The KBO returns on Tuesday after its weekly Monday breather. Five new matchups are set to take place across Korea, as Kia, LG, Samsung, Kiwoom, and NC look to reap the benefits of playing at home.
As I discussed for the last 15 minutes or so on today’s edition of The Bettor’s Box, we’re still seeing very sharp home and road splits for these teams. Park factors play a really big role in this league and remain a big consideration for both side and total betting.
Be sure to listen to that edition of the podcast, as I also talked a lot of MLB stuff at the top of the show. I’ll still be mixing the KBO in until (if) the MLB season gets underway July 23.
Bullpen Report is here. I didn’t update it because there were no Monday games, but I will update it following Tuesday’s action.
Odds from BetOnline Sportsbook. Shop around for the best prices. Still no official plays from me and there probably won’t be any more, but I’m giving you my thoughts on the games to help you decide what you want to do. I’ll do that for another week or two before I shift my focus to the North American leagues that will be getting underway soon, including MLB.
Here are the write-ups for the games on June 30:
Hanwha Eagles (+190) at Kia Tigers (-240); Total: 9
Jang Shi-hwan and Im Ki-young will get us started, as nine domestic pitchers are on the hill for Tuesday. Kia is a big home favorite, which should come as no surprise, given that they have scored 6.3 runs per game at home this season. Hanwha has actually scored over four runs per game on the road, which is pretty good given that they have scored exactly three runs per game at home.
My first inclination is that this total is too low. Certainly I’m a big fan of what Im Ki-young has done this season for Kia. He hasn’t allowed more than four earned runs in a start and that happened in his first outing of the year. It is entirely possible that he has turned the corner and is having a breakout season at age 27 because he missed 2015-16 and also missed most of 2019.
It could also be that he’s just pitching over his head. Thirteen of his 43 hits have gone for extra bases. Im’s 8.1 K/9 would be the highest of his career as at least a part-time starter by a large margin. His 1.45 BB/9 would be second to his 2017, which was his best season with a 3.65 ERA and a 4.05 FIP in 118.1 innings. His 18.2% K%-BB% would be 7.1% higher than his next best season.
He’s been great. And maybe he can sustain it. And maybe Hanwha isn’t the team to deliver that potential regression shot. I don’t really know, but I do know that he’s probably something of a fade guy moving forward. He has certainly benefitted from that low walk rate with only seven free passes in 43.1 innings. He’s also only allowed two home runs. I just don’t think he can keep being this good.
Jang Shi-hwan is something. He has 46 strikeouts in 37.2 innings, which is excellent. He also has 35 walks in 37.2 innings, which is not excellent. He’s given up 53 hits, including 16 extra-base hits. He struck out nine over five innings last time out on 116 pitches. The last time he faced Kia, he threw 117 pitches over six innings and walked six. He allowed seven runs in his next start.
Jang isn’t all that reliable. The strikeout numbers are nice, but the command profile seems to leave something to be desired. The walk rate is a little bit magnified by the fact that he allowed 14 walks in 14 innings during a three-start stretch in May, but I’m still not a huge believer in the profile.
If nothing else, he’s made eight starts and allowed at least four runs in four of them. That would be a good chunk of the way to the total and he does not work very deep into games.
Kia is a great hitter’s park. Games in Gwangju have averaged 11.6 runs per game. The total here of 9 just doesn’t make sense to me. The Kia bullpen should be better than it is and the Hanwha bullpen has been one of the worst all season long.
KT Wiz (+125) at LG Twins (-155); Total: 10
Rain could threaten this one at Jamsil Stadium between KT and LG. It will be Kim Min-soo for KT and Lee Min-ho for LG. Kim has a 6.41 ERA with a 1.84 WHIP in his 26.2 innings of work. He’s been the victim of a ton of bad BABIP luck, as he has allowed 43 hits in just 26.2 innings. He’s struck out 17 and walked six.
This will be the fifth start for Kim, who also made nine relief appearances. As a starter, he has only allowed eight earned runs on 23 hits in 19.2 innings of work. That is a lot better than what he did as a reliever with 11 earned runs over just seven innings. Some guys just like starting more and maybe Kim is one of those guys. He made 11 starts last year at the KBO level and didn’t fare super well, but he’s been fine as a starter to this point.
Lee Min-ho has been great to watch for LG fans and backers. The 18-year-old has allowed just five earned runs over 28.1 innings as a starter for four games and a reliever for two. Walks have been a bit of an issue, as he has walked four in two of his four starts, but he’s got 21 strikeouts and hasn’t allowed a home run yet. This will be a good test for him against a KT lineup that has a lot of potential, but hasn’t always been able to take advantage.
The Wiz also haven’t been the healthiest of teams, but they are healthy now and have a lineup that can do some damage in the right environment. The thing is that Jamsil Stadium may not be the right environment. KT has scored well over six runs per game at home and just 5.2 runs per game on the road. Interestingly enough, LG home games have averaged 10.4 runs per game. Strangely, Doosan games, in the same stadium, have only averaged 9.75 runs per game. Doosan, by all accounts, has the better offense overall, but LG has hit a lot better at home than the Bears have. LG has also allowed 5.3 runs per game at home.
The KT bullpen is rested and that is important because of their reliance on just a handful of relief arms. The LG bullpen has been in freefall mode for a while. I do think Lee is better than Kim in this spot, but Kim has been pretty good as a starter, all things considered. The LG offense has been in the tank with so many injuries. Maybe the under is the look here, but those late innings could be really scary.
SK Wyverns (+110) at Samsung Lions (-140); Total: 9.5
The oddsmakers know better than I do, but it feels like somebody is a little asleep at the switch on this game. Maybe I’m wrong, but Park Jong-hoon is in a big funk. He went three innings against Doosan last time out and didn’t strike anybody out. He also allowed nine runs on nine hits in his worst start of the season. He has now allowed 18 runs on 21 hits over his last three starts.
Park had been in a nice groove for a few seasons and maybe this is just a blip on the radar, but he has had some issues of late. Maybe we have one of those underlying injury situations, but getting knocked around in three straight starts in the pitcher’s haven that is Incheon is worrisome. Now he goes to a much worse park for pitching in Daegu.
In Park’s defense, he has only allowed five home runs and only 10 extra-base hits overall. He also has a strikeout per inning. Maybe it is just something mechanical that can get fixed. Maybe it’s something more. Maybe it was just facing Doosan and KT. Maybe Samsung won’t take advantage of his recent struggles.
I still think Choi Chae-heung will pitch well. SK is really bad offensively. It gets obscured because of how futile Hanwha has been, but SK is last in batting average in the KBO. Only Hanwha has a lower OBP and only Hanwha has a lower SLG. The next closest team in OBP is Samsung, who is 14 points ahead and then Lotte in SLG, who is 30 points ahead.
SK is really bad and they don’t hit for any power. Only 26% of their hits have gone for extra bases. Again, only Hanwha is worse. There are no redeeming qualities for this SK offense. The park factor plays a role, but SK has still only scored 3.85 runs per game away from home. They’re just not a good offense any way you slice it. They are also 4-16 on the road because they can’t score enough to win. They’ve allowed 6.05 runs per game on the road, so they’ve been outscored by 2.2 runs per game.
That 4-16 record isn’t a fluke. They’re just a bad baseball team. There is no margin for error for guys like Park Jong-hoon or Moon Seung-won. It just doesn’t exist. I don’t think a whole lot exists today either, but we’ll see how the game plays out.
Doosan Bears (-105) at Kiwoom Heroes (-125); Total: 10.5
Kiwoom moved into a favorite role while I was writing up today’s article for Game 1 of a big three-game series against Doosan. Both teams come in playing very well and this one could be a tone-setter for the week. I’m all about fading Yu Hui-kwan here. Yu has walked more batters than he has struck out with 17 free passes and 16 strikeouts over his 46.1 innings of work.
He has allowed 62 hits, 20 of which have gone for extra bases. Yet he only has a 4.66 ERA and a 1.71 WHIP. I don’t get it. I don’t know how he’s been able to survive. He started showing major signs of regression at Hanwha on June 13, but it rained and the game was suspended. He finally ejected last week at SK with six runs allowed on 11 hits.
Kiwoom scores less per game at home than on the road, but this is a bad matchup for Yu. This is a really good, really patient, really talented Kiwoom offense. The Heroes will strike out a fair amount, but Yu has only struck out more than two batters in a start once. He’s a regression candidate through and through. I have no earthly idea how this dude doesn’t have a 6 ERA.
Lee Seung-ho deserves a ton of credit. His last four starts have been against Tyler Wilson, Koo Chang-mo, Dan Straily, and Wilson again. Since allowing eight runs on seven hits with three home runs to KT on May 31, Lee has allowed just five earned runs and no homers over those four outings. The 21-year-old is growing up on the fly and he has provided a huge lift for his Kiwoom team.
This is a hard assignment against a road Doosan team scoring well over seven runs per game. This could be a fall back to normal for Lee, but he may also just be hitting that breakout that I’ve seen in the numbers from a lot of 21-23-year-olds in this league. I still think this one is tricky against a Doosan lineup that puts up a lot of crooked numbers, but I still give him a better chance than I give Yu Hui-kwan.
The saving grace for Yu is that Doosan’s bullpen has been quite spectacular over the last month and a half or so. Kiwoom’s bullpen has also been very good. In other words, maybe runs are scored early, but the teams shut it down late.
I’d be surprised if Yu gets through this start unscathed. I really would. His numbers are indicative of a lot of negative regression. KBO Fancy Stats only has him down for a 5.47 FIP to go with his 4.66 ERA, but this Kiwoom lineup is even more dangerous if you can’t strike anybody out and he can’t.
Lotte Giants (+200) at NC Dinos (-260); Total: 10.5
Kim Dae-woo gets the spot start for Lotte here. The 35-year-old right-hander worked 3.1 innings in 2018, but had not pitched in the KBO since 2010 prior to that. This will be his fourth career start. This season, he’s worked 15.2 innings with a 4.60 ERA. He’s struck out 11 and walked 10.
There really isn’t much more to say other than that. He hasn’t allowed a run in seven straight appearances, so he’s been pretty reliable for Lotte. He’s maxed out at 30 pitches, so don’t expect him to work very deep into this one. The Lotte bullpen could very well be the best one in the KBO and is rested coming out of Monday’s off day.
If the Giants can hit Mike Wright, I’d give them a chance here. Wright has a 3.60 ERA with a 1.34 WHIP. He’s struck out 41 and walked 23 in 50 innings of work. Five of his 44 hits have left the ballpark. He had a really terrible start at Kia and I had concerns going into his last start against KT, but he allowed one run on five hits in five innings.
One big issue for Wright is that he hasn’t recorded an out in the seventh inning yet. He runs up a lot of pitches with some walk issues and a lot of long at bats. The byproduct is that a terrible NC bullpen gets called into action to get anywhere from 9 to 12 outs. That could be what gives Lotte a chance in this game.
In other words, I would find it challenging to lay the big NC price here. Kim Dae-woo will do whatever he does and be out by the second inning. It will be a bullpen game from that point forward, so the NC hitters will keep seeing different arms. Will that be enough to slow down the league’s most potent offense? It could be.