The second World Baseball Classic is just around the corner. It's not a perfect tournament - the timing isn't great, and baseball doesn't perfectly lend itself to a short tournament like this. Still, it's a more compelling event than a lot of things and, as importantly, you can bet on it. Here's a look at how the WBC breaks down from a betting perspective (odds are from Bodog) with my World Baseball Classic picks and predictions:
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World Baseball Classic Predictions
Australia (250/1) - They are 250/1 to win it all. That's all you need to know. Except this - 250/1 is a pretty significant underlay for this team.
Canada (50/1) - In a perfect world my Canadian boys would rise and surprise some people and make their 50/1 price look like a bargain. This is far from a perfect world. There are several pretty good Canadian pitchers in the majors right now. Unfortunately, none of them are on this team. They'll be feisty but outmatched.
China (200/1) - China has the quantity - over a billion people - but not the quality on the baseball front just yet. You just know that they will be a force at some point, but they are far from it now.
Chinese Taipei (50/1) - These guys have one true star on their roster - Yankees pitcher Chien-Ming Wang. Unfortunately, he's not quite healthy enough to be playing yet, so he won't be on the squad. That makes it too hard for this team to accomplish anything.
Italy (150/1) - The Italians made it pretty easy to qualify for their team - basically, if you have ever eaten in an Italian restaurant then you qualify. They have a bunch or recognizable names, but not enough to be dangerous.
Netherlands (200/1) - Braves' pitcher Jair Jurrjens is a Dutch player that I like a whole lot. Unfortunately, he isn't playing in the tournament. That doesn't leave them with a lot.
Panama (45/1) - Mariano Rivera is the best player ever to come from Panama. Unfortunately, the Yankees won't let him play here. With him the team almost certainly wasn't good enough. Without him they are doomed.
South Africa (250/1) - Be honest - did you even know that they played baseball in South Africa? Neither did I.
Korea (20/1) - These guys have precisely one major leaguer -Shin-Soo Choo of the Indians. They apparently have some nice players, but it is hard to believe that they are deep enough or experienced enough to get it done.
Mexico (25/1) - There are some solid pitchers from Mexico. Unfortunately, several, most notably Matt Garza, aren't playing. Mexico isn't a team to be taken lightly, but I just don't see them being deep enough.
Puerto Rico (18/1) - I learned something I didn't know - Mike Lowell is a Puerto Rican. He's not playing here, though. They have some nice power and skill - Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Alex Rios. They're still going to be a bit outclassed, though, and they don't have the pitching to measure up.
Venezuela (12/1) - These guys are by far the best team of this group. They'd be even better if the Mets would let Johan Santana join the squad. They've got some power and some pitching, but not as much depth as I think they will need.
The Real Contenders
Cuba (13/2) - These guys are very hard to figure out. On one hand, you don't have to worry about the best players not being on the team - they don't really have a choice. That makes them tough. On the other hand, it's hard to know who they have on their squad because we don't get to see their players much. You have to assume that they are going to be good, but it's very hard to figure what kind of value they offer at this price. My instinct is to ignore them here and hope for the best.
Japan (6/1) - The Japanese are the defending champs, but they are in a tough spot to do it again. Four of their biggest stars from 2006 aren't back, and a few others are here but older. They will certainly have some impressive talent that toils in Japan, but they will have to play at their very best to win it all again.
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Dominican Republic (2/1) - You only have to take a quick look at this roster to realize how good the Dominican Republic is at producing ball players. They'd be even better if pitchers Ervin Santana or Fausto Carmona were going to be there. They have everything - power, depth, skill, pitching. By a narrow margin they are not the favorites here, but in my mind they have a solid edge, and I expect them to come out on top.
U.S. (9/5) - CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels - there aren't too many guys better than those three. Sadly, none are going to be there. That hurts. So does the absence of Brad Lidge. All in all, I just don't love the pitching the Americans will have on the mound - there are way too many questions. The Americans will enjoy home field advantage, and they are obviously talented, but all in all I just don't think this price offers any value at all.