World Baseball Classic’s rules create confusion

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Team Mexico was controversially eliminated from the World Baseball Classic on Sunday night despite defeating Team Venezuela, which put three teams each with a 1-2 record in Pool D. The WBC’s rules, however, state that in this particular case, the two teams with the fewest average runs allowed per defensive inning (RAPDI) would play each other in a tiebreaker game for the right to advance. As a result, Mexico (1.12) was narrowly edged out by Venezuela (1.11) to play Italy in a tiebreaker.

Using this metric as the basis for determining tiebreaker participants, however, conflicts with other WBC rules, namely the “early termination” rule and the extra-innings rules. The early termination rule ends a game in which a team is leading by 15 runs after the fifth inning or if a team is leading by 10 runs after the seventh inning. Because teams are automatically prevented from adding additional innings into the denominator, some teams are doubly punished because RAPDI statistic has fewer innings in the denominator. While Venezuela advanced, it suffered an 11-0 loss to Puerto Rico that was stopped after the seventh inning and adversely impacted its RAPDI.

The extra-innings rule puts runners at first and second base to start any extra inning starting with the 11th inning. This extra-innings rule did not impact the outcome of his tiebreaker scenario, but it could have and it’s something the WBC should look at amending for the next tournament. For the purposes of a tiebreaker, a team is punished by losing in extra innings rather than in nine or ten innings. In other words, it creates a weird incentive for teams to lose quicker. For instance, some were suggesting that if Venezuela had scored a run in the bottom of the ninth, Mexico should have intentionally walked batters until the game was tied at 11-11 to send the game into extra innings. This was suggested under the assumption that the bottom of the ninth inning of Mexico’s loss to Italy on Sunday was being counted as a defensive inning, which it turns out it wasn’t. More on that…

Mexico was also hurt by being the visiting team to open up Pool D play against Italy. It led 9-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning, but Italy rallied for five runs without recording an out to walk off 10-9 winners. Had Mexico recorded an out that inning, its RAPDI statistic would have been better than Venezuela’s. Many will say that Mexico simply should have played better, but it would have been guaranteed to record three outs against Italy in the ninth had it been the home team instead.

The RAPDI statistic is simply highly flawed and should not be the basis for determining tiebreaker participants. It’s convoluted, first of all, which only serves to create confusion among fans, players, and WBC officials. It would have been better to use run differential, which is transparent, ubiquitous, and easy to calculate. By this metric, Mexico (-4) and Italy (-6) would have played the tiebreaker, and Venezuela (-12) would have been eliminated. One could likely brainstorm other, perhaps better methods; the point here is that RAPDI was a bad idea, especially when this statistic creates direct conflict with other rules.

The purpose of the World Baseball Classic is to catalyze interest in baseball across the globe. Lawyeresque parsing of rules to determine tiebreaker participants certainly won’t be helping.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.