Rivals LG and Doosan share Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. And, they currently sit #2 and #3 in the KBO standings behind league the league-leading NC Dinos. The Twins and Bears square off head-to-head Friday through Sunday, with all games televised live by ESPN.
LG (25-13) pulled away from Doosan (22-16) in the past week. The Twins have won four games in a row, and seven of their last eight. The Bears ended a four-game losing streak Thursday, and are a disappointing 2-6 their last eight games. We say “disappointing” because Doosan’s decline includes a 1-2 mark in a gut-check series with NC (26-11), and a 1-2 letdown against the hapless Hanwha Eagles (9-30), who are 0-20 when not playing Doosan the past few weeks.
Maybe it’s not a showcase series after all! Maybe fans and bettors are about to learn that defending champion Doosan doesn’t have what it takes to make another championship run this season.
Here’s a quick team comparison (KBO daily matchups on VSiN.com)
Doosan: 6.0 runs per game
LG: 5.9 runs per game
Virtually identical. Though, Doosan’s bats have cooled in the past two series with a scoring line of 5-6-2-3-3-7. The Bears HAVE to score a bunch to win for reasons you’re about to see.
LG: 4.08 ERA, 1.34 WHIP
Doosan: 5.16 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
Huge difference. LG’s pitchers are much less likely to put runners on base, and suffer the consequences of those runners. Note that LG currently leads the KBO in earned run average with that 4.08 mark (Kia is second at 4.11). If LG receives market respect this weekend over the more “public” Doosan side, it will be due to sharp recognition of pitching.
In-depth analytics can be hard to find with this league. For those of you who like to separate “pure defense” from pitching, Bill James Online posted a free article this week focusing on team defense in the KBO. We encourage you to read the whole thing (it’s short). Here were rankings in “Defensive Runs Saved” at the time of that article.
Defensive Runs Saved (from billjamesonline.com)
NC Dinos -23
Kiwoom Heroes -31
SK Wyverns -39
Lotte Giants -46
LG Twins -51
Hanwha Eagles -55
Samsung Lions -57
KT Wiz -59
Doosan Bears -62
Kia Tigers -64
As the article explains, those measures are in relation to a typical MLB defense. That’s why all 10 teams grade out as negative. Talent-wise, these are “minor league” defenses. But, within the KBO universe, you can see that LG has roughly an average defense (just below the math mark of 48.7). Doosan is horrible, second-worst in the league.
It’s difficult to win a baseball championship with poor pitching and defense. A great offense can get you to the playoffs, before running into a brick wall against top opposition pitching in high-pressure games. Right now, Doosan doesn’t look anything like “championship material.” LG has a better chance of putting a scare into “The Big Blue and Gold Machine” of the NC Dinos.
Those Dinos get a chance to pad their record this weekend as huge daily favorites over Hanwha. In other matchups…
*Samsung Lions (19-20) visit the Kia Tigers (21-17)
*Lotte Giants (19-19) visit the KT Wiz (16-22)
*SK Wyverns (12-26) visit the Kiwoom Heroes (22-17)
Let’s keep an eye for value on Samsung. The Lions are the only team NOT to have played Hanwha this season. Everyone else has either three or six games vs. the league doormat. Samsung may look like more of a wildcard threat when schedules even out. (Kiwoom is 16-17 when not playing Hanwha, Lotte 15-17.)
VSiN hopes you enjoy another fun weekend of KBO action. Be aware that the sun is about to rise over another Asian baseball league…
JAPAN’S NPB STARTS FRIDAY
After a long delay, Nippon Professional Baseball begins its 2020 season Friday (Nippon is the Japanese word for “Japan”).
Are you thinking that handicapping another foreign league is too tall a task? Might not be as tough as you think. Though, there are 12 teams in the NPB, they are divided into a pair of six-team leagues that WON’T have interleague play during this abbreviated 120-game season.
*If you prefer MLB’s “National League” style of play with no designated hitter…then the Central League might be right up your alley. Those six teams are the Yomiuri Giants (77-64 last season…all records posted here leave out 12-inning ties), DeNA Yokohama Bay Stars (71-69), Hanshin Tigers (69-68), Hiroshima Toyo Carp (70-70), Chunichi Dragons (68-73), and Yakult Swallows (59-82).
*If you prefer the “American League” style with a designated hitter, you can focus on the Pacific League. Those six teams are the Seibu Lions (80-62), Softbank Fukuoka Hawks (say that carefully, 76-62), Rakuten Eagles (71-68), Lotte Chiba Marines (69-70), Nippon Ham Fighters (fighters representing the Nippon Ham company, not guys who fight ham…65-73), and Orix Buffaloes (61-75).
Softbank Fukuoka is the defending NPB champion, winning last year’s Japan Series four games to one over Yomiuri.
If you’re already enjoying handicapping the 10-team KBO, you might find adding six or 12 Japanese teams to your universe fun and profitable. If you believe you waited too long to get on the KBO bandwagon, start following NPB beginning Friday (all games start at 5 a.m., 2 a.m. in Las Vegas).
VSiN returns Monday with more baseball coverage from a sports betting perspective.