Welcome to our weekly Korean Baseball Organization update here at Pitcher List! Stateside, the MLB has been trying its best to keep players on the field, but it just doesn’t seem to be fully working out just yet. Back in the KBO, however, things are moving right along.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at what’s happened over the last week (July 27 through August 2).
News and Notes
We’ll break down which teams have been over/underperforming and which players have surprised us the most momentarily, but let’s start by getting into some news around the league:
- Robot umpires are here! The KBO announced the league will be testing out the automated balls and strikes calling system in their minor leagues. It is assumed that KBO will use this season and next to test things and get all the kinks out before implementing the system in the top league by (hopefully) 2022. Calls for robot umps in the MLB have picked up steam over the last several years due to the unreliable nature of human umps and MLB umpires’ penchant for, well, dramatics.
- Aaron Altherr, former MLB outfielder and current KBO star, is headed to the injured list with a thumb injury. This is obviously a blow to the mighty NC Dinos, but hopefully they can still manage, as their lineup is quite deep. Altherr was enjoying his debut KBO season, racking up 19 homers and 64 RBI while hitting .292. It is not known how long Altherr will be on the shelf.
- The KT Wiz got their closer back on Saturday, as Kim Jae-yoon returned from the IL. It had been revealed last week that the reliever had been dealing with elbow pain, which could explain his struggles on the mound so far. The Wiz are in the thick of a playoff hunt and hopefully Kim is healed up and ready to resume closing duties.
Current League Averages
All metrics have been gathered from Baseball-Reference, KBReport and MyKBO. Links to all resources are listed at the bottom of the article.
Best Team: LG Twins
The Twins are keeping playoff hopes alive lately, going 7-3 in their last 10. They took two of three from the Doosan Bears early last week before beating up on the lowly SK Wyverns and Hanwha Eagles, including a remarkable 24-7 smack-down of the Wyverns on Tuesday. But things aren’t going to get any easier for the Twins. After the rainout of Monday’s matchup with Hanwha, the Twins will have to face off with the Kia Tigers and the Kiwoom Heroes over their next three series before taking on the unstoppable machine that is the NC Dinos. At 40-32, the Twins are at a very respectable .556 winning percentage and remain 6.5 games out of first place. Currently in fourth place, the Twins have a tenuous grasp on a playoff spot and will need to continue to capitalize to remain in the hunt.
Worst Team: Hanwha Eagles
Poor Eagles. Once again, the Hanwha Eagles grace our worst team section of the article. Hanwha has gone 2-7-1 over their last 10 and just look absolutely lost. At 19-54 (.260 W%), they have by far the league’s worst record, trailing the also highly disappointing SK Wyverns (24-49, .329 W%) by five games. What’s worse is that there will be no reprieve for the Eagles in the coming days, as they are set to square off against the NC Dinos and the KT Wiz, two teams that have shown they are far and away superior squads. Something tells me this section will be remaining the same next week as well, but for the Eagles’ sake, I sure hope I am wrong.
Biggest Surprise: Kiwoom Heroes
After Sunday’s 4-2 victory over the Samsung Lions, the Kiwoom Heroes have now made it six straight wins and are 6-4 in their last 10. The Heroes have been consistently climbing the standings, surpassing the Kia Tigers, LG Twins, and Doosan Bears, and are now slotted behind only the NC Dinos, trailing by four games. Their lineup has been doing a ton of heavy lifting, and they have only gotten better with the controversial addition of former MLB infielder Addison Russell, who recorded his first KBO homer this past week. The season is only about half over, as the league will play 144 games per team, but the Heroes have shown that they can compete and have a legitimate shot to capture a Korean Series title.
Best Performances: Hitters
Kang Jin-sung (NC Dinos): Even with Aaron Altherr on the shelf, the Dinos are not short on elite bats. Kang has recorded at least one hit in 11 of his last 12 games, racking up two homers and 12 RBI in that same time frame. All in all, Kang has now raised his AVG to .341 to go along with 11 HR, 51 RBI, 39 R, and 5 SB.
Lee Dae-ho (Lotte Giants): The one-time Seattle Mariner is continuing his excellent return to the KBO, going 4 for his last 10 and is the proud owner of a .309/.389/.500 triple slash line with a respectable 11 HR and 53 RBI. The Giants’ cleanup man will look to keep his team’s playoff hopes alive as they take on the lowly SK Wyverns this week.
Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes): The Heroes’ right fielder and cleanup hitter has been playing like a man on fire as of late. With new addition Addison Russell hitting in front of him, Lee has been leading the charge in the Heroes’ recent surge of victories. In the last six games, Lee went 12 for 25, drawing five walks and knocking in 10 runs along the way. Lee has now raised his batting average to .363, and is among the heavy favorites to lead the league by season’s end.
Best Performance: Pitchers
Yoon Sung-hwan (Samsung Lions): Despite facing the rampaging Kiwoom Heroes and less-than-desirable stats so far in 2020, Yoon locked it down on Sunday, although his team was still unable to secure a win. Yoon went five innings and did not allow a single run or free pass. In fact, the Heroes only managed to secure three hits against the 38-year-old righty. It may not be a rosy year for the Lions, but games like Sunday’s against a red-hot team are always encouraging.
Raul Alcantara (Doosan Bears): Alcantara just keeps dealing. Squaring off against the formidable NC Dinos, Alcantara was stellar, throwing 7 innings of two-run ball and racked up six strikeouts. He is currently 10-1 on the season with a 2.79 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 92 strikeouts in 103.1 IP. After flaming out of both the Red Sox and Athletic’s farm systems, Alcantara seems to be right at home in the KBO.
Eric Jokisch (Kiwoom Heroes): After a rough outing against the Bears on July 21, in which he gave up six runs, Jokisch got back in the driver’s seat for his last two starts, holding the same Bears team to only two runs in five innings on July 28, and holding the Lions to two runs in 6 IP on Sunday. The only blemish in Sunday’s start would be the seven hits and two walks allowed, but the Heroes managed to win all the same. The left-hander is now the proud owner of a 2.25 ERA and a 9-3 record on the year.
There are literally dozens of Twitter accounts and websites you can use to help follow the KBO. Here are some of our favorites, many of which were referenced in this piece.
Feel like something was left out? Have a resource that you feel needs to be shared? Let us know in the comments!
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)