The Irony of the “Little League World Series”

The Irony of the “Little League World Series”

(photo courtesy of AP)

Hah! So you’d thought that the first post would obviously be about kokoyakyu! Well, I mean most of them will be, but with the 98th Natsu Koushien completed, ESPN shows the LLWS. And several years ago there was a player from Tokyo Kitasuna who is now the darling of kokoyakyu. Perhaps you’ve heard of Kiyomiya Koutarou?

Anyways, I generally watch the LLWS when time allows, but when I do I watch basically hoping the US loses each year.

Why?

Well, in the current format of the LLWS, 16 teams head to Williamsport. 8 US teams representing the different regions, and 8 international teams. They play a double elimination format with the winners of each side going to the title game.

Yes, that means that the US is always guaranteed a spot in the LLWS final. And for me, this can’t be a “World Series” if the US is always in the title game.

So, let’s see how the finals have gone since say 2000.

Of the 16 finals since 2000, the international side have won 9 of the 16, so slightly over half.

  • 6 from Japan (2 from Tokyo Kitasuna and Musashi Fuchu)
  • 1 from South Korea (maybe 2 tomorrow), Curacao and Venezuela

If we look since 2010, international teams have won 5 of the 7 so far – 4 from Japan and 1 from South Korea.

If we just look at the international representatives:

  • 10 from Japan (3 from Tokyo Kitasuna and 2 from Musashi Fuchu)
  • 2 from Curacao & South Korea (including this year)
  • 1 from Taiwan, Mexico, Venezuela

Asia has represented the international side for 13 of the last 17 years and should South Korea win tomorrow, will have won almost half of the LLWS titles since 2000.

Here’s how you fix this, because at this point I think the current format is broken in my opinion.

Unguarantee the US a spot in the final. I’m sorry, if you’re butthurt that I’m saying the US shouldn’t have a spot in the final, but it’s a WORLD SERIES. There should be a possibility that 2 international teams reach the final.

Redistribute the spots as follows:

  • Individual Countries
    • United States (6)
    • Canada (1)
    • Mexico (1)
    • Japan (1)
    • South Korea (1)
    • Australia (1)
  • Regions
    • Asia-Pacific/Middle East (1)
    • Latin America (1)
    • Europe/Africa (1)
    • Caribbean (1)
    • Floating Bid between all regions (1)

The US would lose 2 spots immediately, one to South Korea and one to a floating bid.

South Korea is quickly establishing itself as a baseball power, already shown in the WBC and now in the players coming to MLB. And chances are they will be dominating the Asia-Pacific region unless they get their own bid.

The floating bid would be to allow a team from different regions an ability to come to the LLWS. It would be on a rotating schedule between all regional areas. Though would be subject to removal if we needed the bid for a particular region country.

The US would also be at risk in the future for losing 2 more bids. And I would imagine that one would go to Africa as its own region provided that LL did outreach to Africa as a whole. I could also see one going to the Caribbean as well, especially if Cuba were to join LL in the near future (or perhaps Cuba itself eventually). And add the floating bid going to say Europe if baseball were to take off there and they’re all accounted for.

This is how I would imagine the field eventually if LL did outreach all around the world:

  • Individual Countries
    • United States (2)
    • Canada (1)
    • Mexico (1)
    • Japan (1)
    • South Korea (1)
    • Australia (1)
  • Regions
    • Latin America (2)
    • Caribbean (2)
    • South America (1)
    • Europe (1)
    • Africa (1)
    • Asia-Pacific/Middle East (1)
    • Floating bid between all 1 bid regions (1)

Change the format. With the US not guaranteed a spot anymore and the loss of 2 bids (which right now would be looked at as regions), I think this could bring in an opportunity to bring in a Koushien-like qualifying for the US. Take 64 teams, with 50 states plus D.C. each getting a team and the teams with the largest number of teams or success at the national level getting more teams.

Bids given by size (permanent)

  • Texas (4)
  • California (4)
  • Florida (2)
  • New York (2)

Bids given by performance (temporary)

  • Washington (2)
  • Oregon (2)
  • Pennsylvania (2)
  • Louisiana (2)
  • Connecticut (2)

The above is just an example, but you get the point.

If you want to avoid the single unfortunate elimination have 16 pools of round-robin games. In terms of who goes in what pool, the states getting bids due to size draw separate pools. Then you rotate the final 2 states who will get seeing priority. The rest will draw in randomly making sure no pool has 2 teams from the same state.

Winners of each pool (16) would draw into a bracket. If a state qualifies multiple teams, they will be distributed as evenly as possible. From there it’s one round of single elimination to get to best 8. Then the winners of those quarterfinals are guaranteed a spot at Williamsport but will continue to play on for seeding at the LLWS, while the losers play another round robin to determine the final 2 spots.

As for the LLWS itself, you can keep the pool play like before, but there is no international/US side. All teams are thrown in together. For the draw into pools we would do the following:

  • Seeded Teams – 6 US teams and for now Japan and South Korea, are considered seeded teams and would be placed first as follows:
    • Pool A – USA 1st, USA 5th/6th (must not have played 1st if possible)
    • Pool B – USA 2nd, USA 5th/6th (must not have played 1st if possible)
    • Pool C – USA 3rd, Japan/Korea
    • Pool D – USA 4th, Japan/Korea
  • Any regions with 2 bids draw next, making sure they don’t draw same pool.
  • All single bid teams draw last.

Then after pool play, the top 2 from each move on to single-elimination bracket play. 1st place finishers will play 2nd place finishers by random draw. Of course 1st and 2nd from the same pool can’t play each other.

Now, I could imagine a potential conversation going like:

  • Reader: “Doesn’t your format mean that 2 US teams could reach the final?”
  • Me: “Yes, it does.”
  • Reader: “But doesn’t that defeat the purpose of your entire argument?”
  • Me: “No, because the tournament is structured that the US is not guaranteed a spot in the final. It is entirely possible that the 2 best teams are from the US, which is fine. But what we are concerned about is that the US has a spot currently irregardless of the team’s ability.”

Well, that’s how I would fix the LLWS anyways. *steps off soapbox*

(Don’t worry, there’ll be kokoyakyu stuff on here soon enough)

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