Dominican Republic's Cano celebrates with teammate Ramirez after scoring against Puerto Rico during the first inning of the World Baseball Classic final in San Francisco

Dominican Republic goes undefeated in WBC, captures title


The 2013 World Baseball Classic is a wrap, and we have a new champion in Team Dominican Republic.

The Dominicans rolled through the event undefeated, notching wins against Venezuela, Spain, Italy, the United States and Team Netherlands on the way to snagging the WBC crown. They topped Team Puerto Rico a total of three times — once in pool play, once in the second round and again on Tuesday night in their first-ever World Baseball Classic championship game at a rain-soaked AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Dominican starter Samuel Deduno delivered five scoreless innings in the 3-0 win, allowing only two Puerto Rican hits while fanning five. Deduno yielded one earned run in 13 World Baseball Classic innings. He was followed Tuesday by Dominican relievers Octavio Dotel, Pedro Strop, Santiago Casilla and Fernando Rodney, who all contributed scoreless frames.

Edwin Encarnacion played the biggest role on offense in the championship game, smacking a tone-setting two-run double in the bottom of the first inning after Team Puerto Rico decided to intentionally walk the batter in front of him, Robinson Cano. Cano was 0-for-3 on the night but had a massively productive tournament.

Team Japan was crowned WBC champion in 2006 and 2009. They lost in the semifinals this year.

Wild Card, Division series umpires announced

Angel Hernandez
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Major League Baseball just released the umpire assignments for the Wild Card Game and the Division Series. As always, the basis for these assignments is a proprietary, scientific calculation undertaken by Major League Baseball, mixing in (a) skill; (b) seniority; and (c) trolling of baseball bloggers who, unlike 99% of the rest of the world actually know the names and track records of various umpires and who are easily riled.

Which is to say that, while we have no Joe West in the early playoff rounds this year — too obvious, perhaps? — we do get an Angel Hernandez.

Here are the assignments. The asterisks represent the crew chief of each unit. Guys with little up arrows next to their names are regular season crew chiefs in their own right. Print this out and keep it near your television so you know who to yell about before the broadcasters tell you who to yell at:

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Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon

I was curious about which MLB teams changed their fortunes the most this season compared to last year, so I crunched the numbers.

First, here are the biggest win total improvements from 2014 to 2015:

+24 Cubs
+21 Rangers
+16 Astros
+15 Diamondbacks
+13 Twins
+11 Mets
+10 Blue Jays
+10 Cardinals
+10 Pirates

The top five teams on the biggest-improvement list all had managers in their first season on the job, led by Joe Maddon joining the Cubs after tons of success with the Rays. Also worth noting: Of the nine teams with the biggest win total improvement, eight made the playoffs. Only the Twins improved to double-digit games and still failed to make the playoffs.

Now, here are the biggest win total declines from 2014 to 2015:

-20 Athletics
-16 Tigers
-15 Orioles
-14 Brewers
-13 Nationals
-13 Angels
-12 Braves
-12 Reds
-11 Mariners

Not surprisingly, a whole lot of those teams have changed managers, general managers, or both. And a couple more may still do so before the offseason gets underway. Oakland retained manager Bob Melvin despite an MLB-high 20-win dropoff and just promoted Billy Beane from general manager to vice president of baseball operations.