Japan have the right approach to land a third Classic
Top US players swerve tournament
The World Baseball Classic is an International baseball tournament played across six venues in four countries over 17 days, with 16 teams competing to be world champion. The action starts in the early hours of Monday morning in Korea.
Japan always take the tournament seriously and are worth backing at 10-3. Their WBC matches are frequently among the most watched TV sports events domestically and, with the USA’s MLB hogging the global limelight, this tournament always offers an ideal opportunity for Japan to show what they are capable of.
This is the fourth Classic and Japan have the best record of the competing nations, having won the 2006 and 2009 events, and reached the semi-finals last time in 2013.
Japan have only one player from MLB - the rest come from their domestic league - but it is usual for at least one of the Japanese pitchers to make a name for himself outside the Nippon League in this event before making a big-money move to MLB.
This time round that player could be Tomoyuki Sugano. He struck out 189 in Japan last year, walking only 26 with a 2.01 Earned Run Average.
They also have Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, who can hit for power impressively. He led NPB with 44 home runs last season.
First up for them is Cuba, in what is likely to be the group decider, but that is not as tough a match as it once was, as defections have weakened their national team. Cuban players who ply their trade in MLB are unable to represent their country.
USA are the joint favourites along with Dominican Republic but they are easily swerved in this tournament. Many of their best players avoid the WBC - there will unfortunately be no Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw, respectively the best hitter and pitcher in the US.
The Americans still have the talent to win it, but Japan’s approach to the tournament seems to be more effective than countries who rely solely on MLB players, and they should be backed to win a third title.
Japan to win the World Baseball Classic
2pts 10-3 Coral, Skybet