According to Las Vegas betting lines, the co-favorites to win the 2013 World Baseball Classic are the United States and the Dominican Republic. Both teams enter the tournament with 3:1 odds to win it all. Those lines, however, also represent projections for wagers and it is no coincidence that the two most recognizable baseball countries are the sharpest.
Team USA (3:1) - The United States have a great chance to do better than the fourth place finish that currently represents their best efforts at the World Baseball Classic. RA Dickey and Gio Gonzalez , two Cy Young finalists, give the starting rotation depth and unmatched ability. Further, the advanced scouting reports available for MLB pitchers and players are relatively useless when facing RA Dickey’s knuckleball. Craig Kimbrel might be the best closer in the tournament, so pitching will not be an issue. Managing this talent will be no trouble for former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre. The lineup may miss the character, leadership and skill of shortstop Derek Jeter, but Jimmy Rollins is a worthy replacement. David Wright, Mark Teixeira, Brandon Phillips, Giancarlo Stanton, and Ryan Braun round out one of the best lineups in the tournament. Still, there are holes in the roster and this is far from the Team USA dream team. They should finish in the top tier, but the gesture of making them favorites in Las Vegas likely stems from American pride and notoriety in baseball.
Dominican Republic (3:1) - Jose Reyes, Robinson Cano, Hanley Ramirez, Nelson Cruz. The list goes on, but the Dominican lineup is extremely talented. The pitching is balanced as well, but not nearly as talented as other rosters in the tournament. Jose Valverde finished last season on the bench and was relieved of his closing duties. Edinson Volquez and Wandy Rodriguez are the biggest names in the rotation, a step behind Team USA. Still, no one in the tournament can mash like the Dominican Republic, and that might be enough to win it all.
Japan is the two-time defending champion, but ace pitcher Yu Darvish will not play and Ichiro Suzuki will also miss the tournament. The team took a step back, but the relative unknowns from Japan are bursting with talent and could make a deep run in the tournament. They’re a 7:2 favorite, just off the pace of the odds for Team USA and the Dominican Republic.
The best longshot team to win it all might be Venezuela. The lineup has Miguel Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval in the middle, with Martin Prado and Carlos Gonzalez in the outfield. At 5-1, a lack of quality pitching is likely the biggest weakness on this roster, but they can hit with anyone.
Still, if you’re going to pick a winner of this tournament, the most balanced team in the mix might actually be Team USA. They’ve disappointed before in the World Baseball Classic, but 2013 could be their year. They can hit, though there are other lineups that can hit a littler better, but pitching will carry this team. A strong bullpen and two big names atop the rotation could be enough.
Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet; I like Team USA to win it all this year.