World Baseball Classic 2023 odds: How to bet Cuba-United States, expert pick

World Baseball Classic 2023 odds: How to bet Cuba-United States, expert pick

Updated Mar. 19, 2023 4:34 p.m. ET

By Edward Egros
FOX Sports MLB Betting Analyst

It’s normal if your immediate reaction to betting on semifinal No. 1 of the World Baseball Classic is, how could the Americans possibly lose this one?!?

There are the rosters: the Stars and Stripes have more MLB players who have more experience playing in high-leverage moments.

There are also the logistics. Up to now, Cuba has been playing in Asia this tournament. They’ve only been back in this hemisphere since Thursday, meaning this team has just three days to fight through the jet lag and prepare for arguably their toughest test of this stretch. While I’m no expert on circadian rhythms, I do know it will be a challenge.


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But the more important focus should be on the pitching matchup and if Cuba has what it takes for more surprises after starting the WBC 0-2.

So, how should we bet on it? Let's dive in, with odds courtesy of FOX Bet.

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Cuba vs. United States at LoanDepot Park, Miami, 7 p.m. ET Sunday, FS1 and FOX Sports app

Run line: United States -1.5 (United States favored to win by 2 or more runs, otherwise Cuba covers)
Moneyline: United States -500 favorite to win (bet $10 to win $12 total); Cuba +300 underdogs to win (bet $10 to win $40 total) 
Total scoring over/under: 10 runs scored by both teams combined

Getting the ball for the Americans is Cardinals veteran Adam Wainwright. The 41-year-old right-hander had a respectable 2022 season. His ERA was 3.71 and his 54 walks in more than 190 innings pitched was a solid ratio, but Statcast can tell us precisely where he excelled and where they may be problems in this matchup.

In 2022, Wainwright’s curveball was about as effective as anyone’s. We can use a statistic called run value to explain. Every situation in baseball, depending upon runners on base, outs and the count, has an average as to how many runs were scored in that situation. 

Every time Wainwright threw his curveball, we can then see the outcome and how much that changed the average number of runs scored. After adding up the results from every curveball from the 2022 season, you have its run value.

Wainwright’s curveball had a run value of -10, the fourth-highest in MLB last season. Another pitch he had success with was his cutter, coming in 33rd overall with a run value of -4. At least when it comes to the past couple of games, Cuba has only mustered a single when pitched curveballs.

As for Cuba’s pitching, they will counter with Roenis Elías, a 34-year-old lefty who may have adequate stuff to make a major league bullpen. Elías relies on his four-seam fastball and change-up, and both have expected batting averages of less than .210. He was able to use both effectively against Italy, pitching five innings of scoreless baseball with three strikeouts.

Perhaps Cuba’s biggest problem, however, is even if Elías has a successful outing, pitching restrictions will prevent him from going as deep into the game as he could. No matter who Cuba uses in its bullpen, the United States has too many sluggers to where not all of them to be contained at once. 

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The best example happened Saturday night when Trea Turner, the nine-hole hitter, came through with a go-ahead grand slam (on an 0-2 pitch, no less). If Turner wasn’t going to be the hero, Mookie Betts and Mike Trout were right behind him, ready to pounce as well.

However, you could argue the same thing could be said about Cuba’s hitters. Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert Jr., et al., have had their moments. Even if Wainwright’s curveball is working, can the Americans stifle the top of Cuba’s batting order? 

Again, it’s a small sample size, but when comparing the sluggers from both teams, it’s actually Cuba that has the higher on-base percentage (.394 vs .378). Many extenuating factors, including strength of schedule, can explain the disparity, but Cuba’s sluggers are worthy of respect.

Ultimately, the United States should still win this game, so I suggest playing it safe and taking the Stars and Stripes on the moneyline. If you do not want to lay that much juice, USA on the run line is another option, as they should have an opportunity to pull away late.

PICK: United States (-400 moneyline at FOX Bet at time of pick) to win outright

Edward Egros is a sports analytics broadcaster/writer, a sports betting analyst, a data scientist and an adjunct professor of statistics at Pepperdine University. These passions have led him to become a cold brew aficionado. Edward previously worked in local television, notably at the Fox affiliate in Dallas covering the Rangers, Cowboys and high school football.  Follow him on Twitter @EdWithSports.

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