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Contested in four countries over an 18-day period, the 2013 World Baseball Classic will be the third edition of the international tournament created to promote the United States of America’s national sport around the globe.
The United States of America has a relatively poor record in the World Baseball Classic, with the Americans failing to make the semi-finals of the inaugural event in 2006 and losing their semi-final match in the 2009 competition.
The 2006 World Baseball Classic produced what was, for many baseball fans, an unsatisfactory result. Eventual champion Japan qualified for the semi-finals in spite of losing two of its three pool games, progressing thanks to a monster win over Mexico, and then beat South Korea in the last four having lost its two pool matches versus its Asian rival.
The controversial round-robin format that the World Baseball Classic employed in 2006 was dumped for the 2009 edition, replaced by a modified double-elimination format in which teams ceased to be eligible for the title once they had tasted defeat twice ahead of the semi-final stage.
Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles hosted the 2009 World Baseball Classic semi-finals and final, with Japan beating the United States of America 9-4 and South Korea defeating Venezuela 10-2 in the semi-finals and Japan winning the final 5-3, albeit in the 10th innings after a regulation 3-3 draw.
Therefore, Japan is the only country to have tasted World Baseball Classic success and, also, Japanese star Daisuke Matsuzaka is the only man to been named the Most Valuable Player of the event. Matsuzaka, the former Boston Red Sox pitcher who is now on the books of Cleveland Indians, was the star of the shows held in 2006 and 2009. Matsuzaka earned his ticket to Major League Baseball with his performances in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
Sixteen nations will take part in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Australia, China, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, South Korea, the United States of America and Venezuela qualified by virtue of their 2009 World Baseball Classic performances, while Brazil, Canada, Chinese Taipei and Spain are along for the ride after being the top four teams in last year’s qualifying round in which 16 countries participated.
The 2013 World Baseball Classic draw has been compiled along rough geographical lines. Brazil, China, Cuba and Japan will contest Pool A in Japan. Australia, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and South Korea will fight out Pool B in Chinese Taipei. The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Spain and Venezuela will play for Pool C honours in Puerto Rico. Canada, Italy, Mexico and the United States of America will scrap for Pool D bragging rights in the United States of America. The second round of pools will take place in Japan and the United States of America, with the semi-finals and final scheduled for AT&T Park, the home of the current Major League Baseball champion side, the San Francisco Giants.
Unsurprisingly given that baseball is not one of the world’s truly international sports, bookmakers are betting as though only a handful of countries can win the 2013 World Baseball Classic. The Dominican Republic, Japan and the United States of America are vying for championship favouritism, with at least one major bookmaker favouring each of those teams. Also given some hope are Cuba, South Korea and Venezuela. One can write one’s own ticket about the other sides.
In addition to 2013 World Baseball Classic title betting, bookmakers are quoting odds about the first-round pools and, in due course, they will post markets on the various games.
The sluggers dominate baseball highlight reels with their huge home runs but everyone knows that it is the pitchers who determine the outcome of most baseball matches. So the most sensible approach to analysing the 2013 World Baseball Classic is to look at the pitchers in the 16 squads.
That is why the United States of America stands out as the 2013 World Baseball Classic outright bet at odds of around 3-1. No Major League Baseball pitcher posted more wins in the 2012 regular season than Gio Gonzalez, who was awarded 23 of Washington’s victories. And the Nationals leftie is not the only top-class performer among the Americans, with the 2012 Cy Young Award recipient from the National League, New York Mets knuckleballer RA Dickey, also on their roster along with Ross Detwiler, Derek Holland and Ryan Vogelsong.
The United States of America is sick and tired of flopping in World Baseball Classic tournaments and anything less than a first gold medal will go down as a failure. The Americans have home advantage for the semi-finals and final if they get that far in the event and two-time champion Japan is without Matsuzaka and all its other Major League Baseball stars having decided to name an entirely Japan-based squad.
If one of the 2013 World Baseball Classic first-round pools does not according to the script, it is likely to be Pool B in which Australia, Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands are all capable of upsetting the odds-on favourite, South Korea.
With all half a dozen Pool B games scheduled to take place at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Chinese Taipei and the home side getting out-of-form Australia first up, there could be some value in backing Chinese Taipei at odds of around 3-1 to finish the section in top spot.