Tonight’s KBO slate features multiple games with 8.5 over/unders, two games at 9.5 and one expected offensive bonanza (10.5 over/under in that one). This chart shows how the pitchers on the slate have fared in the KBO since the start of the 2018 season (including their 2020 stats):
Hanwha Eagles @ NC Dinos
Well, hello, Hanwha Eagles offense, welcome to the 2020 season! Last night, the Eagles absolutely demolished starter Hyeong-jun So (KTW) to the tune of 10 baserunners and eight earned runs (ERs) through just 5.1 innings. The Eagles are suffering through a plethora of innings, beginning with Jared Hoying (HAN), who has launched 48 homers in the last two seasons in the KBO, so this offensive boom could easily be a flash in the pan. The problem with that theory is NC Dinos starter Young Gyu Kim (NCD) has been extremely susceptible to the long ball, having allowed 10 home runs (HRs) in just 77.1 career innings. Fortunately for Kim, the Eagles have hit just seven HRs in 15 games, or a league-worst 0.6 per game. To begin the year, Kim has pitched well, falling victim to HR ball while maintaining a solid 21.4-percent K rate and 1.09 WHIP. Since the Eagles are devoid of power, this matchup sets up well for the 20-year old Dinos starting pitcher.
Meanwhile, the Dinos will square off against ex-Detroit Tiger Warwick Saupold (HAN) who, shall we say, is not a huge strikeout threat. In fact, in 214.1 innings of sample size at the KBO level, Saupold has struck out just 16.3-percent of the hitters he has faced. To this point, the main weakness of the Dinos lineup has been their tendency to whiff, as they rank second in the league in K percentage (19.3-percent). If not missing their bat, Saupold would then be relying on contact off the bat from the likes of Aaron Altherr (NCD), Eu Ji Yang (NCD), Sung Bum Na (NCD) and Min Woo Park (NCD) to create outs. Good luck with that. With Saupold on the mound, the Dinos moneyline is actually coming at a discount, making this a clear spot to attack.
NC Dinos ML -132, 2U
Kia Tigers @ SK Wyverns
After scoring six runs last night, the Kia Tigers continue to fly under the radar as a solid offense in this league, and they are headlined by ex-MLBer Preston Tucker (KIA). Probable starter for the SK Wyverns, Joo Han Kim (SK), has appeared in 123 games since he came into the KBO in 2016 and has only started four of those games. In other words, this is destined to be a bullpen game from Wyverns, with a juicy matchup early on for Tucker, Hyung Woo Choi (KIA) and the rest of the gang. Kim is inarguably the worst pitcher on this slate as he has nearly walked as many hitters (14.3-percent BB rate) as he has struck out (15.3-percent K rate) since the start of the 2018 season and his career K:BB ratio is under 2:1. Kia is in a great spot offensively.
Despite owning the worst record in the league, the SK Wyverns have scored 19 runs over the course of their last three games. However, they are questionable to keep the momentum going versus southpaw Hyun Jong Yang (KIA) who has strung together back-to-back quality starts. Amongst pitchers on the slate with a decent (over 20 inning) sample size in the KBO the last two years plus, Yang owns the lowest FIP of the bunch, edging out names like Casey Kelly and Warwick Saupold. Even with their recent offensive surge, the Wyverns rank last in the league in R/G and Dong Min Han (SK), who leads their team in fantasy points this year, is left-handed. Hell, so are Chang Pyung Kim (SK), Jun Hyeok Oh (SK) and Jin Gi Jeong (SK), aka three other players in the lineup who rank in the top five of fantasy points per game scored to this point. A tough lefty is an extremely bad matchup for the Wyverns and bettors should act accordingly. This matchup does not even look close on paper. Instead of taking the money line, hunt for the better payout odds and give 1.5-runs with Kia.
Kia Tigers -1.5 -112, 1U
KT Wiz @ LG Twins
LG is not only the manufacturer of some solid electronics but they have also manufactured enough wins to currently sit in second place in the KBO standings. Okay, that was a lame segue, but do you know who is not lame? Casey Kelly (LG). In his last outing, he proved the start against a potent Dinos offense was nothing but a blip on the radar, as he rebounded for six shutout innings versus the Heroes. Amongst pitchers on the slate with at least 70 KBO innings since the start of 2018, Kelly owns the second lowest FIP of the bunch and the absolute lowest WHIP. Hitters like Baek Ho Kang (KTW) and Min Hyoek Kim (KTW) own the platoon advantage versus Kelly and the Wiz own the lowest K rate in the league. Something has got to give in a matchup between a solid pitcher and an offense averaging 9.7 R/G over the course of their last six games.
Hyun Soo Kim (LG) and Roberto Ramos (LG) are the first two names that come to mind when mentioning the LG Twins lineup but they will certainly be tested tonight. Odrisamer Despaigne (KTW) was the definition of mediocrity at the MLB level but his crazy pitch mix (cutters, multiple breaking balls) has translated nicely to the KBO level. Thus far, Despaigne has struck out 26.5-percent of the hitters he has faced, only walked two hitters and allowed exactly zero HRs. From the get-go FanGraphs projected Despaigne would be amongst the league leaders in K rate and he has not disappointed. Unfortunately for him, the Twins have been a team that puts the ball in play, striking out at just ta 17.9-percent rate through their first 13-games. Realistically, Despaigne’s 1.61 FIP is not sustainable, but teams should have a tough time with him the first time they see him because his style is so different from most of the league. Whereas domestic pitchers are taught to rely on contact and throw sinkers/forkballs, the multiple breaking balls and cutters should continue to confuse hitters. Both pitchers in this game are excellent but Despaigne’s K stuff is the differentiator.
KT Wiz ML -102, 1U
Doosan Bears @ Samsung Lions
After getting hit with a line drive on his pitching hand his last time out, which led to an early exit (after just one inning), Ben Lively (SAM) is still expected to make his start versus the Doosan Bears tonight. In 70.0 career KBO innings, Lively has struck out a respectable 23.2-percent of opposing hitters but Doosan is one of two teams that rarely ever strikes out. To this point, the Bears’ K rate is hovering around 15.0-percent, which by comparison is lower than any MLB team posted in either split (LHP, RHP) last season. Pitching to contact has not been as kind to lively who has yielded a 0.90 HR/9 rate and has struggled to retire LHHs dating back to his days in the MLB (.394 wOBA allowed to LHHs in 58.1 MLB innings). Jose Miguel Fernandez (DOO), Jae Hwan Kim (DOO), Jae Il Oh (DOO) and Joo Hwan Choi (DOO) are all left-handed and should cause fits for Lively.
Yong Chan Lee (DOO), who has allowed 14 earned runs (ERs) in 10 innings this year, is hoping to bounce-back against one of the bottom tier offenses in the KBO. Heading into tonight, the Samsung Lions have scored over two runs just once in their past four games, and only two teams have averaged fewer runs per game (R/G) this season. Lee is certainly not as bad as he has shown to this point considering he is one of the few pitchers who has registered 100-plus Ks in back-to-back years. Either Lee is broken, and there is potentially an injury going on behind the scenes, or he is due to rebound in a big way in the near future. If there ever were a spot for rebound start, it would be against a team who ranks in the bottom half of virtually every major offensive category. Betting on Lee is tough to swallow if looking at past sample but there should be clearer skies ahead.
Doosan Bears ML -146, 1U
Kiwoom Heroes @ Lotte Giants
Huge news trickled in this morning from the Kiwoom Heroes as Ha Seong Kim (KIW) is expected to miss the entire weekend. For those who are new to KBO, Kim is the consensus top MLB prospect in the entire league, so his absence is a gigantic blow to an already struggling offense (especially comparatively to last year). Opposing pitcher Kyung Eun Noh (LOT) missed the entire 2019 season and the 2018 season was the best of the career. The problem with that analysis is Noh was 34-years old in 2018 and is now coming off injury at age-36. In other words, focusing on his best one-year sample in a career that features a 5.15 ERA and 1.53 WHIP overall is a dangerous proposition. Could Noh have improved late in his career? Sure, but his small 2020 sample has already been closer to his career numbers than his 2018 ones. Not having to face Kim is a nice perk but No is still amongst the most power-prone pitchers on the slate. Byung-Ho Park (KIW) is a scary individual matchup for him.
On the Lotte side, they will take on a solid opposing pitcher in Jake Brigham (KIW) who owns a 3.49 FIP over the course of his last 61 starts in the KBO. Brigham is one of four pitchers on the slate with a 20-plus percent K rate since the start of 2018 and the Giants offense has slowed down quite a bit since their first week surge. In the series they just completed versus the Kia Tigers, the Giants scored a combined three runs, and the task does not get any easier tonight. The team will remain without an injured Hoon Jung (LOT), who was off to a blazing start (.444/.533/.978 slash line in eight games), and they now rank at just about the league average in R/G. Essentially, there is not a lot to get excited about in this game from an offensive perspective, so go ahead and pound the under.
Kiwoom Heroes/Lotte Giants Under -118, 1U