Welcome to our weekly Korean Baseball Organization update here at Pitcher List! As Spring became Summer, and Summer turns to Autumn, the KBO has remained constant in providing us with exceptional entertainment. Following a trend that began last month, the standings are continuing to tighten, 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 31st through September 6th).
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:
- All-Stars have been announced! Lotte Giants’ shortstop and former MLB shortstop Dixon Machado topped all players in fan votes with 849,441. This is only the second time ever that a foreign-born player has been the top vote-getter, with Karim García in 2008 the only other person to do so. Full rosters for each All-Star team can be located here.
- Hanwha Eagles’ team president, Jung-kyu Park, resigned last week after mishandling COVID-19 protocols throughout this year, The team has formally apologized to the league for incorrectly following/not following the protocols.
- KBO Spring Training in the USA? For the LG Twins, that is the plan. The Twins have been exploring options along these lines since 2018, and are going to be utilizing a facility in Scottsdale, AZ next year for preparation. One of the main reasons to do so being a chance to avoid frigid Korean winter temperatures.
- Kim Hyun-soo has been dealing with shoulder pain and was exected to miss Monday’s game.
- MBC Sports+ sideline reporter Lee Yoo-bin quite literally was singing in the rain.
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 LG Twins have played exceptional baseball down the stretch, and one week into September, they are within striking distance of the top overall seed in the KBO standings. LG has only lost once over their past ten games, including winning seven straight games going into Monday’s action. The Twins have had stretches of excellent pitching as well as some clutch hitting during the stretch. For the season, the Twins have the league’s second-best ERA at 4.45, as well as the second-most runs scored per game on offense with 5.86 runs/game. Park Yong-taik played the hero in the team’s come-from-behind victory over the NC Dinos on 9/3, hitting a go-ahead three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning that ultimately was the difference.
Worst Team: SK Wyverns
Along with the Hanwha Eagles, the SK Wyverns are the only other team truly eliminated from having any kind of postseason hopes, and their 10-0 loss on Sunday to the Doosan Bears serves as an exclamation point on the team’s ninth consecutive loss. The Wyverns have been undone all year by their pitching, as their team ERA of 5.70 is easily the worst in the KBO. Their offense is second-worst, scoring just a paltry 4.33 runs/game, including scoring only two runs or fewer in three of their past four games. The second half of their doubleheader last Friday against the KT Wiz was an especially disappointing loss, as the bullpen blew a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning to tie the game, before eventually allowing the Wiz to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to complete the walk-off victory.
Biggest Surprise: KT Wiz and Hanwha Eagles
The KT Wiz have been in a dogfight for the final postseason position, and after six straight victories, they currently would make the playoffs if the season ended today. Dominant pitching over the past week has supported what has been one of the better offenses in the league all year, as the Wiz held down four of their six opponents to two runs scored or fewer.
The reason the Eagles earn a mention here is less related to their abysmal season, and more because of the surprising news that they were not following the guidelines and protocols around COVID-19 correctly. By failing to report players who were tested immediately, and by waiting ten hours to do so, the Eagles showed that not only do they play the game poorly, but they also don’t follow directions well either. As carefully as the entire KBO has tried to be with COVID-19, it is beyond surprising that a team would be as reckless as the Eagles were.
Best Performances: Hitters
Mel Rojas Jr. (KT Wiz): The KT Wiz’s offense has been buoyed by Rojas all year, and this week was no different. Rojas has picked up a hit in six straight games, including back-to-back three-hit days over the weekend against the Kiwoom Heroes. Rojas also hit four homers during the week, including a stretch of three consecutive games with a dinger. For the season, Rojas is an MVP candidate and is batting .351/.411/.702 with a league-leading 36 long balls.
Jose Miguel Fernández (Doosan Bears): Fernández had an exceptional week, and is currently riding a six-game hitting streak. Curiously, while Fernández is picking up hits in bunches, only one of his last eleven hits have gone for extra-bases, a double on 9/1. For the season, the 32-year-old is batting .366/.433/.537 and has been a huge part of the Bears’ success.
Choi Hyung-woo (Kia Tigers): The outfielder for Kia was a clutch machine this past week, driving in 13 runs over his past five games. Choi’s current five-game hitting streak during that time has seen him mash three homers and two doubles as well, and he holds a .337/.424/.534 slash line for the season.
Best Performance: Pitchers
Aaron Brooks (Kia Tigers): Brooks had everything working for him this past week, dominating not once but twice. In his start against the Samsung Lions on September 1st, Brooks completed eight innings of shutout baseball, allowing only three hits. Then on September 6th, Brooks racked up 10 strikeouts over seven innings of one-run ball against the Hanwha Eagles. For the season, Brooks boasts a 2.61 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.
William Cuevas (KT Wiz): Cuevas was excellent in his performance on Saturday, pitching 8 2/3 innings of one-run ball, while allowing only five hits without a walk in KT’s victory, Cuevas added seven strikeouts on his 118 pitches, and now holds a rock-solid 3.65 ERA with a 1.18 WHIP on the season.
Dan Straily (Lotte Giants): Straily was named an All-Star this week, and has been very deserving this year. In his most recent start, the former MLB starter spun seven innings of one-run ball against the Kia Tigers, striking out six while issuing just one walk. For the year, Straily has a pristine 2.48 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.
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)