World Baseball Classic: Round 2 Preview
by Victor Ryan - 03/14/2009
Here is a preview of Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic with updated odds to win the tournament from Superbook.
Pool 1 in San Diego
Korea (winner Pool A) +800, Japan (runner-up Pool A) +190, Cuba (winner Pool B) +350, Mexico (runner-up Pool B) +2000
This group opens with Japan vs. Cuba Sunday in a rematch of the 2006 WBC final that was won by the Japanese, 10-6. The contrast in styles in this group is enormous. Japan and Korea lived up to their 'pitching and defense' reputations as evidenced by their 1-0 final, won by Korea in Pool A of Round 1. However, Cuba and Mexico combined to slug 23 home runs in the opening round of the Mexico City group that was won by Cuba.
Japan at +190 is the co-favorite with the United States to repeat as WBC champions. They'll have to get through a tough group that includes Cuba, a team that has been as impressive as any in the tournament thus far. The Cuban lineup showed big punch with 29 runs in its three wins and the pitching staff held up nicely. Outfielder Frederich Cepeda (.500, three home runs and six RBI), and Yoemis Cespedes (.538, two home runs and three RBI) were among the tournament's offensive stars in the first round.
Mexico is dismissed at +2000 after a mediocre 2-2 opening round. They pounded 12 home runs to top the tournament in the initial round, but were a wildly inconsistent club as a whole. It's also worth noting the big offensive numbers put up by Cuba and Mexico came in Mexico City's mile-high altitude.
The Koreans and Japanese proved to be pitching-rich once again in the first round. It should provide some interesting matchups with the big offensive numbers put up by the Latin American clubs.
Korea went 3-1 to win Pool A and all three victories were by shutout, including a 1-0 win over Japan to clinch the top seed. Pitcher Jung Keun Bong has given up just five hits over 8.1 shutout innings to pace the Koreans. The Beijing Olympic gold medalist continues to exceed expectations in international competition, but Mexico seems more than capable of taking them out in the opener. That makes their 8-1 odds to win the whole thing seem devoid of value.
Mexico scored 30 runs in their two wins and gave up 33 runs in their two losses. That's a large swing that illustrates their inconsistency. Still, they certainly seem to have the ability and +2000 could provide fair value.
Pool 2 in Miami
Puerto Rico (winner Pool D) +700, Netherlands (runner-up Pool D) +5000, Venezuela (winner Pool C) +700, USA (runner-up Pool C) +190
The Netherlands got here with a pair of unthinkable wins over the Dominican Republic. The Cinderella story figures to end here. Aside from Cuba, Puerto Rico may have been the most impressive team of the opening round. They beat the Netherlands twice and blanked Panama, 7-0, to win pool D. Puerto Rico is deep and versatile. The pitching staff allowed just one run over 27 innings while striking out 28 and walking just eight in the first round. Future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez seemed to have set the tone in the opener, going 4-for-4 with two home runs for Puerto Rico and they look like the value of the tournament at 7-1.
The U.S. beat Canada and split two games with Venezuela to advance to the second round. They will be without manager Davey Johnson, who left the team for personal reasons, for the opener vs. Puerto Rico. The U.S. middle relief has been a disappointment to this point and will need shoring up if the Americans hope to play up to their short price.
Venezuela proved it can score plenty of runs in the first round, banging out eight home runs and a .347 team batting average, but the starting pitching still seems too suspect to offer any support at 7-1.