*This is an update to a previous study on this topic last month. The original results were forwarded to Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer, who kindly provided his own insights and suggestions to help improve our study. If you would like to view our initial findings, you can find them here. You can also check out Ben’s article at The Ringer.
Each year, hundreds of players from the MLB and other foreign leagues depart from their clubs during spring training to participate in the World Baseball Classic. As a tournament that takes place every four years, the players surely see it as an incredible opportunity to represent their country and play alongside other world-class caliber players from the same nation.
However, their MLB teams simply see it as a month where they don’t have full control over their players, and as a high-intensity environment ripe with opportunity for injury. Spring Training is a time for players to ease back into competitive play. Hitters play a handful of innings each day before minor leaguers replace them, and pitchers rarely exhibit maximum effort in their shortened spring stints.
On the other hand, in the most recent edition of the World Baseball Classic, we saw pitchers hit velocity marks they’ve never come close to, and relievers being pushed with 2-inning outings and high-leverage appearances on back-to-back days.
The 2017 edition of the tournament isn’t even a month old, and teams are already feeling the repercussions of their players’ WBC participation. Drew Smyly, Seth Lugo, and Didi Gregorius have all hit the DL with injuries of questionable relation to the WBC itself.
The question that is on the mind of every fan and every employee of a Major League franchise remains: how big of a risk is participating in the WBC?