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World Baseball Classic Betting

2009 WBC Gambling Preview

Derek Jeter had two hits on Tuesday against the New York Yankees.

That’s how important the World Baseball Classic is to the players involved. Jeter is on Team USA, who beat the Yankees 6-5 with Jeter on the diamond for the full nine innings.The WBC players won’t be joining their respective training camps until after the tournament. Not all the MLB teams are happy about it, either. Some flatly refused, like the Seattle Mariners denying Adrian Beltre’s request to play for the Dominican Republic.

Fortunately for the DR squad, there are more than enough major-league players at their disposal: Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Edinson Volquez… it’s a Dream Team lineup, enough to be the co-favorites with the United States at 5-2. The reigning champions from 2006, Japan, are 7-2. The amount of elite baseball talent out there in the world is highly concentrated among those three countries; everyone else is a long shot to win the WBC, even Cuba at 13-2.

But that’s what makes betting on the Classic so fascinating. The 2006 event was a nightmare for the favorites. Team USA lost 8-6 to Canada, 7-3 to South Korea and 2-1 to Mexico. The Dominican Republic was trounced 7-1 by Puerto Rico and fell 3-1 to Cuba in the semifinals, opening the door for Japan to take the championship. Many of these smaller national programs have improved considerably over the past three years and could pay off handsomely once again in 2009.

Just don’t go too small. Like most sporting events with a “first past the post” futures market, the longest shots have very little betting value to make it all the way through this 16-team tournament. The minnows in this pool are China (200-1), the Netherlands (200-1), Australia (250-1), Italy (250-1) and South Africa (300-1). They went a combined 2-18 in 2006. Betting on these teams should be for fun only, to support your national team and add an element of fortune to the outcome.

The middle class of teams is where the big money should be – although these teams are also the ones who have been most vulnerable to the whims of player availability. This is especially true for Canada (40-1), who will not have Rich Harden, Jeff Francis or Ryan Dempster in the rotation. Taiwan (65-1), competing as Chinese Taipei, is without Chien-Ming Wang as the Yankees ace protects the right foot he injured last year. Any of these starting pitchers would have been strong value against the chalkier clubs in single-game situations.

The remaining Latino countries might have the best return on investment this time around. Even here, there is only so much talent to go around. MLB scouts have been spending a lot of time in recent years mining for baseball players in Panama (55-1), but starting pitching remains lacking – although Colorado’s Manny Corpas is capable in the bullpen. Puerto Rico (20-1) is loaded with hitting (Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, et al), but again has nothing much to offer on the mound.

Part of the problem with both Puerto Rico and Cuba is economics. Cuba’s state-sponsored programs have fallen on hard times across the board, and Puerto Rican players simply don’t get paid as much as they used to before the MLB draft was expanded in 1990 to include the U.S. territories (as well as Canada). Both baseball programs need an infusion of cash that isn’t coming anytime soon.Sports Betting at the Sportsbook It’s the larger economies of Venezuela (12-1) and Mexico (20-1) that have the relative advantage – not to mention starting pitchers like Felix Hernandez for the Venezuelan team and Oliver Perez for Mexico. The payout for Equipo Mexico looks even better with a batting lineup that includes Adrian Gonzalez, Jorge Cantu and the resurgent Jerry Hairston Jr, whose mother was born in Mexico.

And then you have the defending champions. Japanese baseball is still not treated as seriously as it should be at the international level. These are highly skilled and disciplined players who take a cultural approach to the game that baffles casual North American bettors. And yet they find a way to continually exceed expectations. This year’s WBC rotation includes Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, the ace of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. The batting order lacks some pop without Hideki Matsui, but the overall strength of the pitching staff could be profitable in this short series of games.

Here’s the schedule for the Round 1 Preliminaries at the 2009 World Baseball Classic (all times Eastern):

Pool A (Tokyo)

Mar. 5, 4:30 a.m.: China vs. Japan
Mar. 6, 4:30 a.m.: Chinese Taipei vs. South Korea

Pool B (Mexico City)

Mar. 8, 2:00 p.m.: South Africa vs. Cuba
Mar. 8, 9:00 p.m.: Australia vs. Mexico

Pool C (Toronto)

Mar. 7, 2:00 p.m.: Canada vs. United States
Mar. 7, 8:00 p.m.: Italy vs. Venezuela

Pool D (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Mar. 7, 11:00 a.m.: Netherlands vs. Dominican Republic
Mar. 7, 5:00 p.m.: Panama vs. Puerto Rico

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