WBC: Untangling the Team USA tiebreaker scenario

I’m going to look at the WBC for the rest of your week. To whet your appetite, tomorrow’s post is entitled “Putting the World in World Baseball Classic.” I’ll examine the American struggles in the WBC in the context of the game’s global appeal.

Things are not looking good for Team USA. The favorites to win the tournament, the Americans will once again turn to Roger Clemens – and a little bit of luck first – to advance to the semifinals.

After a disappointing loss to the 5-0 Korean team, the Americans find themselves in the position they were in for the first round of pool play. They are relying on their old horse and another team’s pitching to get them into the next round of tournament play. To make this easy, here are the five scenarios.

Scenario 1 or The Easy Way
Korea beats Japan
USA beats Mexico

This is, as the name suggests, the easiest way for the Americans to advance. Korea already beat Japan once in the WBC, and the team has been downright dominant. Their pitching staff has given up just 7 runs in 5 full games, and their offense has come through with key hits to control the games from the start. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Korea come out on top here.

If Korea wins, all the US has to do is beat Mexico again. With Roger Clemens potentially pitching his last game, you can bet that he’ll be fired up if he is in a position to carry Team USA into the semifinals.

Scenario 2 or The Hard Way
Japan beats Korea but allows 7 runs or more
USA beats Mexico

Now, it starts to get confusing. If Japan beats Korea and the US beats Mexico, the pool will once again have a three-way tie for best record. In this case, the tiebreaker heads to fewest runs allowed per innings played of defense in games against those teams with which you are tied. (Got that? Yeah, well, me neither.) As of now, the US has allowed 10 runs in 17 innings against Japan and Korea or .588 runs per inning.

Japan, if they allow 7 runs, would have allowed 11 runs in 17.6 innings for .625 runs per inning. While you may be tempted to count out Japan at this point, hold on.

Korea, if they lose and score 7 runs, means they allowed more than 7 runs. So the fewest runs allowed by Korea in this scenario is 8. That gives them 11 runs in 17 innings (because Japan is the home team). At .647 runs per inning, Korea would be out. At this point, Japan and the US would advance.

But don’t count on this happening. It would be a slug fest of epic proportions considering the pitching we’ve seen in the WBC.

Scenario 3 or The Nearly Impossible Way
Japan beats Korea but allows 6 runs or fewer

If Japan wins and allows 6 runs or fewer, the US team can disperse back to their training camps. At this point, Japan will win on the fewest innings clause.

What about Korea, you may ask? Here’s the rub.

In this scenario, if Japan wins by scoring 7 runs or fewer, Korea is in. Both Korea and the US would have allowed at most 10 runs in 17 innings. But since Korea beat the US, Korea is in.

If Japan scores more than 7 runs, Team USA would then have to beat Mexico to make. At that point, Korea would have given up at least 11 runs in 17 innings, putting them behind Team USA. Nobody ever said wrapping your head around this was easy.

Scenario 4 or The Impossible Way
Japan beats Korea
Mexico beats USA

The end. Team USA does not advance. In this case, who advances in addition to Korea depends on the outcome of the Korea-Japan game. But that is a calculation for another day never.

Scenario 5 or The Losing Way
Korea beats Japan
Mexico beats USA but scores fewer than 3 runs

In this case, USA advances. Take my word for it. The math works out. Team USA would have allowed 5 runs in 16 (or up to 16.6) innings to Mexico and Japan while Japan has allowed 5 runs in 17.6 innings.

If Mexico scores 3 runs or more AND beats the USA, Japan advances, and the Americans go home.

Now, everyone ready for the quiz?

5 Responses to “WBC: Untangling the Team USA tiebreaker scenario”


  1. 1 Bob Timmermann March 15, 2006 at 2:01 pm

    Where is there a provision in the tiebreakers that if one of the three teams has a better runs allowed than the other two, you go back to a 2-team tiebreaker and go head-to-head?

    Your math is right if that is the case, but I don’t see that provision anywhere.

  2. 2 Benjamin Kabak March 15, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    Bob: The WBC FAQs (click here) state, “The team that defeated the other tied team head-to-head in a given Round shall be ranked higher in the pool standings for such Round.” I assumed that since that’s the first tiebreaker, it takes precedence over the second tiebreaker. I could be wrong though. The WBC organizers certainly aren’t making this easy.

  3. 3 Bob Timmermann March 15, 2006 at 2:25 pm

    I thought that was true, but the US beat Mexico, but the US was considered to be the #2 seed instead of Mexico.

    Perhaps we need to get on the phone to Switzerland!

  4. 4 Benjamin Kabak March 15, 2006 at 2:30 pm

    Hmmm. That is a good point. I remember reading someone express surprise that Mexico was ranked ahead of the US, but no one ever explained why. Switzerland it is then!

  5. 5 Bob Timmermann March 15, 2006 at 2:41 pm

    (41-21) 318 82 40


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