The World Baseball Classic begins Monday, March 6, so it is time for us to understand the rules, at least the important ones. Since the WBC is a product of close cooperation and negotiation between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, there are plenty of rules for everyone.
Most of the “non-game” rules deal with the rosters and cover topics like Designated Pitcher Pool, Player Eligibility, Player Restrictions per MLB Club, Disabled Personnel, Bereavement/Family Medical Emergency/Paternity Leave. Personally, I don’t care who is on the roster, I just want to watch the games. So, we will not discuss roster rules nor Home/Visitor Designations or Tie-Breaking Procedures.
Now on to the good stuff; the rules of the game. The WBC will be governed by the Official Rules of Major League Baseball (OBR), so no international trickery going on here.
Pitch Counts and Pitcher Limitations
Basically, no pitcher in the Classic will be overused. Minimum rest and pitch count restrictions are clearly defined. No pitcher will exceed 95 pitches. So, if your favorite southpaw comes back from the Classic in need of TJ surgery, that is a tough break, but there will be no WBC fingerprints on that blown UCL.
MLB calls this “Early Termination for Large Leads,” but those of us who have witnessed a youth league blowout know it as the Mercy Rule. Boy, does it ever come in handy, too. A lead of 10 runs after seven innings or 15 runs after 5 innings, seals the deal. If you want to reduce the average length of games in the big leagues, this is the first place to look.
Yup, they’re going to do it. Beginning in the 11th inning, the team at bat starts the inning with runners on first and second base. The leadoff batter is the scheduled batter and the runners are those players (or subs) who precede the scheduled batter.
Video Replay Review
In the first two rounds, video replay is used only for home runs or potential home runs. The review is performed by the crew chief and one other member of the umpire crew. The Championship Round is being played at Dodger Stadium and full MLB review rules are in effect.
Since few starting pitchers will be around much past the fifth inning to earn a win, the WBC has invoked OBR 9.17(E) to determine the winning pitcher. This is also called “right place, right time rule.” A pitcher gets the win if his team goes ahead while he is in the game and never relinquishes the lead. If weird circumstances prevail, the official scorer awards the win.
Loser Goes Home
By the time the finals roll around on March 20, we will be ready for some real (spring training) baseball, so MLB has given us the single elimination Championship Round. This cuts to the quick and gets the finals over in three days.
For baseball fans, the WBC should be interesting and enjoyable, especially the final three games. Just don’t remind yourself that we have another 10 days of spring training after the WBC ends and before real big league baseball begins. Just time enough to get that tan on.
Chris Welsh is in his 25th season as the Cincinnati Reds TV Analyst on Fox Sports Ohio. He is also owner of Baseball Rules Academy, a website dedicated to informing fans, player, coaches and umpires about the rues of baseball. baseballrulesacademy.com. Contact Chris: email@example.com