All five series will wrap up on Thursday as Samsung looks for a three-game sweep of SK and Kia attempts to complete an abbreviated sweep of Hanwha. The three other series feature rubber matches that should be hotly-contested.
There are three foreign starters on the hill, with Casey Kelly, Warwick Saupold, and Dan Straily all set to go. I’m also ready to go with some thoughts on the July 2 card.
As a quick heads up, my July 2 edition of The Bettor’s Box will preview the weekend in the KBO, but will mostly focus on the five AL East teams during the Five-and-Fly segment. Five minutes on each of the five teams. I’ll do a division per show until we’re ready to go on July 23.
Odds from BetOnline Sportsbook, but shop around for the best prices as always.
Here are the KBO write-ups for Thursday July 2:
KT Wiz (+147) at LG Twins (-177); Total: 9.5
The Jamsil Stadium factor is big with the total on this one, as KT will send out 22-year-old Jo Byung-wook and LG will counter with foreign hurler Casey Kelly. Jo has allowed five runs on 15 hits in 12.2 innings of work this season at the KBO level. He’s struck out three and walked three. One of his three appearances was a start and he allowed three runs on six hits in 5.1 innings to SK on the road.
Jo allowed eight earned runs on 11 hits in 11.2 innings in the Future League before getting called up. He struck out nine and walked four. Opponents only batted .220 against him, but he allowed a couple of homers and didn’t really get much luck on the LOB% front. He worked 7.1 innings in September last year with two runs allowed on seven hits. He struck out three and walked one.
So, we don’t have a ton to go on with Jo. He had an 8.10 ERA in the Futures League in 16.2 innings of work back in 2018 and then missed nearly all of 2019, so he’s definitely damaged goods following an injury. He worked 5.1 innings in relief last time out, so he is essentially stretched out as a starter, which is good for KT because their bullpen is very thin on depth.
Casey Kelly, like rotation mate Tyler Wilson, just can’t seem to get it going this season. He only has a 1.37 WHIP, but has a 5.12 ERA. He’s already allowed five home runs after allowing just seven in 180.1 innings last season. He’s allowed 55 hits in 51 innings this year and 17 have gone for extra bases. He’s got a 37/15 K/BB ratio.
Kelly is something of a positive regression candidate with a 5.12 ERA but a 4.41 FIP. He also has a 63.1% LOB%, which is 8.4% lower than what he had last season when he posted a 2.55 ERA. Kelly has maybe deserved a bit of a better fate this season, but you make your own breaks and his walk rate, home run rate, and BABIP are all up from last season.
Whether or not KT can take advantage is anybody’s guess. Their inconsistent offense exploded for 11 runs on Wednesday, so they are plenty capable of scoring runs at Jamsil Stadium. They’re also plenty capable of getting shut down, as they did on Tuesday with three runs over 11 innings.
If Kelly is good, LG will win. KT doesn’t win a lot of close games and has struggled on the road where their offense has not been nearly as potent. If Kelly isn’t good, KT has a very good chance to win, given the recent struggles of the LG lineup. Injuries have played a big role, but that hasn’t been the only reason.
Of the five games today, I think this one is the toughest of the handicaps because both Kelly and the KT offense have been all over the map.
Lotte Giants (-102) at NC Dinos (-128); Total: 9
I would never say that the wrong team is favored in an NC game, but this line is a little bit too high for my liking. As I mentioned yesterday, Lotte pulled out all the stops to win on Tuesday because Koo Chang-mo was waiting on Wednesday. Koo delivered. So did Lotte, as they sat several key hitters in the 6-2 loss. Most of the key relievers also got a day of rest after the Giants used 11 pitchers on Tuesday.
It was as close to a punt as you can get and I fully supported it. You’re probably not beating Koo Chang-mo and you used a lot of energy to win in extras the day before. Play the long game. The long game here means Dan Straily with a rested lineup and bullpen.
Straily has a stellar 2.43 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP. He’s become something of an internet celebrity in baseball circles with what he’s done in the KBO and his willingness to talk about it. He’s got 65 strikeouts in 63 innings and I’d be shocked if he doesn’t get an MLB look next season. He’s allowed 47 hits, with nine doubles and three home runs. I’ve mentioned this before, but Straily likes to actively work up above the hitting zone and I really don’t think KBO hitters can adjust. Straily’s .272 BABIP against is not a fluke.
He does have a 3.05 FIP to go with his 2.43 ERA, so maybe there are some mild signs of regression there. He is running a 77.7% LOB%, but he’s struck out over a batter per inning and is not giving up a lot of hits, so it is relatively sustainable. The Lotte bullpen has been good all season long with a 4.71 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. They have the same 1.38 WHIP since June 1, but a more appropriate 4.42 ERA.
Lee Jae-hak gets the nod for NC here. He allowed three runs on five hits in 4.2 innings last time out and now has a 5.60 ERA with a 1.47 WHIP. He’s given up 28 runs on 48 hits in 45 innings of work with a 29/18 K/BB ratio. Lee has only allowed three home runs and is actually a positive regression candidate with a 4.57 FIP. His low K rate is an issue, but his 63.3% LOB% has driven up his ERA. Granted, he doesn’t strike many guys out, so he’s likely to have a lower LOB%, but probably not this low. He has not posted a LOB% of 70% or better since 2016, so we expect lower marks, but not this bad.
Lee’s body of work has been rather interesting. He’s faced Hanwha and SK twice, but he’s had a bad start against each. His two best starts, however, have come against those two teams. He’s not great and he generally doesn’t work all that deep into games and that is a problem with the NC bullpen. The Dinos pen has a 7.50 ERA since June 1 and a 6.53 ERA for the season, which is now the worst in the KBO.
I think Lotte set this up pretty well for themselves.
Doosan Bears (-128) at Kiwoom Heroes (-102); Total: 11.5
Doosan destroyed Triple H on Wednesday to even up the series with Kiwoom. Here comes the rubber match between Park Jong-gi and Jo Young-gun. Park has allowed five runs on 11 hits in his 16 innings with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. He made his KBO debut in 2015 and then went four full seasons without a KBO appearance. He has been pretty good, but who knows how sustainable that actually is.
Jo Young-gun has allowed 14 earned runs on 23 hits in 18.1 innings of work. He’s given up four home runs and has 13 walks to go along with just eight strikeouts. The kid has been all over the place to this point. He just gave up six runs on three hits to Kia because he walked four and allowed two home runs.
Against this potent Doosan offense, Jo has his work cut out for him to be sure. He also hasn’t been the least bit efficient. It took him 76 pitches to get 15 outs against Hanwha, but outside of that, he’s thrown at least 61 pitches in each of his last four starts and has only managed to top out at 11 outs. Granted, that might be a big help with Kiwoom’s excellent bullpen. They’d rather use the relievers than Jo.
Kiwoom’s pen has a 3.54 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP since June 1. If Jo doesn’t bury them, they probably have a pretty decent advantage the rest of the game. Doosan’s pen has a solid 4.37 ERA since June 1, but has a 1.54 WHIP, so the Regression Monster seems to be lurking. I think it will be difficult for them to keep that same ERA pace as we go forward. Just as one example, NC’s pen has a 1.57 WHIP since June 1 and a 7.50 ERA.
The bet here really hinges on Park. How much better than Jo and Kiwoom’s early relievers is he going to be? There is a very realistic chance that Kiwoom will have the upper hand in the back half of this game if Jo doesn’t totally implode. Kiwoom’s offense is very good in its own right, hence the 11.5 total here.
Doosan has scored well over seven runs per game on the road, so Jo really does have a tall task. I don’t think Park is that good and I’m not sure he’s as good as this line would indicate. We don’t really have a ton of data to support the idea that he is. Park had a 4.21 ERA last season in the Futures League, working primarily in relief until late in the season.
If you’re awake to live bet this game, Kiwoom after Jo exits the game might be the best play.
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Hanwha Eagles (+130) at Kia Tigers (-160); Total: 9
Warwick Saupold finds himself a rather big underdog here against Lee Min-woo and the Kia Tigers. Saupold has a 3.50 ERA with a 1.37 WHIP, which is pretty similar to what he had last season with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. He’s struck out 41 and walked 11 in his 64.1 innings of work.
Since getting rocked by Lotte back on June 9, Saupold has allowed four earned runs on 22 hits in his last 18.1 innings of work. He’s only walked one and only allowed one homer. He had a hiccup and has now calmed down and settled back in to what we’ve expected him to be. He has had some starts with a lot of hits allowed and that is the concerning part. His command doesn’t seem any worse, but Hanwha’s defense isn’t great. He’s allowed 77 hits in 64.1 innings. He allowed 191 hits in 192.1 innings last season.
Lee Min-woo does not deserve a 5.12 ERA. He has a 1.29 WHIP, which would easily be a career-best for him. He has a 30/15 K/BB ratio in his 45.2 innings of work and has only allowed three home runs. He has a 4.31 FIP to go along with that ERA over 5. He also has one of the lowest LOB% marks in the league at 55.4%. One would think that positive regression in that department would come against a lineup like Hanwha’s. Kia is not a very good defensive team, so that has played a role, but he’s also been on the wrong side of bad luck. He hadn’t allowed a home run this season until he last two starts.
Lee is coming off of a quick injured list stint. He hasn’t pitched since June 17. So, with that in mind, I guess we aren’t quite sure what to expect. He is a guy that should have better fortunes as the season goes along and he’s also done a tremendous job of keeping that walk rate low. For the most part, too, with the exception of his 11-hit outburst at KT on June 11, he’s been able to limit hits against.
Unders at Kia are really scary propositions because Kia has scored over six runs per game at home. Hanwha has been a better offense on the road as well. At least maybe a 1st 5 under here. I truly believe Lee is in line for some positive movement in the ERA department. I am worried coming off the layoff, but he does get a pretty good first matchup anyway.
SK Wyverns (+144) at Samsung Lions (-174); Total: 9
Well, things worked out as expected again for SK. Moon Seung-won wasn’t as sharp as usual, but he got no run support. Samsung goes for the sweep now with Park Jong-hoon and Moon out of the way. It will be Lee Geon-wook, who is one of the biggest regression candidates in the KBO in my opinion.
Lee has a 2.78 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP, which is awesome for him. He’s allowed 10 runs on 21 hits in his 32.1 innings of work. He also has a 22/18 K/BB ratio, which is anything but awesome. I called for regression prior to his last start against LG and all he did was throw six no-hit innings, so maybe I’m just talking out of my ass here.
Here’s what I know. Lee has a 2.78 ERA, but a 4.89 FIP. He has a .213 BABIP against. SK is about an average defensive team, so they are neither good nor bad, but certainly nowhere near good enough to support a .213 BABIP against. Lee is running an 81.2% LOB%.
None of those things look good to me. Not one. They all suggest a bad start coming down the line. These are just not sustainable for any non-elite pitcher in the KBO or any league for that matter.
Won Tae-in goes for Samsung in their quest for a sweep. He’s been able to support my placement of him on my watch list with a 2.96 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP. There are some worries here with the 20-year-old, too. He’s flirted with disaster more than once. He’s had two starts with five walks. He’s given up six homers and 19 extra-base hits total in 54.2 innings. He has a 5.02 FIP to go along with that 2.96 ERA. He’s got a .275 BABIP against and an 84.1% LOB%.
Both of these guys are pretty clear-cut regression candidates and they are pitching in a good hitting environment. This total is too low here in my opinion. The ERAs are good, but the advanced metrics are not good at all and are open to a lot of negative variance.
Make of that what you will, as I’m still not confident enough in my KBO positions with the high variance level of this league to make official picks and track them, but these are two guys that I would expect rough outings from in the near future.