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September international baseball preview

Using our Elo rankings, we predict the winners of several upcoming international baseball tournaments.

Japan and Chinese Taipei will compete in the Asian Games this September.
Japan and Chinese Taipei will compete in the Asian Games this September.
Chung Sung-Jun

We unveiled our rankings of international baseball squads a couple of weeks ago to coincide with our presentation at Saberseminar. Our first edition, available here, had the United States a few points ahead of the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

But my favorite part of the system is its usefulness for predicting upcoming events. To that end, we built 10,000-iteration Monte Carlo simulations of the big international events coming up in the next month.

European Championship

First up is the 33rd edition of the European baseball championship, starting September 12th and lasting through the 21st. Twelve teams will compete at multiple sites across the Czech Republic and Germany. The group stage consists of two six-team round robins, followed by an additional round robin between the top three teams fromeach group.

Rk Team Group Elo Champ Second Playoff
7 Netherlands B 1813 58% 35% 99.8%
9 Italy A 1759 40% 47% 99.6%
21 Spain B 1433 1.2% 7.3% 82%
23 Germany A 1389 0.8% 7.1% 89%
30 Czech Rep. B 1255 0.2% 2.4% 64%
31 Great Britain A 1252 <.1% 0.4% 34%
33 Greece B 1236 <.1% 0.3% 30%
34 Belgium A 1231 <.1% 0.3% 30%
37 France A 1197 <.1% 0.1% 23%
38 Sweden A 1179 <.1% 0.1% 23%
39 Russia B 1171 <.1% <.1% 16%
44 Croatia B 1097 <.1% <.1% 8.2%

That the Netherlands and Italy are the favorites should come as no surprise, even without our rankings: both countries were invited to all three World Baseball Classics, and the two countries have dominated this event. In fact, one of these two teams has won every European championship since 1969*. Others who follow European baseball more closely favor two-time defending champion Italy. And it's true that the Dutch will be without talents like like Jurickson Profar, Xander Bogaerts, and Andrelton Simmons that led them to the WBC semifinals. But the games in our database were predominantly played without MLB players anyway, and the Netherlands have historically done very well in those games.

* - In 1967, Belgium took home the gold, but neither Italy or the Netherlands participated in that edition.

Asian Games

Halfway across the planet, the city of Incheon in South Korea hosts the 17th Asian Games, which are held every four years and have included baseball since 1994. The tournament is an interesting mix of giants like Japan, South Korea, and Chinese Taipei and smaller countries like Pakistan, Thailand, and Hong Kong. The group stage of the tournament is made up of two four-team round robins; the top two teams in each group advance to a single-elimination tournament to determine the champion.

Rk Team Group Elo Champ Second Playoff
8 South Korea B 1790 49.03 27.2 99.5
5 Japan A 1845 36.64 34.3 99.2
13 Chinese Taipei B 1687 11.69 11.9 97.8
20 China A 1448 2.53 22.4 86.9
42 Pakistan A 1124 0.07 3.2 10.9
prov Mongolia A 964 0.01 0.9 3.1
56 Thailand B 991 0.02 0.1 1.4
58 Hong Kong B 981 0.01 0.1 1.3

The two favorites in this tournament are Japan and the host Koreans. This is a good example of the difference home-field advantage makes in these simulations: If this tournament were held at a neutral site, Japan would be very slight favorites over South Korea, instead of slight underdogs. Given the hand-waving that went into our home-field advantage calculation, I don't feel very comfortable with this prediction, and will probably put more effort into the HFA adjustment over the winter.

I should also note that, because our database only includes 12 of their games, Mongolia's ranking is still provisional. However, they lost those games by a combined 275-4; if anything, the provisional ranking overestimates their chances.

Italian Baseball Week

There are two smaller tournaments just before the European championships that serve as warmups. The first, the Italian Baseball Week, is a double round robin between three European squads played at a number of Italian sites. Italy is the heavy favorite, and they probably would be even if the event weren't on their home soil.

Team Elo Avg. W-L Champs Second
Italy 1759 4.6-0.3 88.6 5.8
Czech Rep. 1255 0.6-3.7 2.3 27.9
Spain 1433 1.7-3.0 9.1 66.3

France International Baseball Tournament

The second warmup tournament is the first edition of the France International Baseball Tournament. Hosted by France, the tournament includes three European squads and one semi-pro team from Japan, the winners of the Inter-City Baseball Tournament. Since we naturally don't have rankings for that team, we can't simulate this tournament. We have included win probabilities between the three participating national teams, including the home-field advantage for the French team.


Other Upcoming Events

There are two main events between now and the end of the year. The first is the Central American and Caribbean Games, held in Veracruz between November 15th and 30th. The schedule hasn't been announced yet, but Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela are scheduled to participate. Also in November, the East Asian Baseball Cup will be held in the Philippines. The teams, which have yet to be announced, will be competing for a spot in the 2015 Asian Baseball Championship.

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Bryan Cole is a featured writer for Beyond the Box Score. He is interested in predictions, but never gambles thanks to a bad experience in his younger days. You can follow him on Twitter at @Doctor_Bryan.