One week into the 2020 KBO season, the surprising Lotte Giants continue to be the big story for fans and bettors.
Last year’s worst team (48-93-3) is undefeated through five games, cashing four of those tickets as underdogs. But, a tough litmus test begins Tuesday when defending champion Doosan treks to Busan for a showcase series.
How has Lotte been winning? Through the first four games it was offense. The Giants scored 7, 9, 7, and 9 runs before rain postponed Saturday’s game vs. the SK Wyverns. Sunday, new ace Dan Strailey put the Giants pitching on track with seven shutout innings and 11 strikeouts in a 4-0 victory. (That’s a huge K total for the KBO, where five or six are more common for starters).
Bettors should pay attention to scoring consistency, particularly in an erratic league like the KBO. Occasional explosions can warp offensive averages. A team averaging six runs per game by scoring zero one day, 12 the next is less attractive than one that puts runs on the board game after game.
Here’s a quick look at run totals for each team from low-to-high through the first week. Teams are ranked by medians, which are in parenthesis:
Every team has at least one big game of eight runs or more. But early strugglers Samsung, Kia, and Hanwha have all scored three or less two-thirds of the time. Only NC and Lotte have scored at least four every game.
Too many handicappers make the mistake of focusing mostly on starting pitchers when making their bets. If you’re committed to cashing tickets in the KBO through May and June (and beyond), be sure you’re also studying consistency and volume in offensive production.
*Weekend Results: You know Lotte swept two from SK. Kiwoom swept three virtually identical games from helpless Hanwha (5-3, 5-3, 6-3). Samsung took two of three from Kia. LG split a pair with NC, as did Doosan with KT.
*Standings entering the new week: Lotte 5-0, Kiwoom 5-1, NC 4-1, Doosan 3-2, LG 2-3, Kia 2-4, Samsung 2-4, Hanwha 2-4, SK 1-4, KT 1-4.
Seeing the SK Wyverns tied for last place is a big surprise. Kind of a reverse Lotte. SK tied Doosan for best record during the regular season last year at 88-55-1. The Wyverns were second on the futures board at 400 at bookmaker.eu before the season began (Doosan the favorite at 350, Lotte a longshot at 2000).
*Tuesday’s new matchups: Doosan at Lotte is creating a lot of buzz because of the rags-to-riches potential for the Giants. Kiwoom has a great chance to build on a strong start with three home games vs. struggling Samsung. NC can do the same at home against KT, though the Wiz are expected to regress upward toward last year’s .500 finish. SK at LG matches two of last season’s top four teams. Kia at Hanwha matches non-contenders.
Unfortunately Doosan/Lotte isn’t part of ESPN2’s broadcast schedule.
- Tuesday 5:30 a.m. ET: KT at NC
- Wednesday 5:30 a.m. ET: SK at LG
- Thursday 5:30 a.m. ET: SK at LG
*Home runs are way up so far, averaging 2.26 per game through the first week. That’s well above last year’s average of 1.41 (numbers posted on twitter by Dan Kurtz @MyKBO). Too early to know if the league has “re-juiced” the balls after last season’s “de-juicing.” Anything can happen in a short sample size, particularly one that came on the heels of awkward preparation for pitchers.
For now, be careful asking for Unders (particularly in day games) whenever non-aces are throwing. Let’s see if betting markets lift Over/Unders this week after posting mostly 8.5’s and nines thus far.
*In high run environments, it makes more sense to look for value bets laying -1.5 on the run line (as coin-flip nail biters are less common), and less sense to take 1.5 runs unless aces are going head to head. Note that only four of the first 27 KBO games have been decided by one run. And, one of those was won by an underdog (Lotte beating SK 9-8).
This doesn’t mean you should start recklessly laying -1.5 runs with all the favorites. Doosan’s 13-12 Sunday slugfest with KT was “the lost run line heard ‘round the world.” Just be on the lookout for smart bets.
*If you like studying team and player stats before making your picks, the Baseball Reference website has pages devoted to the KBO. At a glance, you can see which offenses are scoring runs and bashing dingers, and which pitching staffs are getting lit up. Early season bettors here in the states may be having trouble keeping the alphabet soup of NC-LG-SK-KT straight. Spending a few minutes a day at Baseball Reference will keep you focused on the most important skill sets as you develop strategies for each team.