KBO: Week 7 in Review
Greg Jewett breaks down the week that was in the KBO.
With seven weeks in the books, the standings in the KBO continue taking shape with hot and cold streaks determining where teams reside in them. Defending champion Doosan moved into a tie for second place taking LG behind the woodshed over the weekend in a ballpark they share. It’s a unique relationship between the two franchises but there seems to be a mental edge held by Doosan:
#KBO story: If a team goes 30-8 over an opponent in two-plus years, can they be called rivals? Probably not, and that's how things have been between the Doosan Bears and the LG Twins since 2018. My take here:https://t.co/jVKNI6rDi0— Jeeho Yoo (@Jeeho_1) June 22, 2020
LG remains a contender this season in the KBO but if they cannot overcome a match-up with Doosan, an appearance in the Season Series playing for a title. With this in mind, here’s the updated standings heading into Tuesday’s slate:
First place NC received encouraging news activating star catcher and hitter Eui-ji Yang off the injured list. Yang suffered from vertigo last week leading to the weekend off to recuperate. Yang should rejoin the team when they face KT and resume his spot hitting cleanup in a robust lineup. Lingering at or near the bottom of the standings all season along with tying a league record losing 18 consecutive contests, Hanwha shook up the roster putting import hitter Jared Hoying on waivers and as Dan Kurtz of MyKBOstats.com suggests, may trigger more moves in the league going forward:
Replacing Hoying on the Eagles will be Brandon Barnes . He owns a .242/.290/.357 slash with 20 home runs and 22 stolen bases in 484 career games in the major leagues. Last year playing on two teams in Triple-A, Barnes hit .253/.320/.504 with 77 runs, 30 home runs, 95 RBI and 11 steals in 120 games. Seeing how well Roberto Ramos performed for LG, perhaps Hanwha will strike lightning in a bottle with the addition of Barnes who totes a career .264/.444/.773 line in 597 career games at Triple-A with 79 home runs and 83 stolen bases. Due to quarantine rules entering South Korea, Barnes likely makes his debut for Hanwha in late July.
Although home runs per game rose above two last week, they ebbed back to a 1.93 average per contest at the end of games on Sunday. League ERA still sits at 4.81 with a league average of .273 for the hitters. Imports continue to reside above league average with pitchers owning a 3.84 ERA (almost a run below league average) and hitters batting .306 as a group this season. Even with two of them being released already (Hoying and Taylor Motter ). As reported earlier last week, Kiwoom made a splash trying to sign Yasiel Puig who held out for a major league contract and settled for Addison Russell causing some controversy due to his checkered past with domestic abuse. In fact, the team felt compelled to release a statement following his announced contract:
Shortly after the team announced the signing of Russell. The Heroes posted up a Youtube video of their GM talking about the signing and answering a few scripted questions.— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) June 20, 2020
The video can be seen at https://t.co/8jX9pq6Z3C. https://t.co/VajEJFJrWs
Stay tuned since Kiwoom already has homegrown star Ho-seong Kim at shortstop and emerging second baseman Hye-sung Kim at second base. Perhaps Russell shifts to third when he debuts with the Heroes but how the franchise fans accept him could determine his fate in the KBO.
Returning to game action, it’s time to check out the league leaders starting with the hitters. Here’s the updated top five across six categories in the KBO after seven weeks:
With the crowd catching up to Roberto Ramos in home runs after he missed games with back and ankle injuries, he now shares the top spot with a surging Mel Rojas Jr. but my pick for the power champion currently sits in fifth place and will be highlighted later. Thanks to Sports Info Solutions, more underlying data emerged with their list of hard hit data in this tweet:
KBO Fans - Updated Hard-Hit Rate Leaderboard— Sports Info Solutions (@SportsInfo_SIS) June 22, 2020
1. Mel Rojas Jr.
2. Dae-ho Lee
3. Dong-won Park
4. Jin-sung Kang
5. Roberto Ramos
Top 15 in the image pic.twitter.com/pIfoDKLzbO
Noting Rojas Jr. leads this list does not come as a surprise since he ranks tied for first in home runs (13), first in total bases (116), second in RBI (38), third in slugging percentage (.703) and third in on-base plus slugging percentage (1.124). Taking this a step further thanks to KBreport.com, here’s the top 10 in weighted on-base (wOBA) percentage:
Jin-sung Kang, NC Dinos .494
Roberto Ramos, LG Twins .469
Mel Rojas Jr., KT Wiz .461
Jung-hoo Lee, Kiwoom .459
Baek-ho Kang, KT Wiz .458
Hee-dong Kwon, NC Dinos .451
Preston Tucker , Kia .449
Sung-bum Na, NC Dinos .425
Ho-ryung Kim, Kia .425
Amidst a deep NC Dinos lineup, Hee-dong Kwon gets lost in the shuffle but over his last 10 games hitting .345 (10-for-29) with eight runs, two doubles, two home runs, six RBI and seven walks fueling a 1.134 on-base plus slugging percentage. For the season, Kwon’s slashing .351/.466/.567 and could be a sneaky play in DFS contests in the days ahead at a reduced price.
Transitioning to the pitchers, once again a Dino will appear atop the league leaders captured in this image:
Keeping with this week’s theme of mining underlying data, Sports Info Solutions also published the pitchers yielding the least amount of hard hits so far in the KBO:
Updated for KBO— Sports Info Solutions (@SportsInfo_SIS) June 22, 2020
Lowest Rate of Hard-Hit Balls Allowed
1. Aaron Brooks
2. Ki-young Im
3. Odrisamer Despaigne
Top 10 in the image pic.twitter.com/al28bCyIr2
Going one step further, on the KBreport site, they include a kFIP statistic which could be a predictor of future performance. Many names will not represent a surprise on the top-10 of qualified starters but there’s a couple of intriguing ones as well:
Chang-mo Koo, NC Dinos 2.03
Dan Straily , Lotte 2.40
Drew Gagnon, Kia 2.40
Aaron Brooks , Kia 2.83
Ki-young Im, Kia 2.97
Eric Jokisch , Kiwoom 3.17
Seung-won Moon, SK 3.28
Drew Rucinski , NC Dinos 3.42
Chris Flexen , Doosan 3.56
Jong-hoon Park, SK 3.72
In a short series, Kia’s three pitchers on the list could make them a tough out. Dan Straily moved into first in strikeouts in the KBO with one more than Koo and continues to build on his recent momentum tweaking his arsenal with Codify, Inc. (@CodifyBaseball). Check out his arsenal from his last outing in which Straily fanned 12 Kiwoom hitters:
Dan Straily, Fastball & Slider, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/HwWO4y27gz— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 18, 2020
Before delving into three players worth highlighting heading into Week 8 in the KBO, some history from one of the league’s top hitters occurred in Week 7:
Jeong Choi, described as the Miguel Cabrera of the KBO by Cincinnati beat writer C. Trent Rosencrans, has turned his season around after a slow start in May (.205 average, two home runs in 23 games). In June, Choi’s launched five home runs in 17 games with a .322 average for the struggling Wyverns and now sits nine home runs away from tying the league in second all-time.
Jung-hoo Lee, Kiwoom
Part of the reason for Kiwoom’s recent five-game winning streak, the steady presence of Jung-hoo Lee in the lineup. Through 42 games, Lee owns a robust .381/.453/.638 slash line with 18 doubles, a triple and career high seven home runs driving in 30 so far along with stealing three bases. Prior to this season, Lee’s best slugging percentage of .477 resides well below his number above. Lee not only added weight to his frame in the off-season, he worked with his team’s analytical department to increase his swing speed to produce more power. In his age-21 season, Lee’s work seems to be paying off, look at this fluid swing:
MyKBO's Favorite Home Run Bat-Flips from June 20th's games; leading off with a nice one by Lee Jung-hoo pic.twitter.com/i1JvWeAJhH— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) June 20, 2020
Lee ranks fourth in the KBO among qualified hitters with a 1.091 on-base plus slugging percentage. His manager credits Lee possessing tremendous hand-eye coordination along with patience and poise as attributes of his success:
Act Like You've Been There Before: Lee Jung-hoo calmly celebrates his first career walk-off hit by simply walking back to the dugout (where were his teammates w/ the water bottles?) https://t.co/yOQEqdwVya— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) June 17, 2020
With ice in his veins, he’s walked 19 times against 13 strikeouts so far in 2020 reinforcing his strong discipline at the dish. As for his power, Lee recorded 14 career home runs in 393 KBO contests entering this year averaging a home run every 113 at-bats. However, Lee’s averaging one every 23 at-bats this season on pace for 23 supporting his power breakout. Pretty, pretty good.
Baek-ho Kang, KT Wiz
Lead prospect scout Kiley McDaniel felt Baek-ho Kang would be a first round pick in this year’s MLB draft, if eligible, putting the 20 year old slugger on the list to watch this year in the KBO for good reason. Kang’s not disappointed and ranks fifth in home runs with 10 despite missing time with a wrist injury. In only 26 games, Kang’s recorded 18 extra-base hits (seven doubles, one triple, 10 home runs) of his 35 hits with a .350/.414/.740 slash line. He attacks pitches and his swing should bring joy to those missing baseball:
honestly at this point I truly do not care how bad the Wiz bullpen is. as long as Kang Baek-ho is on the squad, I am all in. LOOK AT THIS SWING OMG pic.twitter.com/7sFm38VMQy— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) June 17, 2020
Over his last 10 contests, Kang’s 16-for-39 with five home runs and 10 RBI while stealing two bases. He launched two home runs on Sunday and carries a .410 average in this sample with a 1.260 on-base plus slugging percentage. While most of the focus in DFS in the KBO lies in the import hitters or the hot Dinos hitter of the week, Kang’s worth the price due to the bang one gets for the buck.
Starting Pitcher Spotlight
Chang-mo Koo, NC Dinos
Taking last week off from highlighting the Dinos staff ace, it’s time to return focus on him. Koo leads the KBO in both ratio statistics (0.82 ERA and 0.65 WHIP) while ranking second in strikeouts (61) trailing Dan Straily by one. Noting the league wide average ERA (4.81) above and the import average of (3.83), it makes Koo’s numbers even more impressive in a hitter friendly environment. For an illustration, first here’s his mechanics in slow motion courtesy of Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja):
Koo Chang-mo, Mechanics (slow) pic.twitter.com/hAQ9XrJs7V— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 19, 2020
With a slight leg kick akin to Clayton Kershaw , it remains to be seen if Koo can gain a little extra velocity to make a future transition to the majors, but his control can be seen in his starts:
Koo Chang-mo, Painted 91mph Fastball...and Sword. ?????? pic.twitter.com/ksmEXYQI8g— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 19, 2020
He’s only tossed one wild pitch this year while leading the KBO in strikeouts minus walks percentage (25.1) while yielding a .187 batting average on balls in play this season. Koo’s 90.4 strand percentage implies some good fortune but even if his numbers migrate towards his 2.48 FIP or 2.03 kFIP, he’s an elite pitcher in the KBO.
At the onset of Week 8, here’s the first match-ups before ESPN covers the weekend battle between Doosan and NC:
Hanwha Eagles at Samsung Lions
Kia Tigers at Lotte Giants
NC Dinos at KT Wiz
Doosan Bears at SK Wyverns
Kiwoom Heroes at LG Twins
If still on the fence to watch some of the KBO action in the United States, the games provide fun with bat flips, hat tips on hit-by-pitches and even the umpires show exuberance:
The World's Happiest Umpire.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 21, 2020
Give him all the Backward Ks. pic.twitter.com/MBJi9a4aUM
Purists may not enjoy the flare, but those who enjoy emotion in the game may decide to give the KBO a chance going forward. Get some coffee and stay with Fantasy Alarm to remain ahead of the competition.