After a six-year hiatus, the top players from around the globe have stepped back into the batter’s box for the World Baseball Classic.
Twenty squads will battle over a two-week span for the title of best baseball nation on Earth. Three countries have earned that title in the past, and those previous champions are among the contenders to win it all once again in 2023.
With this year’s tournament underway, let’s look back at some World Baseball Classic history, from origins to champions and more.
When was the first World Baseball Classic?
The tournament was first held in 2006.
The year prior, baseball had been voted out of the Summer Olympics beginning in 2012. Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced the creation of the World Baseball Classic in May of 2005 as another international baseball event.
The World Baseball Classic returned in 2009 and was scheduled to occur every four years. The fifth edition of the tournament was scheduled for 2021 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pushed into 2023.
Which country has won the most World Baseball Classics?
Japan is the most decorated country in World Baseball Classic history with two titles. The nation emerged victorious at each of the first two tournaments, beating Cuba in the 2006 first-place game and defending its title with an extra-innings win over South Korea in 2009.
The Dominican Republic won its first title in 2013, and the United States enters 2023 as the defending champion after winning it all in 2017.
World Baseball Classic results
Here is a look at the top three finishers from each World Baseball Classic:
- 2006: Japan 1st, Cuba 2nd, South Korea 3rd
- 2009: Japan 1st, South Korea 2nd, Venezuela 3rd
- 2013: Dominican Republic 1st, Puerto Rico 2nd, Japan 3rd
- 2017: United States 1st, Puerto Rico 2nd, Japan 3rd
Who has won Most Valuable Player at the World Baseball Classic?
A player from the winning country was named Most Valuable Player at each of the first four World Baseball Classics.
Daisuke Matsuzaka is the only two-time winner of the award, taking it home during Japan’s championship runs in 2006 and 2009.
Robinson Cano received the honor when the Dominican Republic won in 2013, and Marcus Stroman earned it in 2017 after starting – and winning – Team USA’s championship game against Puerto Rico. Stroman held Puerto Rico without a hit until the seventh inning in an 8-0 American victory.
World Baseball Classic statistical leaders
Here were the all-time leaders in some key statistical categories at the World Baseball Classic entering this year’s edition (per Baseball-Reference):
- Games played: Carlos Beltran, Puerto Rico – 28
- At-bats: Carlos Beltran, Puerto Rico – 95
- Hits: Frederich Cepeda, Cuba – 32
- Home runs: Alfredo Despaigne, Cuba – 7
- RBI: Frederich Cepeda, Cuba – 23
- Batting average: Mike Cervenak, Czech Republic – .550
- On-base percentage: Ken Griffey Jr., USA – .583
- Slugging percentage: Ken Griffey Jr., USA – 1.048
- Wins: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Japan – 6
- ERA: Yadel Marti, Cuba – 0.00 (12 2/3 innings pitched)
- Innings pitched: Diegomar Markwell, Netherlands – 28
- Strikeouts: Josh Zeid, Israel – 24
- Saves: Fernando Rodney, Dominican Republic – 8
When is the 2023 World Baseball Classic?
The 2023 World Baseball Classic began on Wednesday, March 8, and will conclude at loanDepot Park in Miami with the championship game on Tuesday, March 21.