By Gabriel Fidler, Managing Editor.
The WBSC released its newest set of world rankings yesterday, and virtually all European baseball nations saw a change in position thanks to new points available from the European Baseball Championship and the Under-18 World Cup. Great Britain set a new programme record with a No. 18 ranking, while Czechia returned to 14th, a position it has held multiple times in the past seven years. Fast-rising Switzerland rose 16 places, more than any country in the world, while Greece and Sweden were also big winners, and each of three was awarded its best-ever ranking. Meanwhile, Italy’s ninth-place finish at the Euros dropped the European power one spot, which — crucially — take it out of contention for a spot in the 2024 Premier12.
Spain, of course, took home the most points from the recently concluded Euros, at 305, while also claiming 50 points from the U18 World Championship. As a result of points expiring from tournaments at the beginning of the four-year rankings cycle, however, España actually dropped one spot in the world ratings.
Meanwhile, the 287 points that Great Britain earned at the European Championship vaulted it two points, setting an all-time national record and adding to a string of 10 consecutive rankings updated in which it has improved or maintained its rating. Between the senior and U23 Euros and the World Baseball Classic, G.B. has accrued a whopping 824 points, more than the four-year totals of 60 other countries.
Czechia, which looked very strong in finishing fifth among European baseball nations, picked up a total of 417 points since the last rankings, with 173 from its ninth-place finish at the U18 World Cup, 12 points from wins in exhibition games over the Netherlands and Italy, and 232 at the Euros. That sum boosted it one place and returned the Central European country to No. 14, only 35 behind Italy.
A prospect-driven Switzerland continues its helium-fuelled ascent in European baseball, jumping 16 places in the world rankings to No. 36, six places better than its previous high. As a first-time entrant to the top level of the European Baseball Championship, its 12th-place finish was a surprise, but also delivered a points total for the world rankings that was almost eight times the amount it received for its second-place finish in qualification.
Another country to shoot up the WBSC charts was Greece, which took home 86 points to more than double its quadrennial total. Its rating of No. 34 in the world tied a previous high, set on the last day of 2021. Sweden’s hard-fought finish as Europe’s eighth-best senior national team earned the Tre Kronor (Three Crowns) 177 points, pushing the Scandinavians into the World Top 30 for the first time at No. 28. In the last 11 WBSC polls, Svenska Baseboll has only once lost ground, and that a single place in a ranking earlier this year.
Other nations that set a new highwater mark included Croatia, which was listed at No. 26, three better than its previous high. Another was Hungary, debutants at the top level of the European Baseball Championship. Despite finishing 16 of 16, the young Magyars took 37th place, an increase of three spots, and the ninth-consecutive poll in which Hungary did not lose ground.
Other than Spain, only two nations lost ground as a result of this year’s Baseball Euros and, for one, it was potentially catastrophic. For only the third time in its history this September, Italy did not medal in the European Baseball Championship, and its ninth-place finish was not only its worst-ever result, but it was enough to drop into 13th place in the world, all but ensuring the Italians will not play in next year’s Premier12 tournament, for which only games played by the end of 2023 count. This result must be particularly bitter considering Italy has earned exactly 1,100 points this year.
Austria also slipped a single point after finishing No. 15 at the Euros and suffering relegation. The result ended a string of three appearances at the Europe’s top tier of national play. It earned 49 points for its efforts and fell one place shy of its all-time mark.
None of the top eight nations in the WBSC rankings changed, but Puerto Rico became the beneficiary of Italy’s performance by entering the Top 12 at No. 11. Japan, the U.S., and Mexico retained their positions as the three-highest ranked nations in the world. A total of 30 members of WBSC Europe were listed in the poll, which covered 79 nations.