Previewing the World Baseball Classic

The third annual World Baseball Classic will kick off this year on March 2nd, 2013 and culminate with the Championship Game on March 19th.  For those unfamiliar with the World Baseball Classic, the event takes place every four years and is a showcase of the world’s top baseball talent.

Japan has won both previous WBCs, winning 10-6 in 2006 against Cuba and winning 5-3 in extra innings against South Korea in 2009.  In this article, we’ll preview each team’s lineup, and odds to win.  The event stands to produce a lot of wagering action this year as it is a priority for both English and Asian bookmakers.

The event has 16 teams and starts off with four teams in each in pool play.  From there, two teams will advance from each pool to a double elimination Second Round consisting of two pools.  Four teams will then advance to the single elimination Championship Round, where the last two teams standing will face off in the World Baseball Classic Championship.

Right now the only betting sites with odds posted are those based in Asia. The odds written beside each club is the price that Asian bookies currently have listed for them to win the World Baseball Classic.

Pool A

Pool A will take place entirely in Fukuoka Kapan, at the Fukuoka Japan Dome.  Pool A consists of Japan, Cuba, China and Brazil.

Japan 7/2: Japan is, rightfully so, one of the top teams to be favored in this year’s World Baseball Classic.  Known for their tough defense and discipline, Japan has won both previous events and is always a threat to take home the title.  Though, the Japanese team will be without top stars such as Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matzusaka and positional players such as the great Ichiro Suzuki. Japan has a lot of talent and is always one of the most fundamentally sound teams in the tournament.  Japan’s Nippon Baseball League is 2nd in talent level to MLB, so Japan should be able to make a run for the title even without top tier major league talent.

Cuba 16/1: Despite a lack of major league players on their team, that does not mean the Cuban team lacks major league caliber talent.  The small island lives and breathes baseball and always has a team that is formidable enough to compete for the title.  They made the finals in 2006, only to lose to Japan.  Previous teams fielded top MLB talents such as fire baller Aroldis Chapman and outfielder Yoennis Cespedes.

Cuba should have no trouble getting out of Pool A play, and at 16/1 are a bargain because of their talent level.  The Cuban team is blossoming with top-tier talent.

China 33/1: With only one major league player on their team, Kansas City pitcher Bruce Chen, China will have an uphill battle advancing in the WBC.  Especially in a tough Pool A that features Japan and Cuba.  While baseball in China is growing, they will need some more time to get the coaching and talent in order before being able to be an international force.

Brazil 100/1: This is Brazil’s first WBC as they played impressively in qualifying to make the tournament.  However, with no major league talent it would be difficult to pick them to advance from this group.  Perhaps, in a few years Brazil may be a big time player in international baseball, but we think it is too soon for them to be considered even a sleeper pick this year.

Pool B

Pool B will take place in the Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taichung, Taiwan.  The Pool consists of Chinese Taipei, Australia, South Korea and the Netherlands.  This pool is wide open and could produce some early surprises.

Australia 66/1: The Aussies have been in both previous WBC’s but have failed to get out of their pool each time.  Their talent level seems to get better every year, but they only have a few journeyman MLB pitchers on their roster and no position players with major league experience.  The team is focused on this year’s WBC, but we’re not sure their talent level can match their effort.

South Korea 10/1: Despite having no major league talent on their roster, Korea has played extremely well in previous WBC’s.  They lost in extra innings to Japan in the 2009 WBC and are normally exceptionally strong defensively and rarely make tactical errors.  The Koreans will be a tough matchup for any teams that faces them this year.  At 10/1, we love the chance to receive a hefty payout if Korea wins it all.

Netherlands 33/1: The Dutch are Europe’s top team and have been impressive in the WBC. In 2009, they beat the Dominican Republic twice to advance out of their pool.  They have many players that claim Dutch ancestry from the island nation of Curacao including pitcher Jair Jurrjens and outfielders Andrew Jones and Roger Bernadina.

At 33/1,  the oddsmakers do not have a lot of respect for the Dutch, but they are a serious dark horse candidate and have one of the more wide open pools in the tournament.

Chinese Taipei 25/1: Chinese Taipei is another team with few players with MLB experience, but one notable player is former Yankee and National, Chien-Ming Wang.  He is currently without an MLB contract and hopes his play in the WBC will get him a major league deal.  Chinese Taipei has done well in previous tournaments and is built around pitching and defense.  They could be another surprise team to make some noise in the 2nd round.

Pool C

Pool C could be dubbed as “the group of death” to borrow a line from soccer fans as the toughest group in the World Cup.  Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Spain and the Dominican Republic are all vying for two spots.  Pool C action will take place at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico 20/1: Puerto Rico has one of the most formidable teams for this year’s classic.  Their team is loaded with major leaguers around the diamond, including perhaps the best all around catcher, St. Louis standout Yadier Molina.  Their outfield is especially loaded, with Alex Rios, Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan roaming the grass.

This team is not getting a lot of ink, but at 20/1, they might be the best bet in the entire tournament.  They have plenty high level talent and could make a surprising run.

Spain 200/1: Spain has the worst odds to win in this year’s tournament.  Their talent level and seeding are the main reasons for this as it seems almost impossible for them to advance in this tough group.  Baseball has gained popularity in Spain in recent years but is still in its infancy.  Spain is one of the better European teams but has no major league talent on their roster.

Dominican Republic 3/1: The Dominican Republic is just a slight underdog to the United States as the favorites to win the tournament.  With an absolutely stacked lineup and rotation full of major league talent, the DR could be the tournament’s most talented team.

Their lineup includes many MLB stars such as Carlos Santana, Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Edwin Encarnacion, Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes.  The outfield is also stacked, featuring Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, and Carlos Gomez.  Pitching for the Dominicana are Edison Volquez, Wandy Rodriguez along with Fernando Rodney to close out games.

At 3/1, this juggernaut is certainly worth a bet.  However, they have struggled in qualifying in years past and were eliminated in Round One of the tournament in 2009.

Venezuela 7/1:  As impressive as the Dominican Republic looks, Venezuela could easily outperform them with their roster.  They will field a lineup full of baseball’s best including reigning MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.  Other infielders include Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, and Marco Scutaro.  The outfield continues to impress with Carlos Gonzalez, Geraldo Parra, and Martin Prado.   Also, the Venezuelan team has the best pitching staff in the tournament.  They feature ace Felix Hernandez, Anibal Sanchez, Carlos Zambrano and closer Francisco Rodriguez.

At 7/1, they are fourth in odds to win the entire tournament, and many could make a case they should be ranked higher.  In 2009, they only lost two games in the entire tournament, once to South Korea and one game to the United States.

Pool D

This pool will be played in the United States, the hosts of the 2013 Classic.  The four teams competing in Pool D will be the United States, Mexico, Italy, and Canada.  Games will be played at Chase Field and the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, both located in Arizona.

United States 11/4: The favorite to win this year’s WBC, the US has a strong team all over the diamond and a terrific pitching staff.  Their entire roster is MLB talent and full of Cy Young winners and All-Stars.  Joe Mauer will be behind the backstop for the US and will be surrounded by talented infielders Brandon Phillips, Jimmy Rollins, Mark Teixeira, David Wright and Ben Zobrist.  However, the outfield is where the US truly shines.  It features All-Stars Ryan Braun, Adam Jones, and Giancarlo Stanton.  The pitching staff has reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, Ryan Vogelsong, and Derek Holland along with a bevy of talented relievers such as Heath Bell and Chris Perez.

The US has done well in both previous WBC’s, but has never made it to the Championship game.  This year’s team is one of their most talented and this could be the year they finally take home the crown.

Mexico 20/1: Mexico fields a talented team filled with MLB talent.  Though, they have never gotten out of the first round, this may be their year to do so in an easier Pool D.  Some notable MLB players include Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and Nationals second basemen Danny Espinosa.  Yovani Gallardo will be their top pitcher and will be anchored by relievers Sergio Romo and Oliver Perez.  Even at 20/1, we don’t like Mexico to do much besides get out of the group.

Canada 18/1: America’s neighbors to the North have never gotten out of Round One in the WBC, but this year may be their best chance yet.  They boast a number or impressive position players including Brett Lawrie, Justin Morneau, and Russell Martin.  Their pitching staff also features some of baseball’s top prospects and Brewers’ closer John Axford.  At 18/1, Canada could be a threat in this tournament if they get excellent performances from some of their lesser known players.

Italy 100/1: Italy has made all three WBC’s, but has not made it out of the first round in either tournament.  Other than Cubs’ first basement Anthony Rizzo, the team has no major league talent.  However, they have won back-to-back championships in Europe and look to impress on the international stage.

2013 World Baseball Classic Champion

In a tournament with so many closely matched teams and the short term luck of baseball, it’s hard to pick a winner.

However, we think this is the year the United States puts it all together and wins the title.  Their infield defense is outstanding, and they have a long list of relievers that will be able to take the mound and shutdown opposing hitters in the later innings.  Offensively, they could easily score 10+ runs a game, as well.

We like the United States as the 2013 World Baseball Classic Champion.

* Editor’s Note: This has been a sponsored guest post. All information and opinion are not necessarily those of myself and/or the CttP staff.

Tags: World Baseball Classic

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