2009 World Baseball Classic Picks and Predictions

2009 World Baseball Classic Picks and Predictions

by Badger of Predictem.com

The inaugural World Baseball Classic came and went three years ago without a whole lot of fanfare, mostly because the whole thing was
put together so quickly and haphazardly that most baseball fans
barely had time to figure out what was going on, yet alone who was
playing for whom.

The WBC part two will be different.

Thanks in part to the collaborative effort of Major League Baseball
and ESPN, this years WBC will definitely not lack in fanfare or
publicity. In fact, all of the games will be shown in some form or
fashion on one of ESPNs networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN360.com or ESPN
Deportes), so youre sure to be able to catch some of the action even
by accident if you so choose.

Plus, unlike the original, many of the big name players ARE participating
for their country this time around. The Major League ball clubs got some
assurances from WBC organizers that pitchers will be on strict pitch counts
and innings limits after taking a lot of heat for throwing out some of
the pitchers arms from last time. Position players have also been given
a green light from team officials to participate, unlike last time when
most teams were worried about injuries and openly expressed their unwillingness
to let the big boys play.

With defending WBC champion Japan set to kick off round one action Thursday in a game versus China in the Tokyo Dome, lets take a look
at the teams, the pools and the odds for each and see if you cant
turn the WBC into a money-making opportunity.

Pool A Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan
China vs. Japan, 4:30 AM EST, Thursday, March 5th
Taiwan vs. South Korea, 4:30 AM EST, Friday March 6th

Odds to win the Pool:

Japan : -2.5-to-1
Taiwan : 2.5-to-1
South Korea : 5-to-1
China : 20-to-1

The defending champs are the odds-on favorites to emerge out of this pool, not just because theyre playing in their home country, but
because the team is stacked with more major-leaguers than the other
three teams in the pool.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-0, 13 IP, 1.38 ERA in first WBC) and Shunsuke Watanabe (13 IP, 1.98 ERA) give the Japanese team a solid one-two
punch at the top of their rotation, while major-leaguers Ichiro
Suzuki, Kenji Johijma, Akinori Iwamura and Kosuke Fukudome headline
the lineup. As a team the Japanese hit .311 and scored 60 runs in
their eight game march to the first WBC title, so offense shouldnt
be a problem.

The rest of the pool is hard to handicap because of the lack of
familiar names.

China returns the most players from last time, led by infielders
Guangbiao Liu (.333 in 9 AB), Yufeng Zhang and Lingfeng Sun and
pitchers Kun Chen, Chenhao Li, Li Zhang.

South Korea pitcher Min Han Son (2-0, 7.1 IP, 2.45 ERA) is back to
front the Korean rotation, along with Indians outfielder Shin Soo
Choo, they give the Koreans hope. The Koreans did make it into the
semifinals last time, so just because they dont have major-leaguers
doesnt mean they cant play the game. Their WBC-leading pitching
staff ERA of 2.00 means they certainly know how to pitch.

Taiwan returns a few players from last time (P Po-Hsuan Keng and
outfielder Wei-Chu Lin), but even their roster has quite a bit of
turnover from the first WBC three years ago.

Prediction: Japan Unless youre a third-shift worker or a night
owl, you probably wont be awake to watch these games anyway, so if
you wager lay the heavy juice on the favorites. If you feel (like I
do) that taking the favorite is like kissing your sister, then take a
shot at the 5-to-1 South Korea team to win the pool over the host

Pool B Foro Sol Stadium, Mexico City, Mexico
South Africa vs. Cuba, 3 PM EST, Sunday, March 8th
Australia vs. Mexico, 10 PM EST, Sunday, March 8th

Odds to win the Pool:

Cuba : -4-to-1
Mexico : 2-to-1
Australia : 20-to-1
South Africa : 40-to-1

You can bet the Cubans are itching to get back to the WBC after losing to the Japanese in the title game last time, 10-6. Cuba has
long been considered an international hotbed of baseball talent, and
you can bet theyre looking to redeem themselves this year.

Last time Cuba hit well (.283 team ave., 44 runs) but had a hard time
keeping the ball in the park (gave up WBC-high seven HR, team 4.13
ERA). But that all means little as the Cuban roster looks like it has
completely turned itself over with all new players and faces.

Mexico will be the team in this pool that most Americans will root
for, as they have a bunch of recognizable names back. Plus, Im sure
there are very few that will remember it was the Mexicans that
knocked the U.S. out of the WBC last time. Mexico should have plenty
of pitching with Oliver Perez, Rodrigo Lopez and Jorge Campillo as
starters and Joakim Soria as the closer out of the bullpen. Their
offense, led by 1B Adrian Gonzales and 3B Jorge Cantu, should be
competitive as well.

Australia and South Africa both lack the depth of talent to compete with Mexico and Cuba in this pool.

Prediction: Mexico Im taking the 2-to-1 Mexican team to get past
Cuba in Pool B here. Cuba no doubt has talent, but Ill take the
PROVEN back-end of the bullpen and Soria in a close game.

Pool C Rogers Center, Toronto, Canada
United States vs. Canada, 2 PM EST, Saturday, March 7th
Italy vs. Venezuela, 8 PM EST, Saturday, March 7th

Odds to win the Pool:

United States : -8-to-1
Venezuela : 4-to-1
Canada : 12-to-1
Italy : 40-to-1

This pool shapes up to be a good one, as Italy is really the only
team without a realistic chance at winning it.

The U.S. is stacked top-to-bottom with big leaguers, but so is Venezuela and Canada, so this pool will come down to starting pitching.

The U.S. will need starters Roy Oswalt, Jake Peavy, Ted Lilly and Jeremy Guthrie to keep the Americans in the lead early, as the U.S.
bullpen (Joe Nathan, Brian Fuentes, Brad Ziegler, J.J. Putz, Scot
Shields) is superior to the others in the pool.

Venezuela can trot out starters Carlos Zambrano, Felix Hernandez,
Armando Galarraga and Carlos Silva, but besides closer Francisco
Rodriguez, the rest of the Venezuela bullpen is somewhat suspect.

Canada will have a formidable lineup featuring Russell Martin, Justin
Morneau, Joey Votto and Jason Bay, but if they hope to hang they will
need their pitching to perform above and beyond expectations.

Prediction: Venezuela I still think the U.S. comes out of pool play with the Venezuelans, but theyll come out with one loss. I like
the Venezuelan starting pitchers so much more than the U.S. team, and
K-Rod out in the pen makes me wonder why their odds are just 4-to-1.

Pool D Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Netherlands vs. Dominican Republic, 11 AM EST, Saturday, March 7th
Panama vs. Puerto Rico, 5 PM EST, Saturday, March 7th

Odds to win the Pool:

Dominican Republic : -4-to-1
Puerto Rico : 2.5-to-1
Panama : 10-to-1
Netherlands : 40-to-1

This is another deep pool, with major-league talent all over the roster of the top three teams.

The Dominican Republic is not only the favorite for the pool, but
also the favorite to win it all as well. The Dominicans are loaded
on the mound (Johnny Cueto, Ubaldo Jimenez, Odalis Perez, Edison
Volquez, Pedro Martinez, Juan Cruz, Jose Arrendondo, Carlos Marmol)
and at the plate (David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Hanley
Ramirez) so they are worthy of the hype.

Puerto Rico will be more than able to give the Dominicans a game, as they too have a roster full of big leaguers. Their pitching (Ian Snell, Javier Vazquez, Jonathan Sanchez) is not as deep, which could
make the difference. With Carlos Beltran, Alex Rios, Geovany Soto,
Carlos Delgado and Pudge Rodriguez they will certainly have enough at
the dish.

Panama is a solid team, but they have nowhere near the depth of
talent of the other two studs in this pool.

The Netherlands have a few serviceable major leaguers to fall back on
(Rick VandenHurk, Sidney Ponson), but theres a large talent gap
between them and the rest of the pool.

Prediction: Dominican Republic Im not going to lay the gigantic
-4-to-1 odds, but its hard not to like the DR in this pool. Theres
not a single player on the team that hasnt spent at least a cup of
coffee in the bigs. Plus, more often than not these types of
tournaments are won with pitching, and the DR has enough pitching to
last them the whole tourney and then some.