Major League Baseball’s return is still over a week away, but the Korean Baseball League has been providing incredible entertainment for months, with the first full week of July serving as no exception. While we prepare for the first MLB games later this month, the KBO is gearing up for the stretch run on the other side of the world. The NC Dinos continue to impress, the Hanwha Eagles and SK Wyverns continue to struggle, but incredulously, only 6.0 games in the standing separate the other seven teams.
If you haven’t been able to keep up with the KBO as much as you’d like to, or you’ve skipped a few of our daily recaps, or if you’re simply looking to get in on all the fun, Pitcher List has you covered. Every Monday, we’ll publish an article breaking down what’s happened in the past week of the KBO. While it isn’t required reading, if you haven’t yet, we recommend checking out this piece detailing the league, each of its teams, key players and more.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at what’s happened over the last week (July 6-12), starting with the current standings:
*taken from www.mykbostats.com
News and Notes
We’ll break down which teams have been over/under performing and which players have surprised us the most momentarily but let’s start by getting into some news around the league:
- Saturday’s KBO game between the NC Dinos and LG Twins saw a hard-fought…tie? In the KBO, teams that are tied after 12 innings receive a draw, and while it is not all that uncommon, this was the first time any teams tied in 2020.
- Former Chicago Cubs‘ infielder, Addison Russell arrived in Korea, and he is currently in the process of undergoing COVID-19 testing and a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Assuming he clears protocols, he may be able to join the Kiwoom Heroes for the final part of July. He is not a good person.
- Kia Tigers’ Lee Chang-jin celebrated a walk with a bat flip…right into the opposing team’s catcher! Bat flips are fun and great for the game, but caution as to where the flip goes is probably a good idea.
- Former MLB pitcher and friend of PitcherList, Dan Straily picked up his first win since May when he twirled seven shutout frames against the Hanwha Eagles. Straily is currently among the league leaders in a number of pitching categories, including ERA and strikeouts, but the Lotte Giants hadn’t scored more than two runs for him in any of his previous nine games.
- Jose Miguel Fernandez’s chopping motion with his right hand has been a staple, and here is why he does it after reaching base with a hit.
- Mother Nature got involved on Sunday, as every single game was rained out.
- Samsung Lions’ reliever Jang Pill-joon was demoted after blowing a three-run lead, and his manager, Huh Sam-young wants him to take some time to get his head together. Huh also wishes he had seen the former closer have “more fight in him” in recent weeks.
- Former MLB player Aaron Altherr hit a homer that he so high, that it was out of Trackman’s range. The ball only went a few rows deep into the seats but was too high to be tracked.
- LG Twins’ minor leaguer Lee Jae-won set a record with 10 runs driven in during a Future’s game.
- Kia Tigers’ Hwang Dae-in celebrated a multi-homer game with a very powerful pose.
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: KT Wiz
The KT Wiz have been on an absolute scorching run over the past couple weeks and after going 8-2 in their last 10 games, and 10-3 in their past 13, the Wiz have reached a .500 winning percentage at 29-29. For the season, KT still ranks as the second-worst team pitching staff, with a team ERA of 5.44, but their offense scores 5.97 runs per game, good for the third-best team offense. A large chunk of the offensive punch the Wiz pack comes from MVP candidate Mel Rojas Jr. Rojas leads the KBO in a number of offensive categories including batting average, OPS, and homers, and Rojas’ 21 long balls are five more than anyone else. The outfielder/designated hitter racked up multi-hit games in each of his last four games to close last week out, and has just been incredible. Outside of Rojas, 20-year-old Kang Baek-ho has been excellent offensively as well in his third season, currently on pace to set career-highs in SLG, OPS, and HRs. The Wiz will enter this week’s slate of games just 1.5 games out of playoff position.
Worst Team: LG Twins
The LG Twins are in a borderline-freefall recently, after starting the season out strong. Including their tie, the Twins have gone a paltry 1-3-1 in their past five games, 2-7-1 in their past ten games, and 5-14-1 over their past twenty games. No matter how you spin it, this has been an extended stretch of poor play by LG, and after looking like they might be a factor, the Twins are in danger of falling out of the playoff picture. Quality pitching has been tough to come by lately for the Twins, as they have zero starting pitchers with an ERA under Lim Chan-gyu’s 4.47, and their team pitching totals of a 4.75 ERA and 1.445 WHIP both rank in the bottom half of the league. On the offensive side, one silver lining for the Twins has been the sizzling hot bat of Kim Hyun-Soo. Kim previously played in the MLB with the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies and hit four homers while slugging 1.352 during his past seven games. LG has had significant issues with the Doosan Bears, in particular, this season, as the Twins have gone just 2-7 against the Bears in 2020, and over the past three seasons have a 9-32 record against Doosan.
Biggest Surprise: Kia Tigers
The Kia Tigers have been incredibly hot/cold in recent weeks, as they finished out last week on a three-game winning streak. That streak came following a four-game losing skid, and the losing skid followed three consecutive wins. Kia currently is right in the thick of the playoff race, having salvaged their third game against the red-hot KT Wiz and then racking up wins against the Kiwoom Heroes. Kia’s 9-8 victory over the Heroes on July 10th specifically was noteworthy. After opening up a 7-2 lead through the first four innings, the Tigers coughed it up and were bailed out when Choi Won-joon walked it off in the bottom of the 11th inning. For the season, the Tigers have had pitching as their strength, as their team ERA of 4.28 leads the KBO, and their pitchers are allowing the fewest homers per game against in the league as well. Kia has games against the Samsung Lions and Doosan Bears this week, both of whom are in the thick of the playoff picture as well.
Best Performance: Hitters
Mel Rojas Jr. (KT Wiz): Rojas could practically be in this column every single week, and this past one was no exception. Rojas closed out the week on a seven-game hitting streak, including a streak of four consecutive games with multiple hits. As mentioned earlier, Rojas leads the entire league in numerous categories offensively, including homers, batting average, and slugging percentage, and he contributed to all of those with his 11-for-24 totals in the past week. Notably, as well, Rojas is chasing down the triple crown and enters the week just a single RBI behind league leader Aaron Altherr.
Kim Hyun-Soo (LG Twins): The Twins have really counted on Kim this past week, and he delivered. The former MLB outfielders’ multihomer game against the Doosan Bears on July 8th highlighted a week that saw Kim put together three multi-hit games. For the week, Kim went 7-for-19 with four extra-base hits, three walks, and six RBI. The 32-year-old has gotten into a powerful groove and now has 10 homers through 58 games in 2020, after hitting only 11 through 140 games last season.
Preston Tucker (Kia Tigers): Tucker has been a solid offensive presence for the Tigers since coming over from the MLB to play for them in 2019. So far this season, however, Tucker has taken his game to another level, as he has already surpassed his homer total from last season’s 95 games in the first 56 games he’s played this year. Over the past week, Tucker put together three multi-hit games, and reached base at least two times in every single game.
Best Performance: Pitchers
Raul Alcantra (Doosan Bears): Alcantra’s first season with the Bears has been phenomenal thus far, as the 27-year-old righty has registered a sterling 8-1 record and 3.14 ERA/1.10 WHIP. On July 9th in his most recent start against the LG Twins, Alcantra twirled seven shutout innings and allowed only two hits while striking out eight and walking none. Going back to June 10th, Alcantra has allowed three runs or less in each of his starts, and completed six or more innings in all of them as well, providing the Bears with both quality and quantity of innings. Alcantra lines up to face the SK Wyverns this week in hopes of continuing his streak.
Eric Jokisch (Kiwoom Heroes): Jokisch has been otherworldly in 2020, and turned it up even higher in recent weeks. The southpaw currently boasts a league-leading 1.41 ERA through 76 1/3 innings. He actually surrendered two runs in his most recent start against the Samsung Lions, but picked up the win by allowing just two runs through seven innings. Going back over a month now, June 4th was the last time Jokisch gave up any more than two earned runs. In his last six starts since then, the lefty has finished six innings or more in each of them, and has only walked six batters over that same time. In fact, control has been Jokisch’s calling card all season, as he has only permitted 10 walks all season across 12 starts.
Koo Chang-mo (NC Dinos): Koo’s most recent start against the SK Wyverns was predictably strong and was the fourth time in his last five starts he completed seven innings, as he allowed just one run while striking out six. The Dinos’ lefty is less than a tenth of a run behind Jokisch for the league lead in ERA, and is either pacing the KBO or leading the league in K%, K-BB%, and WHIP as well. Koo will put his undefeated 8-0 record to the test against the Kiwoom Heroes.
There are literally dozens of twitter accounts and websites you can be using to help you follow the KBO. Here are some of our favorites, many of which were referenced in this piece.
Feel like something was left out from the opening weeks of the KBO? Have a resource that you feel needs to be shared? Let us know in the comments!
-Featured image by Justin Paradis