Mar 3, 2017
Mar 3, 2017

The ultimate guide to World Baseball Classic betting

Is the US team set for its first World Baseball Classic title?

Who are the favourites and who are the dark horses?

What are the best value bets?

The ultimate guide to World Baseball Classic betting

It is World Baseball Classic time again with baseball bettors across the globe eyeing the international baseball tournament for betting opportunities that only come up every four years. Is the US team set for its first World Baseball Classic title? Who are the favourites, who are the dark horses and what are the best value bets? Read on to find out.

Founded in 2006, the World Baseball Classic (WBC) was designed to be baseball’s answer to soccer’s World Cup - a nation vs. nation tournament held every three (and now, every four) years with the world’s top players competing for national pride.

The results have been mixed. With the professional game and the tournament both centered in the United States, one must think there’d have been hope of a better American performance. The US has never won, with Japan taking the 2006 and 2009 crowns before the gap between events extended to four years and the Dominican Republic triumphed in 2013.

World Cup betting vs. WBC betting

Despite the similarities, the WBC hasn’t measured up to soccer’s biggest event. Players have been wary of competing in March, when spring training schedules would normally have them only gearing up for their regular season. In particular pitching puts a tremendous strain on the athlete, and playing with the ramp-up routine makes just about everyone nervous, meaning players get coddled, with their well-being placed above the country’s baseball club.

The reality is that no one has bought into the WBC the way the soccer world has. Players don’t see the honour of playing for their country as being that important, pitchers are dealing with massive pitch count limitations and MLB teams, unaccustomed to sharing their players as is done in soccer and paying players their full contracts, have an obvious conflict of interest.

Why is this all important? Simply, you’re not measuring nations by their strength, but by available resources - a factor that fluctuates. Bettors need to account for the fact that players can opt in in later stages or opt out on a whim, and that means there are no certainties.

The format of WBC

Baseball is a large sample size sport and if you learn how to bet on baseball, you can benefit from using easily accesible data. The best teams win some 60% of their regular season games, with the marathon’s attrition rates being the real indicator of success and failure. In the context of one game, there are a lot of variables that are difficult to account for. 

The WBC’s format leaves the stronger team awfully vulnerable to the luck factor of small sample size baseball. The first round will eliminate half the teams after each country will have played just three games, so while a stacked club like the USA (2.79*) is a rightful favourite, the reality is a team hitting a slump or a couple of hot-handed opposing pitchers could easily derail all that (as has happened to the Americans in past installments). If you bet the favourites, do so with the understanding that there’s inevitable room for error. 

Who will win the World Baseball Classic?

One glance at the outright markets will show you there are three favourites: The USA (2.79*), 2013 champions Dominican Republic (3.25*) and two-time champions Japan (3.48*).

The Japanese make for an attractive bet because they take the tournament far more seriously than most nations and have a far easier path than the other two clubs. In the early rounds, Japan shares pool B with Cuba and baseball neophyte nations China and Australia. The Japanese squad is slightly weakened this year by the injury-related absences of Yu Darvish and Shohei Otani, but that easy path is valuable.

To understand how the USA views the tournament, a look at the USA’s prospective starting lineup, compared with a full-strength US squad lineup (with 2016 WAR in brackets):

Prospective starting lineup

Confirmed players Players who decided not to play

C Jonathan Lucroy (4.5)

Jonathan Lucroy (4.5)

1B Paul Goldschmidt (4.8)

Anthony Rizzo (5.2)

2B Daniel Murphy (5.5)

Brian Dozier (5.9)

3B Nolan Arenado (5.2)

Josh Donaldson (7.6)

SS Brandon Crawford (5.8)

Corey Seager (7.5)

LF Giancarlo Stanton (1.7)

Kris Bryant (8.4)

CF Christian Yelich (4.4)

Mike Trout (9.4)

RF Andrew McCutchen (0.7)           

Mookie Betts (7.8)

DH Matt Carpenter (3.2)

Paul Goldschmidt (4.8)

SP Chris Archer (3.1)

Clayton Kershaw (6.5)

Of course, the guys in the second column could opt to play in the later stages.

The US and the Dominican Republic are both starting in pool C, and while both are obviously favoured to advance, they face a competitive squad in Canada.

What are the best value bets in WBC?

If you’re looking for value, the obvious place to start is with the favourites in pools A and D.

Pool A favours South Korea (13.10*) and the Netherlands (31.73*), and while neither has the firepower the favourites do, the clear path makes their long odds appealing. The top teams in Pool A can’t face the Americans or Dominicans until the championship rounds, a nice benefit of the tournament structure.

It’s worth noting that Pool F games, pitting the top teams from A and B against one another will be held in Tokyo, an advantage for Japan. Pool D is slightly more convoluted, with three teams—Mexico (24.25*), Venezuela (9.32*) and Puerto Rico (15.85*) fighting for two spots.

While the Americans and Dominicans potentially loom for the survivors in Pool F play, those are some very long odds. Keeping in mind the effects of small sample size and the fact the eventual winners of the tournament will only play eight games is critical to your math.

Ready to get into action? Get unbeatable World Baseball Classic odds only at Pinnacle.

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