Baseball Betting: World Baseball Classic Group Betting
by Victor Ryan - 03/04/2009
The World Baseball Classic returns tomorrow and with it the gift of competitive baseball in early March. The inaugural Classic, won by Japan in 2006, provided plenty of surprises and showed how competitive international baseball has truly become. The following is a look at each of the four first-round pools with odds provided by Bodog.
Japan (4-15), Korea (9-4), Chinese Taipei (7-1), China (50-1)
As noted, Japan took the crown in 2006 with a win in the finals over Cuba at Petco Park in San Diego. The "Samurai," as the Japanese national baseball team is known, has had quite a buildup for this. Their tune-up games have brought packed stadiums and their team workouts have also been besieged by fans. That's because the big stars are back. Ichiro will again anchor the outfield and Daisuke "Dice-K" Matsuzaka the starting rotation.
Missing for the Samurai this go around will be Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Nobuhiko Matsunaka, who were two of the team's top offensive performers in 2006.
Korea went 3-0 to win this group last WBC and advanced all the way to the semifinals where they were eliminated by Japan. The Koreans continued their international success last year by steamrolling to a 9-0 record and the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.
The Koreans boasted a tournament-best 2.00 ERA at the 2006 WBC and flashed some outstanding defense. That tends to keep Korea in games and the emergence of Cleveland Indians' outfielder Shin-Soo Choo should help solidify the offense. Choo burst on the MLB scene last year by hitting .309 with 14 home runs in 94 games. This team appears wholly capable of knocking off Japan again and 9:4 could be a fair price.
Chinese Taipei has traditionally been a competitive team in the Asian region, but this time around they appear to be a bad investment below the two favorites.
The pick: Japan
Cuba (4-15), Mexico (7-4), Australia (40-1), South Africa (75-1)
Mexico had a good showing in 2006 and looks to have an even more talented roster this time around. The Mexicans boast a nice blend of speed (Alfredo Amezaga, Augie Ojeda, and Jerry Hairston Jr.) and power (Adrian Gonzalez, Jorge Cantu and Erubiel Durazo) and their pitching staff is well-rounded.
Oliver Perez and Jorge Campillo will fill the No. 1 and 2 starter roles and the bullpen, led by Royals closer Joakim Sosa (47 saves in 2008), is very good. Mexico could go deep in this tournament.
Cuba is always a threat in international baseball tournaments and its run to the finals in the 2006 WBC proved it can compete with Major League-talent. With that said, the Cuban team has slipped a bit internationally over the last three years. They have never been ranked No. 1 in the world over that time, a position they seemingly owned previously, and their silver medal in Beijing was a major disappointment.
The Cubans will be without outfielder Alexei Bell, a star of the Beijing Olympics, because of injury as well as top-class pitcher Yadel Marti, who defected last year. That leaves 35-year-old righthander Pedro Luis Lazo as the team's ace. Cuba could be vulnerable at a very short price.
The pick: Mexico
USA (2-7), Venezuela (5-2), Canada (12-1), Italy (100-1)
Most remember the disappointing effort put forth by a veteran-laden United States squad in 2006. After barely escaping Pool B, the Americans were promptly dumped in the second round with losses to South Korea and Mexico. This looks to be a much different team.
Shane Victorino and Curtis Granderson should provide speed at the top of the order and David Wright, Ryan Braun and Chipper Jones form a solid core with plenty of pop. The pitching looked to be equally as good as of a few days ago, but a trio of withdrawals could leave the Americans a bit vulnerable in the back-end of games.
Gone are standout closers Joe Nathan and B.J. Ryan to injury along with Brian Fuentes, who will miss the first round because of personal reasons. They have been replaced on the roster by Latroy Hawkins and Joel Hanrahan. Now expected to close games are Jonathan Broxton, J.J. Putz and Matt Lidstrom. That certainly seems like a pretty big drop-off.
Venezuela was probably the other big disappointment in 2006 as they went 3-3 despite having a ton of talent. The middle of the lineup this time will feature Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, Bobby Abreau and Carlos Guillen, That's a nice group and the pitching staff isn't too bad either, despite the losses of Johan Santana and Carlos Zambrano. Felix Hernandez and Armando Galarraga will form the top of the rotation and in the bullpen to close games is the former Angel Francisco Rodriguez, who is now with the Mets.
Canada made some noise by beating the U.S. in 2006 and could once again surprise some people. The Canadians feature some nice offensive punch with the likes of Justin Morneau, Jason Bay and Matt Stairs, but their pitching seems a bit thin to make a deep run.
The pick: United States
Dominican Republic (4-15), Puerto Rico (3-1), Panama (13-2), Netherlands (100-1)
The Dominican Republic is the favorite to win the whole thing, but could get quite a test in this group from Puerto Rico and Panama. Even without Albert Pujols the Dominicans don't figure to lack in offensive production. Alex Rodriguez has opted for the Dominicans over the USA and he joins star shortstops Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes on the left side of the infield.
Other big leaguer's representing the Dominican are David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada, Robinson Cano, Jose Guillen and Willy Tavares. The pitching staff is led by youngsters Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto and veteran Pedro Martinez.
Puerto Rico went undefeated in the first-round in 2006, but went 1-2 in the second round to be eliminated. This is a veteran squad with the likes of Ivan Rodriguez and even former Yankee Bernie Williams, who hasn't played a competitive game since the end of the 2006 MLB season. Also on the roster are perennial All-Stars Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado and Rookie of Year Geovany Soto.
The pitching staff consists of Javier Vazquez, Ian Snell and Jonathan Sanchez, who are all more than capable of producing on this stage.
The pick: Puerto Rico