Welcome to our weekly Korean Baseball Organization update here at Pitcher List! As we push into the stretch run for the second half of the KBO season, the playoff picture is beginning to take shape, and as we head into mid-August all but two teams still have a reasonable chance to make the postseason. Of course, it wouldn’t be the KBO without exciting and emotive bat flips, walk-off wins, and dominant hitting and pitching performances.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at what’s happened over the last week (August 3rd through August 9th).
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:
- More fans are on the way to KBO games! The KBO began allowing fans to attend games at the end of July at 10% capacity and has not yet had any positive tests. As a result, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism and quarantine authorities determined that the number of fans in attendance can increase to 30% of available seats in S. Korea. The KBO is hesitant to move too quickly and announced that the baseball league is going to only sell up to 25% of capacity, preaching the importance of moving slowly as social distancing becomes the norm at games.
- As mentioned last week, robot umps are coming to the KBO and debuted in a few places. The KBO is starting with electronic strike zones in the minor leagues, with a number of games since last Wednesday featuring the “Robot Umpire” trial that is expected to see 26 total games called electronically. It has been speculated that the KBO will use this season as well as next season to test things before potentially implementing the system in the top league by 2022.
- Former major leaguer David Palka arrived last week at the Incheon International Airport and has entered a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine. Palka should be able to debut later this month for his new team, the Samsung Lions. Across parts of two seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Palka hit 29 homers and should help a Samsung lineup that lost Tyler Saladino to injury in July.
- Samsung Lions’ rookie Kim Ji-chan stands in at just five feet and four inches and hit his first career homer last week.
- Hyun-Soo Kim joined Preston Tucker as two of the five players to ever win a free Kia Sorrento by hitting a home run into the HR Zone at Champions Field.
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: Kiwoom Heroes
The Kiwoom Heroes have been scorching hot over the past week and change, have climbed all the way up to the second seed, and are now only a few games back of the league-leading NC Dinos. After their 2-1 win over the LG Twins on Sunday, the Heroes kept pace with the Dinos, and are only three games behind NC. The Heroes are winning in a number of ways and their balance of strong pitching and well-timed hitting has been on display. For the season, the Heroes rank fourth in the league in runs/game with 5.73, and have been even stronger on the mound, where Kiwoom boasts the second-best ERA in the league, at 4.57.
Worst Team: SK Wyverns
The poor SK Wyverns. Prior to a shortened win in five innings on Saturday against the Samsung Lions, SK hadn’t won a game all week. Even with that victory, the Wyverns are a paltry 1-8-1 over their last ten games, and along with the Hanwha Eagles, are the only teams essentially out of the playoff race. SK’s offensive runs per game and team ERA both rank as the second-worst in the KBO, behind only the hapless Eagles. Tuesday’s 8-0 loss to the Lotte Giants was especially frustrating for the Wyverns’ fan base, as they were shut out over six innings by Seo Jun-woon, who was coming off of consecutive starts allowing five or more runs in three innings or less. Hopefully, Saturday’s win kickstarts a winning streak.
Biggest Surprise: Doosan Bears
The Bears are still in a great position for a playoff run but had a rough week. After going 1-1-1 against the Samsung Lions, the Bears started the weekend out with a loss and tie against the Lotte Giants before Sunday’s action was canceled. A mediocre week is nothing alarming in itself, but with the Kiwoom Heroes have been playing as well as they have been in recent weeks, Doosan has seen their grasp on the second position in the standings fade away. Doosan’s offense continues to be a strength overall, as they trail only the NC Dinos in runs scored as a team, but their pitching has become an issue. For the year, the Bears’ 4.92 ERA is fourth-worst in the KBO, and their team WHIP allowed of 1.535 is the third-highest as well. If Doosan can make strides in run prevention, they will be a tough out in the postseason, but it is definitely surprising how their pitchers have fared in recent weeks.
Best Performances: Hitters
Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes): The Heroes’ hot stretch has seen the entire offense play well, with Lee helping to lead the charge. Lee managed multiple hits in three games over the last week and finished the week on a twelve-game hitting streak. Lee’s scorching hot stretch over the last few weeks has raised his batting average all the way to .369. As it stands now, he trails only the superhuman Mel Rojas Jr. in batting average, and he could conceivably contend down the stretch for the batting title.
Kim Hyun-Soo (LG Twins): Kim not only won himself a Kia Sorrento, but he also had an excellent week offensively. The former MLB outfielder knocked two homers on August 4th and managed at least one hit in all but one game over the past week. For the season, Kim is hitting .346/.401/.579 and has buoyed the LG Twins’ offense.
Na Sung-bum (NC Dinos): Na had his power stroke working this past week, mashing three extra-base hits over the final three games he played. The 30-year-old’s batters’ eye was on display as well, as he picked up six walks in his last four games as well. On a loaded Dinos’ team, pitching around Na is risky, and he has been a key cog of the league-leading offense in NC.
Best Performance: Pitchers
David Buchanan (Samsung Lions): Buchanan’s matchup with the SK Wyverns on Friday was exactly what the doctor ordered. After allowing nine hits in each of his previous starts, and six or more runs in both games as well, Buchanan blanked the Wyverns across seven innings, allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out three. For the season, Buchanan has been a key piece of the Samsung Lions’ rotation and now has posted 10 quality starts in his 16 games started.
Odrisamer Despaigne (KT Wiz): Despaigne had about as good of a week as possible, pitching well in both of his starts as the Wiz defeated the surging Kiwoom Heroes and Hanwha Eagles. Across both starts, the former MLB journeyman struck out 12 and walked four, while allowing only three earned runs in 11 innings, as he improved his record for the season to 10-6. Despaigne lowered his ERA for the season to 4.03 and has allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his past six starts.
Aaron Brooks (Kia Tigers): Brooks has been sensational all season for the Tigers, and cruised in his most recent start against the LG Twins on August 6th. The 30-year-old needed only 95 pitches to complete eight innings of one-run ball, and struck out six without issuing a walk. In Brooks’ debut season in the KBO, he now carries a sterling 2.32 ERA and 1.07 WHIP and has helped lead a Tigers’ team that paces the KBO in team ERA so far in 2020.
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)