World Baseball Classic 2023 odds: How to bet United States vs. Japan, expert picks

World Baseball Classic 2023 odds: How to bet United States vs. Japan, expert picks

Updated Mar. 21, 2023 1:22 p.m. ET

By Edward Egros
FOX Sports MLB Betting Analyst

After what seemed like a sluggish start by Team USA’s standards – including a six-run defeat to Mexico – the Americans have been on a tear, looking as dominant as ever these past few games. They are now only one win away from repeating as World Baseball Classic champions.

Standing in their way is Japan, the betting favorite. It is a team with a highly touted pitching staff and a group of hitters that was gritty enough to overcome a late-inning deficit in their semifinal to make it this far.

This matchup has been one a lot of us wanted to see, and Tuesday night, we’ll get it at 7 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports App. Let's dive into how to bet the classic matchup, with odds courtesy of FOX Bet.


[RELATED: Japan stuns Mexico with walk-off win]

United States vs. Japan at LoanDepot Park, Miami, 7 p.m. ET Tuesday, FS1 and FOX Sports App

Run line: United States -1 (United States favored to win by 1 or more runs, otherwise Japan covers)
Moneyline: United States -125 favorite to win (bet $10 to win $18 total); Japan +110 underdogs to win (bet $10 to win $20 total) 
Total scoring over/under: 10 runs scored by both teams combined

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly will start for Team USA. He may seem like a relative unknown as he may not have the name recognition as an Adam Wainwright or Lance Lynn

However, his broad arsenal of pitches may keep Japan’s hitters guessing. Kelly throws his four-seam fastball most often, giving it some deceptive spin and movement, but he will go to his change-up, cutter and sinker more than 15% of the time each. Last season, Kelly’s hard-hit rate allowed ranked in the 62nd percentile among all MLB pitchers, a good sign that any contact made will not lead to base runners.

Japan will counter with Yu Darvish, who was part of his country’s 2009 WBC championship. More than a decade later, the San Diego Padres hurler still has one of the more deceptive fastballs in MLB. Pair that with his cutter, and Darvish can combine velocity with movement

Darvish did have inconsistent results with his cutter last season, posting an expected batting average of .298, but his four-seamer had an xBA of .201. Though his hard-hit rate allowed is slightly worse than Kelly’s in the 58th percentile, no one starting pitcher has a significant edge.

However, one area where there is a distinct advantage is the bullpen. 

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After Japan’s win, Shohei Ohtani told Ken Rosenthal he was prepared to pitch as a reliever. Again, Ohtani is the Los Angeles Angels Opening Day starter, so if he does take the mound, it will be in a limited capacity. 

Still, his 33.2% strikeout rate from last season will be needed against a dangerous American lineup. Granted, the U.S. did not have to use too many relievers in its semifinal against Cuba (Miles Mikolas ate up four innings, for instance). Still, Samurai Japan has always had the pitching advantage in this tournament.

As for hitting, you already know baseball is a game of averages. Munetaka Murakami is Japan’s home run king but was largely quiet this tournament until delivering the game-winning RBI on Monday night. But Murakami is one of several Japanese sluggers who can handle both heaters and off-speed deliveries. Japan leads the WBC in on-base percentage (.471) for a reason.

Team USA also has its share of slugging, especially at the bottom of the order. Nine-hole hitter Trea Turner has been as clutch as anyone this tournament, but eight-hole hitter Tim Anderson finished fourth in MLB last season in expected batting average (.302), and seven-hole hitter Pete Alonso smacked 40 home runs in 2022. You don’t have to mention Mike Trout or Mookie Betts to make a compelling case that Team USA has the best offense on the field.

Finally, there are the intangibles. Home-field advantage in baseball tends to be overrated anyway, and when the excitement level has been just as intense for other countries, there doesn’t seem to be a required adjustment there, either.

It’s not often that the hype for a championship matches reality, but that’s what I expect for tonight's epic title game. Personally, I thought Japan would be favored in this matchup, but even if you think it’s a close game, the value is betting on Team Japan, so that’s my bet. I’m taking Samurai Japan to win its third WBC title.

For a smaller wager, Japan’s bullpen may do enough to keep this game a pitchers' duel, so Under 9.5 runs is my play on the total.

Thanks for reading my WBC picks in this space. Now, let's win some money to finish it off!

PICK: Japan (+110 ML at FOX Bet) to win
PICK: USA-Japan score fewer than 9.5 runs combined (at time of pick, -105 at FOX Bet, bet $10 to win $19.52 total)

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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