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Study Ks when handicapping KBO

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

May 21, 2020 12:06 PM

Baseball analysts have known for decades that pitching statistics related to strikeouts were the most important when predicting immediate and long-term success or failure. 

*Bill James showed long ago in his Baseball Abstracts that strikeouts-per-nine innings outlined “this is what he is now, and how long his career will be” for pitchers better than any other single stat. ERA’s could be inconsistent, and strongly polluted by the impacts of home ballparks. Wins and Losses were polluted by varying run support or team quality. The ability (or inability) to throw strikeouts provided the cleanest reads. 

*Newer stats that focus on “fielding independent” pitching rely heavily on strikeout counts because pitchers control their own destiny (or don’t) by how often they prevent balls from being put into play. 

*Volatility introduced to the sport globally by changes in ball manufacturing only magnified the issue. Balls can’t soar farther if they’re not hit in the first place! If a league is playing with juiced balls, bettors definitely want to bet on pitchers that miss bats, against those who throw to contact. 

This is important for those of you considering whether or not you want to handicap the Korea Baseball Organization. You know Major League Baseball here in the US (and Canada) won’t start July at the earliest (still more than a month away). You’re not familiar Korean players. You may not even be sure how to say the names of pitchers because the man you know as Chan Ho Park over here was Park Chan-ho over there. 

That’s OK. You don’t have to speak Korean to pick winners. You just have to speak strikeout. Look up strikeout-related material for each day’s starting pitchers to gain a sense of which are most likely to dominate, or at least control their own destiny. These are easy to find at baseball-reference, and the mykbostats page that has easy-click access to current and career stats once each day’s probables are announced (look for "compare tomorrow's starters"). 

Among your options:

*K/9, meaning strikeouts-per-nine innings. You can calculate this yourself just by multiplying strikeouts by nine, then dividing by innings pitched. (A hurler with 10 strikeouts in 18 innings would have a rate of 5.0, as that’s 10 times nine divided by 18.)

*K/BB, meaning the strikeout to walk ratio. Some high strikeout pitchers are also wild, which makes them less effective than their pure K-rate would suggest. And, low strikeout pitchers who are prone to walks are poison to your bankroll. 

Early in a new season, it’s usually better to focus on career performances in these stats rather than what’s happened over just a few games. If you have time, study year-to-year progressions of relatively young or very old pitchers. Youngsters with promise develop an ability to overpower as they mature…while aging veterans basically announce when they’re on their way out. 

Best K/9 marks so far in the KBO for pitchers who have completed at least 10 innings: Drew Gagnon 12.67, Seung-won Moon 10.8, Woo-chan Cha 10.7, Dan Straily 10.2, Chang-mo Koo 10.2, Jong-Hoon Park 10.2. 

Any pitcher likely to sustain at least 9.0 (1K per inning) based on career norms (or being a foreigner who can dish!) deserves consideration for support at affordable prices.

Baseball handicapping fundamentals are the same around the world because baseball performance is bounded by the same realities. Studying the KBO is a “manageable” challenge for new bettors because there are only 10 teams and five games per night (compared to 30 and 15 in MLB). That’s about 50 rotation pitchers, many of whom are very similar in relevant skill sets. You already speak strikeout. Get to work!


VSiN spotlighted this important series for you in our last report. Three exciting NC/Doosan games all went down to the wire. The Dinos won Tuesday’s opener 5-4. The Bears bounced back with a 2-1 win in 11 innings Wednesday. In Thursday’s finale, NC trailed 4-3 in the ninth before exploding for nine runs in a 12-6 victory. 

NC has clearly earned the respect of betting markets, priced around -110, 110, and -125 in three ROAD games at the defending champions. There were concerns that the Dinos’ hot start was over-influenced by an easy early schedule. Not an issue after this three-game set. NC won’t go 12-2 every 14 games through the season. But it’s a very legitimate championship contender with outstanding pitching and a productive offense. 

In other early-week series: The Kia Tigers swept the Lotte Giants to rain on the rags-to-riches story that had been brewing in Busan…the KT Wiz took two of three from the Hanwha Eagles…the LG Twins took two of three from the Lions at Samsung…and the Kiwoom Heroes took two of three from the disappointing KT Wyverns

Standings heading into weekend matchups…

12-2: NC Dinos

9-5: LG Twins

9-6: Kiwoom Heroes

8-6: Doosan Bears

8-7: Kia Tigers

7-7: Lotte Giants

6-8: KT Wiz

6-9: Hanwha Eagles

5-10: Samsung Lions

2-12: SK Wyverns

Friday through Sunday, NC must avoid a letdown at home against Hanwha. Doosan will try to regroup at Samsung. Kiwoom at Lotte is the only series matching two teams entering the weekend at .500 or better. But, KT at LG matches two recently-hot teams. The Wiz have won five of their last six, the Twins eight of their last 10. Finally, Kia visits SK. 

ESPN2’s TV coverage this weekend (all times Eastern)…

Friday: KT at LG…5:30 a.m. live, 2 p.m. replay

Saturday: Doosan at Samsung…4 a.m.

Sunday: Hanwha at NC…1 a.m.

(Sunday’s Eagles/Dinos game will actually start late Saturday night Pacific time, 10 p.m. for Las Vegas bettors).

See you Monday for more KBO betting notes. 

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