2023 World Baseball Classic: How – and if – injuries can affect the tournament, before, during and after

The World Baseball Classic will return next week after a long absence as the first game of the tournament is scheduled for Tuesday. The 2021 WBC edition has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning it will be the first event in the tournament since Team USA won the championship game over Puerto Rico on March 22, 2017.

That’s a long time in terms of the real world and baseball, so it’s only natural to forget about the inner workings of the WBC. Consider, for the purposes of this article, the role that past, present, and future injuries play in shaping a tournament. Think about them now because it’s time to move on to three handy subheadings to help explain the finer details.

1. Pre-existing and old traumas can interfere with plans.

This may seem like a self-evident statement, but we’re not just talking about obvious cases like, say, New York Yankees left-hander Nestor Cortez. Cortez was scheduled to play for the US national team until he injured his hamstring during training camp and was forced to withdraw from the tournament.

There are also cases like that of Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw. Although Kershaw is cheerful and healthy, this spring, he also had to leave the US team. Cause? Kershaw’s past injuries have reportedly made it difficult to obtain an insurance policy – a requirement for every player who wants to be equipped during the tournament.

“I really wanted to be a part of this band, maybe it was my last chance to do it, so I really wanted to do it,” Kershaw told reporters. “But it just didn’t work out for a number of reasons. Disappointing but that’s ok, I’ll be ready for the season and ready to go.”

Elsewhere, the Atlanta Braves eventually gave star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. the go-ahead to dress up as Venezuela, but his situation served as a pertinent reminder that teams have the right to say no if players meet the following parameters related to with injuries:

  • In total, spent 60 days on the injured list during the last MLB season, including at least 15 of the last 60 days of the season.
  • Physically unable to play in two of his team’s last three games in his final season (regular season or postseason).
  • Has had surgery since the last opening day or plans to have surgery in the future.
  • Were on the injured list on the last day of August of the last MLB season.

While these restrictions govern who can play in a tournament, there is also a set of rules that govern who can play which game.

2. WBC teams take a cautious approach

Indeed, WBC managers must abide by the following rules of use when it comes to how they use individual pitchers throughout the tournament:

  • Maximum 65 fields per game during pool play.
  • Maximum 80 fields per game during the quarter-final round.
  • Maximum 95 pitches per game during a championship round.
  • At least four days of rest after entering 50 fields.
  • At least one rest day after entering 30 fields.
  • In no case can not alternate days in a row.

It should be noted that the above rules have not prevented players from getting injured in the past WBC. Most recently, veteran southpaw Drew Smiley suffered a flexor strain during the 2017 tournament. He later had to undergo Tommy John surgery, which cost him his entire subsequent campaign.

Of course, as Smyly general manager Jerry Dipoto said at the time, said“Trauma is trauma, and it can happen anytime, anywhere.” In addition, there is little evidence that WBC significantly increases the likelihood of injury.

3. Does the WBC really lead to more injuries?

We also do not mean the last statement in the spirit of “lack of evidence is itself evidence” – and you do not need to take our word for it.

Ben Lindberg of The Ringer examined the data back in April 2017 and concluded that “The evidence for an injury effect is not strong enough to justify a player ban, especially since a crowded tournament is a huge fan-enjoyment experience – and, in the long run, potentially beneficial for baseball, which in turn enriches teams.”

Whether it’s due to rules restricting participation (both tournament and games), or luck, or some combination of these factors, the data shows that everyone should be able to take a deep breath and enjoy WBC without feeling anxious. or to blame for someone’s MLB season being derailed in the coming weeks.


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