MLB) as we prepare for the start of the regular season, now with new rules to enhance game play!

In theory.

The new rules include such things as restrictions on the defensive shift; larger bases; and the time clock enforced on both pitchers and batters.

The Houston Astros are the defending World Series champions. For those who like cheering for the underdog, the following teams have never won the World Series: Texas Rangers (in existence for 62 seasons); Milwaukee Brewers (54 seasons); San Diego Padres (54 seasons); Seattle Mariners (46 seasons); Colorado Rockies (30 seasons); and Tampa Bay Rays (25 seasons). Of those teams, the Seattle Mariners is the only team in MLB to have never even played in a World Series.

But now a comment on (and explanation for) this year's thread title: This year also brings with it the return of the World Baseball Classic (WBC). The WBC was first held in 2006 and featured national teams competing for the trophy. The last WBC was played in 2017. It was supposed to be every four years, but the 2021 version fell victim to COVID-19. The 2023 version has expanded to 20 teams (from 16 in prior years). The 20 teams are split in to 4 groups and group play begins on March 8.

Group A: Chinese Taipei; Netherlands; Cuba; Italy; Panama. Played in Taiwan, March 8-12.

Group B: Japan; Korea; Australia; China; Czech Republic. Played in Tokyo, March 9 -13.

Group C: USA; Mexico; Colombia; Canada; Great Britain. Played in Phoenix, Arizona, March 11 - 15.

Group D: Puerto Rico; Venezuela; Dominican Republic; Israel; Nicaragua. Played in Miami, Florida, March 11 -15.

The top 2 teams in each group will advance to the quarterfinals (played in Tokyo for Groups A & B and played in Miami for Groups C & D). The semifinals and final will then be played in Miami.

I have not studied the teams that much, but the scuttlebutt from what I have heard is that the Dominican Republic team is Very Good.



  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Clocks in baseball are a bad thing. One of the beauties of the game was that it was based on play, not artificial time constraints.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    It certainly will cause a lot of changes to the game play. Just one off the top of the pile: warming up a relief pitcher. It used to be understood that the fielding team would engage in various delaying tactics to allow the pitcher a chance to get properly warm while limiting the number of pitches that the current pitcher had to throw. Enforcing the pitch clock will make that more difficult. I anticipate an epidemic of infielders requesting time to tie their shoes.....
  • jedijudyjedijudy Heaven Host
    Way back when, Daughter-Unit and I would catch a couple of spring training games in our hometown. Tickets were cheap...about $5. That was on the first baseline! Now, they're ten times as much.

    We have two stadiums within six miles of each other. The traffic is horrendous. Normally, unless we're going to a game, we tend to go only to places that avoid those roads! Unfortunately, where my Dad lives is right beside one of the stadiums.

    Other than that, Go Red Sox! Go Twins!!
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    I have watched a few spring training games and I love the pitch clock. Usually, in spring training, the pitchers are better than the batters. The pitch clock seems to have leveled this out. I think we will have higher batting averages this season. I was pleased to see the elimination of the shift. Time will tell if larger bases will lead to more stolen bases.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    @Caissa , it seems to be a dead heat between pitchers and batters as to who complains most about the clock. A number of batters are finding that they are missing their usual time to think about what the pitcher might throw next, because they have to be in the box and ready to hit while there is still 8 seconds left on the pitcher's clock.

    It occurs to me that the larger bases may have another effect. Just think how many times we have seen video reviews at first base concerning whether a batter beat out a ground ball. Often, the difference between out and safe is a fraction of an inch---but the base is larger now, so I would expect an increase in infield hits this year. Add to that the shift restrictions and there is going to be a higher value in playing "small ball" this year (rather than everybody trying to slug a homer). Small ball has been devalued by Sabermetrics in years past, but I suspect those stats will need to be adjusted to account for the new changes.

    One unexpected consequence of the pitch clock. A player in the Phillies game yesterday hit a double. Normally he likes to wear protective mitts on his hands while running the bases--but because of the pitch clock, there wasn't enough time for the batboy to run out gloves to him and for him to get the gloves on before the pitch was due!

    And, while I am here, one more Spring Training oddity yesterday. Baltimore Orioles v. Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates were the home team and they led 7-4. The Orioles went down in the top of the 9th without scoring, so game over. But the Orioles manager wanted his pitcher to get some work in, and so he asked the Pirates manager if they could play the bottom of the 9th anyway. The pirates agreed. But the umpires didn't. They walked off the field because the game was over. As a result, the Orioles & Pirates played the bottom of the 9th without any umpires! The Orioles catcher called the balls and strikes (and from what I could tell from the video, he was reasonably fair in his calls). Only in Spring Training! :smiley:
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    The WBC has got underway. In the first 2 games (played in Taiwan), Netherlands beat Cuba, 4-2, while Panama crushed host Chinese Taipei, 12-5. That game included this incredible catch! (Both fielders stayed in the game, so apparently no injuries.)

    That last game was a bit of a shock. At least when it comes to the international game, Chinese Taipei is rated highly---in fact, 2nd in the world, behind Japan (USA is 3rd). Panama is rated 12th and never previously won a game in the WBC (This is Panama's 3rd WBC).

    Netherlands and Cuba are considered pretty much even, rated 7th & 8th respectively.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Cuba has gone down in the baseball world while Netherlands has ascended. I remember watching a touring Cuban team play in Saint John about 40 years ago.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    Clocks in baseball are a bad thing. One of the beauties of the game was that it was based on play, not artificial time constraints.

  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    edited March 9
    Recent scores from the WBC:

    Australia 8, S. Korea 7. A bit of an upset. Australia is ranked 10th, S. Korea 4th.
    Netherlands 3, Panama 1 Netherlands are now 2-0 in the tournament.
    Japan 8, China 1 No surprise.
    Italy 6, Cuba 3 This is an upset! Cuba is ranked 8th, Italy 16th. Cuba is now 0-2 for the tournament.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    WBC Score Updates:

    Czech Republic 8, China 5: This is the first time that the Czech Republic has made it to the WBC. While most of these teams have pro players (if not from MLB, at least from various domestic leagues around the world), not the Czechs. Most of them hold down other jobs and play for the love of the game. So good on them to get a victory! I don't expect them to survive the group....but most people didn't expect them to make the WBC in the first place, so I am not placing any bets!

    Cuba 13, Panama 4: After two losses, Cuba finally showed up to play.

    Japan 13, S. Korea 4: Ouch! This is a major rivalry. Korea would have been upset just by losing...but being blown out like this? On top of Korea losing to Australia the prior game? I've got to believe the heat will really be on the S. Korean manager.

    Chinese Taipei 11, Italy 7: This was a good game. Each team led at some point and it was tied in the 6th, before CT pulled away.

    The WBC really heats up tomorrow as the USA-based groups start off.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    WBC Scores:

    Australia 12, China 2: China has no chance of advancing to the next round.
    Panama 2, Italy 0
    Japan 10, Czech Republic 2: Japan will advance to the next round.
    Chinese Taipei 9, Netherlands 5: The standings in Group A are really tight.

    The games based in the US will start in about an hour. 4 more games today!

  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    Whoa. Some surprises in the US-based games from the WBC.

    Puerto Rico 9, Nicaragua 1: well, okay, that wasn't a surprise.
    Colombia 5, Mexico 4: Wasn't expecting that. I mean, Colombia has a lot of good players, but Mexico is very good.
    Venezuela 5, Dominican Republic 1: Yikes! D.R. is a favorite to win the whole tournament. That's a shocker.

    See, this is why I don't bet on baseball.

    Currently, US is beating Great Britain, 5-1 in the 4th inning. I'd love to watch the end of the game, but I have to wake up in about 6.5 hours and it occurs to me that I can do that better if I go to sleep.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    I saw the end of the Colombia game. They scored on an error in the top of the 10th and Mexico grounded into a dp with a runner on third in the bottom of the 10th to end the game. Buck Martinez was doing colour commentary on Sportsnet (Canadian Channel).
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    The final score of the US-GB game was 6-2. In other games:

    Japan 7, Australia 1; Japan finishes the group 4-0. Australia can advance if they beat the Czech Republic later today.

    Italy 7, Netherlands 1: Ooooookay. Where to start. With this result, all the games for Group A are finished. And all 5 teams ended up with 2 wins and 2 losses! I don't know the specifics of the tie-breaker protocols, but the end result is that the two teams advancing out of Group A are....(drum roll)....Cuba and Italy! Did I mention that I don't bet on baseball?

    Italy will play Japan, while Cuba will play whatever team finishes second in Group B (Australia, if Australia wins).
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    Just to tidy up Group B play, Australia did beat Czech Republic, 8-3, so Australia advances to a quarter-final game against Cuba. In the final Group 2 game, South Korea beat China, 22-2. Impressive but it doesn't change the standings are far as Japan and Australia are concerned.

    In other games:
    Israel 3, Nicaragua 1.
    Canada 18, Great Britain 8: This was a fun game to watch in its early stages. GB scored in each of the first 4 innings, while Canada got runs in all 6 innings. I say "all" six because there is a rule that the game ends if a team has a ten-run lead after six innings. (This rule also applied in the S. Korea-China game, but they had to play enough innings to trigger it, so it ended with Korea having a 20-run lead.) I imagine both Canada and GB were thankful for the rule because both of them were using up a LOT of pitchers. Because of the rules about how many pitches they are allowed to throw and how many days rest they need, I suspect both teams are going to be a little short-handed in the pitching department for their next games. But it would have been much worse if they had to trot pitchers out there for all 9 innings.
    Venezuela 9, Puerto Rico 6
    Mexico 11, US 5
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    Oh. My. Cat.

    Before we get to the big news, a few boring scores:
    Dominican Republic 6, Nicaragua 1: Of interest, a Nicaraguan pitcher got signed to a minor legaue deal by the Detroit Tigers after the game because he struck out three of the D.R.'s big batters--major league players who command huge paychecks.

    Puerto Rico 10, Israel 0
    United States 12, Canada 1

    And now the big news. Great Britain beat Colombia, 7-5! Did not see that coming!

    I guess it is the circle of life: Colombia beat Mexico; Mexico beat US; US beat Great Britain; Great Britain beat Colombia.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    Latest scores:

    Venezuela 4, Nicaragua 1
    Canada 5, Colombia 0
    Dominican Republic 10, Israel 0

    And Great Britain finishes its WBC play losing to Mexico, 2-1. Which is very respectable! GB has an interest on tonight's US-Colombia game, because if the US wins, then GB will finish in 4th place in the group and will automatically qualify for the next WBC (currently scheduled for 2026).

    And we had our first quarterfinal game, with Cuba beating Australia, 4-3 (despite the best efforts of Australia's Most Adorable Cheerleader). Cuba will advance to the semifinals in Miami.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Canada needs to beat Mexico to make the quarterfinals.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    We are getting near the end of the WBC. The final games of group play were yesterday:

    Venezuela 5, Israel 1: Venezuela wins Group D
    Mexico 10, Canada 3: Canada has been eliminated from the tournament and Mexico wins Group C
    Puerto Rico 5, Dominican Republic 2: Puerto Rico clinches second spot in Group D. The Dominican Republic is eliminated. As I mentioned earlier, DR was a pre-tournament favorite to win the whole thing--and they did not even survive the first round.
    United States 3, Colombia 2: US clinches the second spot in Group C. As mentioned above, this result is also good news for Great Britain.

    So we are on to the quarterfinals. Mexico will play Puerto Rico--that should be a fun game to watch! US will play Venezuela. Like Japan, Venezuela went undefeated in group play.

    And speaking of Japan, they just beat Italy in the quarterfinals, 9-3. Japan advances to the semifinals, where they will play the winner of Mexico-Puerto Rico. Cuba will play the winner of US-Venezuela.
  • I can't say I'm in love with the pitch clock. But I do like the concept. Perhaps needs a bit of tweaking. Not sure.

    The larger bases are a gimmick.

    I like the restriction on defensive shifts.

    Haven't yet seen the effects of no more than 2 throws to first base, yet. So reserving judgement there as well.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    Exciting quarterfinal action! On Friday, Mexico came back from 4 runs down to beat Puerto Rico 5-4. Mexico will face undefeated Japan on Monday. On Saturday, the US-Venezuela game was a back and forth affair. US took an early 5-2 lead, but Venezuela came back to lead 7-5 before, in the 8th inning, Trea Turner hit a grand slam for the US. End result, US won, 9-7 and will face Cuba today.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    The semifinals are finished. On Sunday, US beat Cuba, 14-2. One could be forgiven for turning the channel to a more competitive game.

    Yesterday, the Japan-Mexico game was very exciting. Mexico jumped to a 3-0 lead in the 4th, but Japan tied the score in the 7th. Mexico then went ahead 5-3 in the top of the 8th, but Japan made it 5-4 in the bottom of the 8th. Finally, in the 9th, Japan scored twice in the bottom of the 9th for a walk-off win.

    US and Japan will play tonight in the final.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    And the WBC is over! Japan held on to defeat US, 3-2. For drama fans, the final out featured Japan's Shohei Ohtani pitching to US' Mike Trout. Ohtani and Trout are teammates on the LA Angels and are widely considered the two best players in baseball.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    W.P. Kinsella could not have scripted a better ending.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    It is said the Japan v America game was the most watched sport telecast in history.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    Really? More than any World Cup final? I love baseball, but that seems...unlikely to me.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    The reports I’ve seen place viewership for the WBC finals at 4.5–5 million. That makes it the most watched WBC final in history, but a long, long way from the most watched sports telecast. For comparison, the most recent World Cup final had, according to reports, a viewership of 1.5 billion, and the most recent Super Bowl had a viewership of 113 million in the US and 40 million outside the US.

  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    MLB's Opening Day is Thursday. As I did last year, I want to list the PECOTA predictions of how the teams will do. PECOTA does its calculations based on multiple factors to decide the projected wins & losses for a team. The trouble is, as the season goes on, they adjust their predictions by taking the actual records and then projecting out the remaining games. Thus, the predictions below are basically the last pure predictions by PECOTA unsullied by that nasty reality thing. (Yes, technically something could happen today or tomorrow that might change the predictions before the first "real" game, but I am not sure I will have time to post this tomorrow!)

    I will list them by division, with team name followed by projected wins/losses. Because PECOTA does numerical calculations, most of these involve fractions of games, which can't happen in real life. So, for example, the Yankees are projected to have 95.9 wins. If they actually end up with 95 to 97 wins, then PECOTA was pretty darn accurate:

    NY Yankees 95.9/66.1
    Toronto 89.4/72.6
    Tampa Bay 87/75
    Boston 79.7/82.3
    Baltimore 74.6/87.4

    Cleveland 88/74
    Minnesota 87.6/74.4
    Chicago White Sox 79.5/82.5
    Detroit 65/97
    Kansas City 63.6/98.4

    Houston 94.1/67.9
    LA Angels 85.9/76.1
    Seattle 82.9/79.1
    Texas 79.2/82.8
    Oakland 65/97

    NY Mets 94.2/67.8
    Atlanta 90.8/71.2
    Philadelphia 88.7/73.3
    Miami 79.4/82.6
    Washington 61.4/100.6

    Milwaukee 87/75
    St. Louis 85.2/76.8
    Chicago Cubs 76/86
    Pittsburgh 72/90
    Cincinnati 69.7/92.3

    LA Dodgers 94.3/67.7
    San Diego 93.4/68.6
    San Francisco 80.1/81.9
    Arizona 75.1/86.9
    Colorado 65.3/96.7

    In general, PECOTA predicts that everything will be a bit tighter this year. The Yankees are predicted to have the best record...but not by much: Yankees 95.9 wins; LA Dodgers 94.3; NY Mets 94.2; Houston 94.1. The team predicted to have the worst record? Washington, with 100.6 losses; followed by Kansas City 98.4; Detroit 97; Oakland 97; Colorado 96.7.

    Should be a fun season!
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    I am not impressed by my beloved Blue Jays leaving names off the back of the jerseys a la New York Yankees. Every Blue Jays knows we are not the Yankees and must hate them with a fervour.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    I missed that story, @Caissa ! Is there any chance that the Blue Jays are leaving the names off the back as a cost-saving measure? "We can re-use this jersey after this player leaves!" :lol:
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    I am hoping they may have only done that for spring training and that names will appear for the home opener. I fear it is part of a new no nonsense approach that has seen the elimination of the home run jacket.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    My opening day observation is that the pitch clock seems to be favouring the batters. I will predict average batting average will be up this year along with WHIPs.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    Begging your indulgence once again: every year I like to keep track of which team is the last to lose a game this season and which is the last to win a game. Some years the battle can go on for a week or so. Last year, it was all over by Game 4. This year, 3 games in (for most of the league--a few have done 4 games), we still have 3 undefeated teams, all in the AL: Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Texas. And that leaves 3 teams without a win: Detroit, Kansas City and my own Philadelphia.

    (In case you are wondering, the six teams that have played 4 games already all have 2-2 records.)

    My Phillies are playing the Yankees next, so we have a bit of a hill to climb before we get into the win column.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    The Phillies are now officially the only team without a win yet this year (0-4).

    Texas lost yesterday, so the two remaining undefeated teams are Tampa Bay and Minnesota.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    And Tampa Bay is our winner. They remain undefeated at 5-0 (although they were losing as they entered the 9th inning). Minnesota, however, fell to Miami, 1-0, with Sandy Alcantara pitching a complete game (in 100 pitches)!

    In other news, the Phillies finally won, beating the Yankees. As such, they avoided making history. The Phils were in the World Series last year. There have been a few other times (like 3) where a team who was in the World Series starts the next year 0-4, but no team had ever gone 0-5. By winning yesterday, the Phils avoided being the first WS team to start off 0-5 the following year.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    The Tampa Bay Rays are on a history-making run. They are now 6-0 to start the season and they won each game by 4 or more runs. This is the longest such streak to start a season since....{drum roll}...the St. Louis Maroons in 1884. The Maroons started the season with 13 straight wins of 4 or more runs. (They actually won 20 straight to start the season, but game 14 was a nail-biter that they only won by 2 runs.)

    The Maroons featured such players as: Orator Shafer, Buttercup Dickerson and Sleeper Sullivan. I love 19th century baseball names! Their 1884 season was in the "Union Association," which is an officially recognized "major" league of baseball, although it only lasted for one season. The Maroons then joined the National League for two more seasons.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    The Tampa Bay Rays are now 13-0 on the season, tying the "modern" (since 1900) record for start-of-season winning streaks. They will seek to set the record tomorrow night against Toronto.

    It should be mentioned that, although noteworthy, starting 13-0 is no particular guaranty of good things to come. It is a long season. Two other "modern" teams have started 13-0:

    The 1982 Braves did...and finished 89-73. Doing the math, that means that they were just slightly over .500 for the rest of the year (76-73). That was good enough to win the NL West, but they lost to St. Louis in the NLCS.

    The 1987 Milwaukee Brewers also started 13-0. They finished at 91-71...but that was only good enough for 3rd place in the AL East and they did not even make the playoffs! Of note, during the season, they had a 12-game losing streak, which pretty much balanced out the 13-0 start.

    Bottom line, what the Rays are doing is historic...and possibly meaningless.

  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    The Blue Jays need to bring their bats tonight. I don't know why last night, with Chapman ill, they held Kiermaier out of the lineup.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    And the Blue Jays did bring their bats. Tampa Bay failed to win their 14th straight, falling to the Blue Jays 6-3. Now comes the interesting bit: how does TB respond? A losing streak or do they bounce back and start winning again?
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Blue Jays prevail against Tampa again yesterday, 5-2. Getting our brooms out for the sweep today.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    No sweep, but it does look like the competition in the AL East is going to be tight this year!
  • Hedgehog wrote: »
    No sweep, but it does look like the competition in the AL East is going to be tight this year!

    The Jays play their last 12 games of the season against the Rays and the Yankees. Could be rather interesting.
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