This is the Third World Baseball Classic, after the 2006 and 2009 Classics, both of which were won by Japan. In America, it’s a bit of a curiosity on the schedule, a distraction from spring training that’s fun for fans but nervewracking for teams whose stars are playing at max effort far earlier than they otherwise would be. In other countries, like Venezuela, it’s a serious matter of national pride, especially because since the elimination of Olympic baseball, the Classic is the only chance for a country to show its quality on an international stage.
In the eight-year history of the Classic, there have been 102 games played. Twenty-eight countries have competed: eighteen have played in the Classic proper, and another ten competed in the qualifying matches in September and November 2012. One hundred ninety-two players have accumulated enough plate appearances to qualify for the leaderboards. (The requirement is 2.7 plate appearances per game.) Carson Cistulli is doing yeoman’s work in covering the WBC. But I haven’t seen any all-time leaderboards. So here are some all-time leaderboards! Spoiler alert: Frederich Cepeda is the greatest player in the history of the tournament.
|Frederich Cepeda||CUB||OF||20||6||2006, 2009, 2013|
|Yulieski Gurriel||CUB||3B||20||5||2006, 2009, 2013|
|Seung Yuop Lee||KOR||1B||7||5||2006|
|Miguel Cabrera||VEN||LF||14||4||2006, 2009|
|Jorge Cantu||MEX||3B||12||4||2006, 2009|
|Jimmy Van Ostrand||CAN||1B||3||4||2012|
|Frederich Cepeda||CUB||OF||20||15||2006, 2009, 2013|
|Carlos Beltran||PUR||CF||17||12||2006, 2009, 2013|
|Akinori Iwamura||JPN||3B||15||9||2006, 2009|
|Kosuke Fukudome||JPN||CF||15||9||2006, 2009|
|Bobby Abreu||VEN||RF||13||8||2006, 2009|
|Michel Enriquez||CUB||3B||14||8||2006, 2009|
OBP (min. 20 AB + BB):
|Ken Griffey Jr.||USA||LF||6||24||0.583||2006|
|Frederich Cepeda||CUB||OF||20||84||0.547||2006, 2009, 2013|
OPS (min. 20 AB + BB):
|Ken Griffey Jr.||USA||LF||6||24||1.631||2006|
|Frederich Cepeda||CUB||OF||20||84||1.402||2006, 2009, 2013|
|Seung Yuop Lee||KOR||1B||7||28||1.372||2006|
|Bum Ho Lee||KOR||IF||8||22||1.358||2009|
|Frederich Cepeda||CUB||OF||20||17||2006, 2009, 2013|
|Yulieski Gurriel||CUB||3B||20||16||2006, 2009, 2013|
|Ichiro Suzuki||JPN||RF||17||14||2006, 2009|
|Carlos Beltran||PUR||CF||17||12||2006, 2009, 2013|
|Akinori Iwamura||JPN||3B||15||11||2006, 2009|
|Alex Rios||PUR||OF||11||10||2009, 2013|
* The stats are a little hinky. For example, they don’t list plate appearances, hit by pitch, or sacrifice flies, so determining a truly accurate cumulative OBP was impossible. Instead, I calculated OBP across several years as a weighted average of at-bats plus walks per year. For example, Akinori Iwamura had a .429 OBP in 2006, when he had 18 at-bats and two walks, and he had a .417 OBP in 2009, when he had 28 at-bats and seven walks. So I multiplied .417 by 35 and added it to .429 times 20, all divided by 55, and got .421. It isn’t a precise measure but it should be good enough for now.
There are only three players who have participated in all three World Baseball Classics: Carlos Beltran, Frederich Cepeda, and Yulieski Gurriel. As a result, all three are among the top performers in every counting stat. Cepeda, for his part, is the all-time WBC leader in hits, runs, doubles, home runs, RBI, and walks. But since Cuba has been eliminated and Puerto Rico is still alive, Beltran will have a chance to catch Cepeda in several categories. He’s only three back in walks, doubles, and homers. And David Wright, a member of the still-alive USA team, is eight back in RBIs, not an impossible gap to bridge.
Sure, the scheduling of the Classic isn’t perfect. Back in 2009, Dave Cameron suggested that it should be in July instead of the All-Star Break, and I suggested that it should be in November, after the World Series, before the Caribbean Winter Leagues, and basically in between the Japan Series and the Asia Series. (Actually, in 2012, two of the qualifier groups played their games right around then.) And it’s almost impossible to watch the games in America, unless you have MLB Network or ESPN Deportes; MLB is only streaming the games online to people who subscribe to cable systems that have MLB Network.
As Dan Lependorf writes at The Hardball Times, “The World Baseball Classic is a show on a grand scale for the international audience that baseball has. It’s a fun tournament that brings back the luster in baseball exhibitions, something the All-Star Game has lacked in recent years. And most of all, it performs a vitally important role that the sport wouldn’t otherwise have—spreading the game to the world.”
Speaking purely as a Braves fan now, I’ve taken great pleasure in the success of the Dutch team, which features Andrelton Simmons at leadoff, and whose infield of Simmons, Jonathan Schoop, and Xander Bogaerts is one of the most talented in the tournament. As I’ve written before, the Dutch probably have the strongest baseball tradition outside of the Americas and the Pacific Rim, and this tournament has provided a chance for serious national pride.
In addition, Netherlands is moving towards being the first country in mainland Europe to host Major League Baseball, announcing the construction of a 15,000 seat stadium, and MLB has confirmed that games could take place as early as 2014 or 2015.
So have fun watching the games if you can, or catch them in the highlights like I do, if you’re not fortunate enough to have MLB Network. You wouldn’t want to miss the all-time World Baseball Classic home run record!
Print This Post