It is important to understand who the teams will play as they progress in the tournament. For example, we must know that the two betting favorites can not make the finals together. The chart above shows the four-team pools, the dates they play, and where the games will be played. It also shows how the pool winners advance and which pool they are paired to. From the example, the betting favorites are the Dominican Republic and the USA from pools D and C. However, those pool winners advance to the quarterfinals, where they will play each other. So only one of them can advance to the championship eliminating the other. Let’s look at the odds as of today, 02/10.
These odds are from Draft Kings. We see that the Dominican Republic is +200 and the USA is +225 as the favorites. As we explained above, only one could advance to the championship. If we are to bet on one of them, we must dig deep into the teams to differentiate which one has more value because it would not be in our best interest to wager on both. Looking at the other side of the bracket (pools A and B), we see that Japan is +280 (3rd best price), the Korea Republic is +1400, and Cuba is +1400. The odds tell us that the Dominican Republic will play Japan in the championship. However, the USA could mess that up!
I think Japan will win that side of the bracket, as their team is better than anyone they compete against. Below is their roster. It is headlined by MLB superstars Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish, with 2023 new Japanese players to MLB Masataka Yoshida (BOS) and Kodai Senga (NYM). This roster includes former MLB M Tanaka and Y Kikuchi (TOR).
If we bookmakers make odds of making the championship round, this is the best bet. Still, Japan is also a formidable opponent to the Dominican Republic or the USA, making them the best value at +280 (opened at +300). It is often said that it is not wise to wager on the favorites. The reasoning usually is based on the short return provided by the shortest prices. However, when we have teams better than the rest, winning the wager is the value, so we must get the best price when we can. Think about the University of Georgia being the NCAAF favorite and winning the championship. No matter what anyone tries to tell you, a winning wager is better than a losing one! Large returns can be had on other wagers, as I don’t think it is best to play on teams other than the Dominican Republic, the USA, or Japan.
The next question is which team should we like from the bracket side with USA and Dominican Republic? I will list their rosters as above with Japan and show my charts comparing the teams base on Steamer projections for 2023.
These are loaded with the best players in the game. Now let’s look at a breakdown to see which team is better.
Looking at the charts directly above, the position players show the USA with an OFF WAR avg of 19.4 and a wRC+ avg of 125.3, which are slightly better than the Dominican Republic. If we remove Robinson Cano metrics from DR results, we get DR 17.8 OFF-WAR and 124.6 wRC+, which makes them still behind, but not by any measure of an edge. Team USA has 5 players at 30+ OFF WAR but no one over 34.9. The DR has only three over 30+ OFF WAR but has two over 40+. They have Juan Soto (55.5) and Vladimir Guerrero (42.8) MVP-caliber ratings. This tells me team USA offensively could be deeper, but the DR could be more explosive. They are the best two offensive teams in the tournament. I was surprised by the pitching. I fully expected the USA to fall way short. However, the starters have a slightly better FIP and WAR average. They have more starters too. Team DR has the NL Cy Young winner from 2022 in Sandy Alcantara and the only starter to average 10+ in K/9 with Cristian Javier. As listed, Clayton Kershaw would be the best USA starting pitcher, and I would have him listed as a favorite over either Alcantara or Javier. The bullpen is again where I thought team USA would be worse, but they don’t show that way. They have a better K/9 and FIP than DR. However, there is a big issue here. When those bullpen doors open, the relievers for the USA do not have the octane (gas) that DR has. These games are like World Series atmospheres. The bullpen needs to shut down games, which means velocity! The DR has four guys who can come in, throwing over 97, and team USA have zero!
At this point (a month before the games), I think the Dominican Republic is the best team and a better wager than the USA. Plus, I see a value wager to make for team Japan. As the spring unfolds, injuries, issues, chemistry, and players that fall out or are added in will adjust the odds. I will wait until the pitchers throw and have limited or non-issues with their arms before making any wagers.