WBC semi-final format

Vasi asks if anyone besides him is annoyed at the semifinal format, whereby the games pit the top two of each pool against each other instead of the top team in one against the runner-up in the other. The alternative format that Vasi describes makes more sense, in that the semifinals would then pit teams that had not yet played each other, instead of teams that just played each other in the past week.

Of course, it is obvious that the format was intended to maximize the chances that the final would be USA vs. a Caribbean team, thereby maximizing television interest. That way, aside from the possibility of Cuba being the Caribbean team, there would be the maximum number of marquee major-leaguers involved. (And Cuba vs. USA would certainly generate interest!)

One advantage of the format in use is it has divided the world of baseball into what could be called “Pacific” and “Caribbean” divisions,* ensuring that the final includes one team from either Asia or one of the three big North American countries and one team from the Caribbean.

Somewhat more bothersome to me is that the semifinals and final are single-elimination. I understand the logistical reasons for that format (the whole tournament can be only so long), but baseball is probably the worst of all sports for single-elimination games.

*Ignoring that Australia was thus in the wrong division, and that Italy and South Africa are geographic “orphans.” By switching South Africa and Australia, one could call the divisions West and East, if one is willing to call East Asia the “west,” which it is, relative to the Americas.

0 thoughts on “WBC semi-final format

  1. Hmm, I’d think that Japan and Korea are about as good a marketing opportunity as the Dominican Republic.

    As for the format, I’m fairly satisfied with everything except the semi-finals. Both preliminary rounds are not single-elimination, though the small group sizes add a large randomness factor. And at least for the finals, a best-of-X would be more fun–and probably better for ratings, as well!

    If I were in charge, aside from fixing the semi-finals seeding, I’d have carried forward the still-relevant results from the first round into the second. Eg: Korea beat Japan in the first round, so rather than play Korea vs Japan a second time, the first result would count for the second round as well. This saves a game per team, so now I could make the final a best-of-two (counting total runs) without extending the tournament.


  2. Vasi must be a soccer fan. That’s the playoff format used throughout the world, including here in the US. It’s never been used in baseball before. It would be interesting to see how a two game series worked.


  3. I’d actually much prefer a best-of-seven series, but that’s not realistic for such a short tournament. Without adding games, I think a two-game final series is the best that can be reasonably accomplished.

    I did know about the soccer practice. Strangely enough, soccer tournaments usually have two-game preliminary rounds and then the final (and sometimes semi-final) are single elimination. Not at all the way I’d prefer, but possibly better for television. But my idea for a two-game series in baseball actually came from hockey. Nowadays it’s rare in major leagues and tournaments, but go back 80 years or so and two-game series were common.

    Incidentally, according to Wikipedia’s page on the World Series, in 1882 the National League winner played the American Association winner in a two-game series. I have no idea as to the truth of that statement, nor whether it was a decided on runs-scored or games won.


  4. I think that’s why the next tournament is going to be in ’09. They won’t have the competition from the Winter Olympics or the World Cup that year. They could probably stretch the tournament out maybe a week longer and at the least have at least a two game or best of three series for the title. I look at this year’s tournament as sort of a trial run.

    Just to throw out something new…what do you guys think about MLB shutting down for a week or two in mid season so that they players would be available for an Olympic tournament, like the NHL does? They would probably have to not have the All Star Game those years, but I’m one that thinks the All Star game doesn’t have the luster it used to have anyway. Personally, I wouldn’t miss the All Star game much. Another benefit would be that it would allow teams to rest sore-armed pitchers and perhaps the level of play might be better down the stretch drive. Anyone?


  5. That idea has its detractors in the hockey world. Many teams with more world class players, or just more international players, complain loudly about their players risking injury while other teams rest. Some commentators felt the quality of the playoffs in 2002 suffered because of tired players (after a full season plus an Olympic tournament). The NHL was constantly threatening to pull out if they felt the marketing benefit wouldn’t gain them as much as they lost–basicallly any North American Winter Olympics is guaranteed NHL participation, but Olympics elsewhere have to convince the NHL.

    It seems that soccer must solve this problem somehow, since they have many tournaments in the middle of the season. Not sure how they deal with it, anybody know?


  6. FIFA (soccer’s world organization) solved the problem you mention with putting aside designated dates for “friendly matches” and tournaments. The club teams are not allowed to play on those dates. Ususally, soccer teams play only once a week, so it’s not as much of a problem as it would be with baseball or hockey, anyway.


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