The World Baseball Classic is just a month away, which means it’s time to for baseball betting fans to start handicapping the pool of teams. There are four groups in total and we’ll break it down one group per week as we approach the action.
This year, the tournament takes place in San Francisco in March and as per usual, it’s a prelude to the Major League Baseball Season. It should come as no surprise that the two-time world champions from Japan are the favorites coming out of Pool A.
The Brazilians are coached by Barry Larkin, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in January of last year, but his only managerial experience came in the ’09 WBC as a bench coach for the United States (although he did manage one game). There are no MLB players on this roster, although some are playing in the minors, and Brazil is lumped in with the field at +2000 to win the tournament. The odds are against them in their WBC debut, so there isn’t a lot of pressure being heaped on a team that knows it has nothing to lose heading into San Francisco.
John McLaren managed Seattle for about a year between 2008 and 2009, and he’ll lead a Chinese roster that features one MLB player, pitcher Bruce Chen of the Kansas City Royals. China enters the WBC as another team in the field at +2000 and like Brazil there aren’t high expectations – especially being in a pool with Cuba and Japan. That means some of these Chinese players will be exposed to some high-level baseball and this can only stand to help improve their program for World Baseball Classics to come.
The Cubans are rated at +1800 after being knocked out in the second round of the ’09 Classic and that followed a loss to the Japanese in the inaugural 2006 tournament. However, this team has lost a lot of players to defection in the last few seasons and that is obviously going to hurt their roster.
Every Cuban player going to the WBC is plying their trade in the Serie Nacional Baseball league in their home country and as usual, the risk of players defecting is going to be a topic of conversion in San Francisco. If the Cubans can focus on the tournament, they could surprise some betting sharps.
The Japanese are one of the tournament favorites at +395 along with the Dominican Republic, the United States and Venezuela. However, those three countries aren’t coming into the 2013 World Baseball Classic as the only team that has ever won this event as Japan took the first two editions.
There are no MLB players on the Japanese roster, which was once led by two-time tournament MVP Daisuke Matsuzaka. He has gone through a complete freefall in the major leagues and now they’ll have to find inspiration from another player if they’re going to make it a 3-for-3 record in this event. The Japanese also won’t have Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers on the squad, as well as Ichiro Suzuki of the New York Yankees, but you can bet that Japan will still be a factor in the World Baseball Classic next month.