In the 2013 World Baseball Classic, it’s hard to pick against the United States. Las Vegas has them as co-favorites to open the tournament, and it’s hard to think of baseball without thinking of America. Team USA opens play in Phoenix on Friday, March 8th, with high expectations as they hope to take the crown back from two-time defending champions Japan.
Part of the opening line is clearly due to the anticipation that United States supporters will be more likely to wager on the tournament, as Team USA has never finished above fourth in the tournament. Still, the United States have put some effort into the 2013 World Baseball Classic. One of the most decorated managers of the era, Joe Torre, will lead Team USA and their talented roster. Torre is well-versed with managing top talent, as he led the New York Yankees during their 90s dynasty era.
The pitching rotation can carry Team USA through the tournament, which tends to be a crapshoot with unknown players carrying teams from abroad. Heroes like Daisuke Matsuzaka lead their countries to impressive tournament performances only to flounder in the MLB, while established players must face advanced scouting reports while pitching against relatively unknown lineups. Perhaps R.A. Dickey and his famous knuckleball will be the perfect counter to this disadvantage – everyone knows what Dickey does, but nobody seems to be able to hit him. Gio Gonzalez adds depth to the rotation, and Craig Kimbrel could be the best closer in the tournament.
Still, as Philadelphia Phillies fans can tell you, pitching alone isn’t enough to win a championship. The lineup is star-studded as well. Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies takes over for an injured Derek Jeter with Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips making up one of the best middle infields in the tournament. Mark Teixeira and David Wright build an all New York corner infield, while the outfield brings power to the middle of the lineup with Ryan Braun and Giancarlo Stanton. The lineup is deep, though not necessarily what you would think of as the best Team USA can do.
The United States didn’t send their most star-studded roster into the 2013 World Baseball Classic, but they certainly put a capable team on the field. Great coaching, pitching strengths, and a relatively strong lineup combine to give Team USA its best chance to win it all since the tournament started. I don’t know that they’re favorites, as Las Vegas seems to think, but they’re far from long-shots.
Expect Team USA to have their best WBC performance to date in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.