Tonight’s KBO slate is highlighted by a trio of American starting pitchers and a matchup between the two most powerful offenses in the league. Here is a chart showing how all the pitchers on the slate have fared in the KBO since the start of the 2018 season (including this year’s stats):
Note: DK Salary defines the pitcher’s salary on DraftKings‘ daily fantasy site
Hanwha Eagles @ KT Wiz
To this point, the Hanwha Eagles have hit just five home runs (HRs), and even with an 11-spot last night, are averaging just 3.77 runs per game (R/G). Other than the injury to their ace Chad Bell (HAN), the Eagles are also dealing with some injuries in the infield: Ha Ja-suk (HAN) and utility man Sun-jin Oh (HAN). Opposing starter Je Seong Bae (KTW) has allowed just a 0.4 HR/9 rate over the course of his last 149 innings despite the fact he rarely misses bats. Bae is a sinker-baller in the truest sense and should be able to limit the power output of the Eagles.
The same cannot be said for Min Jae Jang (HAN) who catches a red-hot Wiz team that has scored nine-plus runs in four straight games. Unlike Bae, Jang has been susceptible to the long ball (1.0 HR/9 rate over his last 27 starts), and Jang has posted a 5.04 ERA during that span. Considering this offense features such names as Baek-ho Kang (KTW), Mel Rojas jr. (KTW) and Jae Gyun Hwang (KTW), there is no shortage of power on this team. On paper, this is a completely lopsided matchup, so it is worth simply riding the favorite. Hanwha is overmatched.
KT Wiz ML -182, 2U
LG Twins @ Samsung Lions
Speaking of lopsided, any matchup versus the Samsung Lions, who have started the season at just 4-8 (.333-win percentage), feels that way as well. Only four teams have averaged fewer R/G than the Lions and, despite Tyler Saladino (SAM) returning to the lineup, the team lost their fourth straight game last night. The LG Twins will start ex-Baltimore Orioles pitcher Tyler Wilson (LOT) who is coming off a 14-win, 137 K, 3.25 FIP season in what was his second year in the KBO. Wilson has been a dominant pitcher in this league in back-to-back years but his seasonal numbers look ugly so far because he was blasted in the opener (seven runs in 4.1 IP versus the NC Dinos). He bounced back last game and is well-positioned for a quality start against a mediocre offense averaging the third fewest homers per game and has struck out at the third highest rate.
Meanwhile, Samsung starter Chae Heung Choi (SAM) has begun the year by striking out 12 batters in his first 11 innings. Choi is a 25-year old southpaw matched up against a Twins team whose top two hitters both hit from the left side of the plate: Hyun Soo Kim (LG) and Roberto Ramos (LG). Dating back to 2018, Choi has been the definition of average, posting a 4.39 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 19.6-percent K rate, 7.93-percent BB rate, 0.9 HR/9 rate and 3.90 FIP. An average lefty has a better shot than an average right-hander versus this very offense but that is not enough to warrant taking a stand on the Samsung moneyline. Instead, the proper play is to simply take the under in a game with a talented pitcher facing a bad offense and a lefty facing the Twins.
LG Twins/Samsung Lions Under 8.5, 1U
Lotte Giants @ Kia Tigers
After facing one of the worst starting pitchers (SPs) in the league last night, the Tigers find themselves matched up against Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde tonight: Dan Straily (LOT). In just three KBO starts, Straily has shown the same inconsistent stuff that ended up sending him packing away from the MLB. Straily completely shut down the Wyverns in his second start but grinded his way through a start against the Wiz and was hit hard by a poor Eagles offense in his last start. It is tough to guess which Straily will show up this time out but, due to the Wyverns start, his numbers all look excellent on the surface. However, it needs to be noted, he is on just four days rest, which is quite different than his MLB schedule. Other than Preston Tucker (KIA) and Hyung Woo Choi (KIA), the Tigers offense is not exactly loaded with talent, so there are a wide variety of potential outcomes for Straily in this spot.
On the other side of this game, Drew Gagnon (KIA) is scheduled to start, and his 2.62 FIP this year does not coincide with his 6.10 ERA. Essentially, Gagnon has pitched much better than his 0-2 record suggests, and the field may not see this as clearly as they should. Gagnon’s 2.62 FIP in the KBO, albeit in a tiny sample, is the best of any starting pitcher on the slate (and so is his 30.4-percent K rate). Gagnon has dealt with some extremely bad luck through his first two starts but it should be noted the Lotte Giants have only struck out at the third lowest rate in the league. If Gagnon is unable to miss bats, more bad luck is well within the range of outcomes. Of all the games on the slate, this is the toughest to handicap, and it comes down to which pitcher you trust. Personally, I have seen enough Straily in the MLB to know not trusting him is the safest strategy.
Kia Tigers ML +108, 1U
NC Dinos @ Doosan Bears
Welcome to the battle of the Titans with arguably the two top teams in the KBO squaring off for the second game of their series. The first game was a nail-biter and tonight is expected to be no different with best pitcher in the KBO candidate Chang Mo Koo (NCD) set to battle Chris Flexen (DOO). Through two KBO starts, Flexen’s 3.75 ERA and other surface numbers do not resemble those of a dominant pitcher, but his underlying numbers (3.03 FIP, 24.5-percent K rate) tell a different story. Koo is a 23-year old who appears to be entering his prime and it’s not like his schedule has been a cake walk. In his last start, Koo struck out 10 members of the KT Wiz and held them to zero runs in eight innings. The Doosan Bears may be on a different level than every other offense in the league so something has got to give here. Flexen has honed his control in the KBO, walking just two batters in his first 12 innings. However, the Dinos are one of the most patient teams in the league, which could be the most important aspect to this whole matchup. While the detail seems minor, it is the only obvious differentiator between two of the top teams in the league.
NC Dinos ML -103, 1U
SK Wyverns @ Kiwoom Heroes
For those who have watched the KBO thus far, one of the most unique players in the entire league is SK Wyverns starting pitcher Jong Hoon Park (SK). While he is not a gigantic strikeout threat, he is extremely tough on right-handed hitters (RHHs) due to the fact that he is a submarine style starting pitcher. Seriously, Park has the motion similar to the likes of Chad Bradford or current MLB reliever Darren O’Day (ATL), except he is a starting pitcher. Expect Park to prove to be a tough matchup for the likes of Ha Seong Kim (KIW), arguably the top MLB prospect in the MLB, and Byung-Hoo Park (KIW). The lineup still possesses a few lefties towards the top, like Jung Ho Lee (KIW) and Keon Chang Seo (KIW), so it is not like the team is dead in the water. The Heroes tied for the best record in the KBO in 2019 but the loss of Jerry Sands (KIW) was a massive hit to the offense and it had shown in the early-going. After an 11-run output last night, the Heroes are back to averaging a respectable 5.15 R/G this season.
Kiwoom’s starter, Seung Ho Lee (KIW), has made 29 starts since the beginning of the 2018 season and has yielded a 4.59 FIP during that span (second worst of any pitcher on the slate during that span). The Wyverns offense has been nothing short of a disaster (3.33 R/G)…at least until yesterday when they smoked talented Won-tae Choi (KIW). Although the Vegas line does not seem to give the Wyverns much credit, this is a lop-sided pitching matchup, and the Wyverns are primed to put up a solid fight.
SK +1.5 Runs -124, 1U