Welcome to our weekly Korean Baseball Organization update here at Pitcher List! The regular season is nearing the stretch run and amid COVID-19 spikes in South Korea, the KBO is focused on seeing the season be played through safely. For the individual teams, the standings are beginning to get tight, as eight of the ten teams can still reasonably hope for one of the five spots in 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 17th through August 23rd).
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:
- Not so fast on fans returning to games… The KBO announced last week that their new goal no longer is to welcome back up to 70% of fans to stadiums, but instead is to prioritize ensuring the regular season and postseason get completed. South Korea’s surge in new cases last week was the country’s highest since early March. Per Ryu Dae-hwan, the secretary-general of the KBO: “Our main objective now is to finish the regular season and the postseason as safely as possible.”
- The KBO All-Star voting continued last week, though this season will be only for All-Star honors and no game will be played.
- Former Baltimore Orioles’ pitcher Tyler Wilson has been playing with the LG Twins this season and showed his gratitude to the security and cleaning staff at Jamsil Stadium with meals from Cry Cheeseburger.
- The SK Wyverns had a pretty decent offensive day on August 19th, scoring 26 runs. It was done with a balanced attack too, as no individual SK batter had more than five RBI. Teamwork!
- Kiwoom Heroes’ starter Eric Jokisch is sidelined with shoulder issues and had to stop an attempt at playing catch on Sunday due to pain. Jokisch has been electric for the Heroes, compiling a 10-3 record as well as a 2.09 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.
- Kia’s Preston Tucker crushed a homer and hit it so hard that Kiwoom’s right fielder, Lee Jung-hoo, didn’t even bother to turn around.
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 a contender for best team honors every week this month, and earn the title again here more because of their entire month of August than their individual week. Kiwoom have been scorching hot in August, going 13-7 thus far and pulling all the way to within one game of the top overall seed in the KBO standings. The NC Dinos have held the top spot for months, but have underwhelmed by going only 6-10 in August, including going 4-6 in their last ten games to squander what had been a six-game lead at the end of last month. The Heroes are winning in many different ways, with strong pitching being accompanied by clutch hitting. Just this past Saturday, Kiwoom surrendered three runs in the top of the first inning to the Kia Tigers before then shutting them down the rest of the game, and scoring four runs themselves in the bottom of the eighth inning to complete a dramatic come-from-behind win. For the season, the Heroes rank fifth in the league in runs/game with 5.48, and have been even stronger on the mound, where Kiwoom boasts the best ERA in the league, at 4.36.
Worst Team: Kia Tigers
The race for the fifth playoff spot is going to really come down to the wire, but the Kia Tigers have done themselves no favors in recent weeks, and have lost control of the spot after a dreadful 1-5 week that was winless prior to their one-run victory over the Kiwoom Heroes on Sunday. Kia blew multiple late leads this past week, once by allowing four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to the Heroes on Saturday, as well as a frustrating loss to the LG Twins earlier in the week that saw the Tigers surrender two runs in the ninth inning to blow a lead before ultimately being walked off by LG in extras. The Tigers have fallen all the way down to seventh in the standings, and while they are only two games back of the KT Wiz for the last playoff spot, they will need to play better to have any chance.
Biggest Surprise: NC Dinos
The Dinos went a pedestrian 3-3 this past week, but this spot is more about their sluggish month overall than it is the past week. As mentioned earlier for the Heroes, while the Dinos still hold the number one seed in the KBO, they’ve watched the rest of the league chip away at what was once a six-game lead due to the Dinos’ mediocre 6-10 August record. The Dinos can still score runs and pitch effectively at times, as shown by their bludgeoning of the Kia Tigers in a two-game series that NC outscored Kia 24-6. However, the Dinos have struggled because of the kind of play that followed this past weekend, where in Sunday’s action they were blown out 10-1 by the KT Wiz. Thankfully for the Dinos, they have matchups against the Hanwha Eagles and SK Wyverns up next this week, whom they are a combined 15-5 against so far in 2020. Hopefully for NC, that’s just the formula to get back into a hot streak.
Best Performances: Hitters
Roberto Ramos (LG Twins): The LG Twins have been hot in recent weeks, and Ramos’ bat has helped solidify their position in the playoff picture. Ramos currently is riding a six-game hitting streak, where half of the games have seen him record multiple hits. The streak also included a stretch of four consecutive games with a home run from 8/18-8/21. For the season, Ramos is second the KBO with 27 dingers.
Jose Miguel Fernández (Doosan Bears): Fernández had an exceptional week, highlighted by his performance on Sunday where he went 3-4 with two homers and four RBI. Dating back to 8/18, Doosan’s slugger has picked up three or more hits in three of seven games, and he has nine RBI in that stretch as well. For the season, the 32-year-old is batting .361/.429/.549 and has been a huge part of the Bears’ success.
Choi Jeong (SK Wyverns): Choi is just one of the SK batters who had an impressive week offensively—that happens when you have a game where the team puts up 26 runs in a single game, after all. Jeong’s early-week success carried him to recognition here, as he raked across two games on 8/19-8/20 and went a combined 4-7 with three homers, four runs scored, seven RBI, and three walks.
Best Performance: Pitchers
Tyler Wilson (LG Twins): Wilson had an eventful week, showing his appreciation for his stadium’s facilities workers while also shoving in his start on 8/21. The former MLB pitcher completed 7.2 innings against the red-hot Kiwoom Heroes in that game, while allowing just one run on four hits and a single walk. Wilson’s first season with the KBO has been solid, as he holds an 8-6 record and 3.82 ERA across 18 starts.
Eric Jokisch (Kiwoom Heroes): Jokisch had been on a heater coming into his start this past week, and after completing six innings of one-run ball with six strikeouts against the LG Twins on 8/20, the 31-year-old now leads KBO starters in ERA for the season at 2.09. Unfortunately, the lefty is dealing with a shoulder injury that may sideline him, as he reported pain when throwing over the weekend.
Bae Je-seong (KT Wiz): Bae entered his start on 8/20 coming off of consecutive games where he was bludgeoned, surrendering six or more runs in each game. He evidently had his Wheaties against the Hanwha Eagles though, as Bae completed 5 and 2/3 innings without allowing a hit. While Bae did walk five batters, he struck out five as well, and picked up his first win in over a month.
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)