By Peter C. Bjarkman*
A pair of gold medal defeats at the hands of Team USA–in the recent International Baseball Federation (IBAF) World Cup and the IBAF AA/16 World Youth Champions–has significantly reduced Cuba’s lead as the world’s top ranking baseball nation.
The two USA triumphs vaulted the Americans from their previous fourth-place slot into the runner-up position; at the same time Cuba’s previous first-place margin of 224.86 points (over Korea in the last poll, released in mid-August) has been cut by over half (it now stands at 108.36 points) by the late USA surge.
Two Asian powers–Japan and Korea–fell to third and fourth place respectively after both failing to qualify for the third round of the September Europe-based World Cup event.
Other minor shifts in the Top Ten saw Canada (the World Cup bronze medalist) and Mexico flip-flopping in the seventh and eighth slots, and Italy surging from number 15 to number 12 on the strength of its own first-round World Cup performance.
The IBAF rankings actually include 72 baseball-playing nations, with Ghana and Samoa bringing up the rear of the list.
l. Cuba (1159.68 points)
2. USA (1051.32 points)
3. Japan (912.07 points)
4. Korea (850.76 points)
5. Chinese Taipei (561.63 points)
6. Netherlands (405.33 points)
7. Canada (360.19 points)
8. Mexico (353.75 points)
9. Venezuela (298.86 points)
10. Puerto Rico (231.39 points)
11. Australia (211.24)
12. Italy (166.00 points)
13. Dominican Republic (135.68 points)
14. Nicaragua (117.49 points)
15. China (102.00 points)
16. Panama (92.32 points)
17. Spain (67.38 points)
18. Thailand (63.38 points)
19. Philippines (62.33 points)
20. Germany (48.38 points)
Top-twenty ranked countries failing to make an appearance in the September World Cup showcase event were the Dominican Republic, Panama, Thailand and the Philippines. The Dominicans managed to hold onto their number 13 ranking despite yet another failure to qualify for the IBAF World Cup field; while the Caribbean island nation proudly points to its legacy of supplying major league talent it has little in the way of a national baseball program which islanders might point to with any pride.
The biggest tumble by previously highly ranked nations was experienced by Brazil which slipped from #20 in August to #35 in the current rankings.
The IBAF debuted is world ranking system in January 2009 and these rankings are based on points earned in IBAF-sanctioned events during either a four-year window or the period encompassed by two World Cup events.
*Peter C. Bjarkman’s Cuban baseball articles can be read here.