Team Israel has advanced to the second round in its first World Baseball Classic appearance. At 10 p.m. ET Wednesday, Israel will play the Netherlands for seeding among the two teams advancing from Pool A.
After losing to Spain in the qualifying round for the 2013 tournament, Israel defeated Great Britain in late September at MCU Park in Brooklyn, New York, to qualify for the 2017 tournament. This wasn’t exactly expected.
The odds? They were slim
Israel opened at 100-1 odds to win the WBC but was 200-1 immediately before the tournament began.
For context, the Phillies (71-91 last year) are 200-1 to win the World Series; Cleveland was 200-1 to win the pro football championship immediately before the 2016 season; Boise State, Washington State and Wisconsin had 200-1 odds to win the national championship in college football immediately before the season; the Heat, Bucks, Magic, Hornets and Nuggets each had 200-1 odds to win the NBA Finals immediately before the season; and Georgetown and Oklahoma were among a group of 200-1 teams to win the NCAA title in basketball immediately before the season.
After one win in the tournament -- in its opening game, over South Korea -- Israel’s odds jumped to 50-1, tied for the ninth-best with the Netherlands. After another win, Israel’s odds were 25-1. Now, having advanced to the second round, Israel is 20-1 to win.
Israel is 41st in the World Baseball Softball Confederation rankings. The other teams in the pool are all ranked higher: Korea (third), Chinese Taipei (fourth), Netherlands (ninth).
What does this compare to?
The most prominent World Baseball Classic comparison is the Netherlands in 2009. That team defeated the Dominican Republic twice in pool play to advance and then lost to Venezuela and United States in the second round.
The most notable major leaguer at the time was Sidney Ponson, whose final major league season ended up being 2009 (58 2/3 innings, 7.36 ERA). He was signed to that contract by the Royals for 2009 during the tournament.
Kenley Jansen was on the team but had never played a major league game. He appeared in 12 games in high-A for the Dodgers that year and made his major league debut in 2010.
The Netherlands in 2009 defeated the Dominican Republic, which had players including Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Nelson Cruz, Moises Alou, Jose Bautista, Robinson Cano, David Ortiz and Johnny Cueto, Pedro Martínez.
Get to know the team with the Mensch on the Bench
One player on the team was born in Israel: pitcher Shlomo Lipetz (who hasn’t appeared in a game). He attended college in the United States.
One Israeli citizen has been drafted by a major league team: Dean Kremer, drafted by the Padres in 2015 and the Dodgers in 2016 (signed by the Dodgers). He was born in Stockton, California, but has Israeli citizenship (his parents are Israeli).
Many players on the team had never visited Israel before a pretournament trip.
Israel manager Jerry Weinstein is the manager of the Rockies’ Double-A affiliate Hartford Yard Goats. He has managed at the rookie league, low-A and high-A levels. This season will be his first managing the Double-A Yard Goats.
Israel’s most productive players at the WBC aren’t exactly household names. The leading home run hitters, Ryan Lavarnway and Nate Freiman, have combined for 16 home runs in seven total major league seasons. Ike Davis, a .239 hitter in seven major league seasons, has four hits in the WBC. Jason Marquis, who had a 15-season major league career, has pitched three scoreless innings.