Cuba Still Number 1 in IBAF Ranking

IBAF Ranking for the 2012 Season

Peter C. Bjarkman*

Cuban catcher Ariel Pestano in a game against South Korea.

HAVANA TIMES — With schedules and dates now finalized for the March World Baseball Classic, and on the heels of a final series of WBC qualifying tournaments (held in Panama and Taiwan), the IBAF (International Baseball Federation) has now announced its final world rankings for the 2012 international baseball season.

Despite a rather sparse 2012 tournament schedule, powerhouse Cuba has once again managed to protect its prestigious top ranking over an equally idle team USA.

Among other pacesetters, Japan nudged ahead of Korea on the strength of this year’s IBAF Asian Championship victory. Chinese Taipei showed the greatest gains among Top Ten countries, leaping over both Canada and 2011 World Cup winner Holland; the Taiwanese surge came on the strength of strong showings in both the 15U and 18U age-group world championship events and also as a result of a single win during its November “Thunder Series” with the Cubans.

It was also two victories over the visiting Cubans in November that allowed the Japanese to slide past rival Korea. Brazil’s surprising November World Cup qualifier victory over Panama was enough to boost the constantly improving South American club all the way from last winter’s number 33 slot to its first-ever coveted Top Twenty ranking.

Cuba’s shrinking first-place cushion over runner-ups USA, Japan and Korea has been diminishing with each annual IBAF poll over the past few years and that tentative margin is now in extreme danger of liquidation with the next MLB Classic looming on the near horizon.

If either the Americans or the two Asian powerhouse squads – all rich with big-league professional talent – advance farther than the Cubans during this spring’s WBC event, the islanders’ iron-clad hold on the top spot will finally come to an end. Despite a string of disappointing runner-up finishes in recent years (the Beijing Olympics plus the 2007, 2009 and 2011 IBAF World Cups) the Cubans have been able to boast a world championship perch at the summit ever since IBAF rankings were first published five years back.

But the string may very well be rapidly approaching its inevitable end. For this reason alone the third edition of the World Baseball Classic now takes on rather gigantic proportions for Cuba’s half-century-strong international baseball prestige.

The March WBC action in fact seems almost certain to result in the biggest shuffle to date among the upper echelons of the IBAF poll. Eight countries now claim 450 or more points in the standings (with Chinese Taipei, Canada, the Netherlands, and Venezuela also joining the powerhouse group) and a WBC gold medal for any on those clubs could make them an overnight international leader.

MLB-rich clubs from Puerto Rico (#12 with 204.23 points) and the Dominican Republic (#13 with 204.20) are too far off the pace to seriously challenge the IBAF leaders in March, but a trip to the WBC semifinals in San Francisco could also mean a huge bump in the standings for two Caribbean countries that boast proud big league traditions yet have rarely fared well in past IBAF international tournament standings.

IBAF Final 2012 World Baseball Rankings (Top 20 Positions)

Country Final 2012 Places Current Points 2011 Places
Cuba 1 766.02 1
USA 2 733.25 2
Japan 3 (up 1 slot) 664.42 4
Korea 4 (down 1 slot) 518.20 3
Chinese Taipei 5 (up 2 slots) 499.79 7
Canada 6 485.00 6
Netherlands 7 (down 2 slots) 476.76 5
Venezuela 8 450.13 8
Italy 9 (up 4 slots) 214.80 13
Australia 10 (up 1 slot) 211.97 11
Mexico 11 (down 1 slot) 208.98 10
Puerto Rico 12 (down 3 slots) 204.23 9
Dominican Republic 13 (down 1 slot) 204.20 12
Panama 14 (up 1 slot) 141.99 15
Nicaragua 15 (down 1 slot) 125.01 14
Spain 16 (up 2 slots) 109.51 18
Germany 17 96.83 17
China 18 (down 2 slots) 94.48 16
Colombia 19 (up 7 slots) 86.25 26
Brazil 20 (up 13 slots) 76.23 33

(*) Read Peter C. Bjarkman’s posts on

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