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Team USA’s World Baseball Classic Championship Didn’t Come Easy

Team USA finally did it. Buoyed by a tremendous pitching performance from starter Marcus Stroman — who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning — the United States routed Puerto Rico 8-0 in Wednesday night’s title game of the World Baseball Classic, securing America’s first-ever championship at the event.

Going from mediocre (they went into 2017 with a 10-10 all-time record in the tournament) to championship worthy wasn’t easy for the U.S. Although the American roster was stacked with major leaguers, the team once again found itself facing elimination after losing to Puerto Rico last Friday. Keeping its tournament hopes alive meant beating the Dominican Republic — the second-best team in WBC history by my calculations,1 (and one that had roared back to beat the U.S. a week earlier) — in a do-or-die qualifier, then beating Japan (the greatest team in WBC history) in the semis, and then turning the tables in a rematch with Puerto Rico (who were undefeated and playing as well as any WBC team ever).

Talk about a difficult path to a championship:

OPPONENT
DATE ROUND TEAM ALL-TIME SRS RANK USA’S RESULT
3/10 Round 1 Colombia 11th W 3-2
3/11 Round 1 Dominican Republic 2nd L 7-5
3/12 Round 1 Canada 17th W 8-0
3/15 Round 2 Venezuela 9th W 4-2
3/17 Round 2 Puerto Rico 5th L 6-5
3/18 Round 2 Dominican Republic 2nd W 6-3
3/21 Semis Japan 1st W 2-1
3/22 Final Puerto Rico 5th W 8-0
Team USA’s path to the championship

The Simple Rating System (SRS) adjusts a team’s per-game run differential for strength of schedule. This SRS ranking uses data from all WBC matches since 2006, with extra weight applied to games in later rounds.

Source: Wikipedia

But the U.S. persevered through it all, and now they are WBC champions. And who knows — perhaps the win will even persuade more marquee players to represent America at future World Baseball Classics.

Now, if only they could do something about those painfully ’90s-looking uniforms.

Footnotes

  1. I used the Simple Rating System to rank every team in WBC history.

Neil Paine is a senior sportswriter for FiveThirtyEight.

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