Early takeaways from one week of KBO

By Mike Fink
May. 12, 2020

I started watching the Korean Baseball Organization one week ago. I haven't watched many games (or many innings for that matter) but what I have seen has been a relief and bright spot in what has been rather uneventful times. With sports across the globe cancelled and other leagues only starting the reopen their facilities recently, Korean Baseball is at center stage (and may be for a while). Here are a few things I picked up about the game in the little that I have watched.

The first thing that is instantly noticed is that the KBO is a contact league. I feel like I am watching dead-ball era baseball, with lots of singles and doubles and not many home runs. I almost forgot after watching the MLB that hit-and-run was still effective or stealing bases with two outs can be strategic or bunting even at all is still part of the game. I'm not sure small ball is statistically a better way to build a team, but with the MLB fully invested in the longball it is a nice contrast.

The homer is rarer for a few reasons. Many will point to the hitters not being as powerful or the launch angles created by the swings that are resulting in line drive hits and not homeruns. However, not many are accounting for the lack of velocity that is coming from the pitchers. MLB pitchers generally throw above 95 MPH while few Korean pitchers ever reach that speed, with the ball not coming to the batters fast, the exit velocity will be down (hence the home runs will also be down). MLB pitchers might want to consider the low speed in the near future with home runs at an all-time high.

The foreign players fit into two categories. Either they are past their prime (and it shows) or they are missing a step (or two). The MLB showcases the best baseball players in the world, only a select few can make it to the biggest stage. When watching these players in the KBO, we see how close yet how far they are from playing in the MLB. The young players in KBO also show us how far they are from making it to the MLB (if they ever will). It takes a lot of work to make it to the big leagues, the KBO is a reminder of how far one has to go.

I don't know how often I will write about the KBO and how often I will watch the KBO. At the same time, there isn't much to watch in the sports world as we speak. I have already picked a team in the KBO (let's go LG Twins!) and hope that they will play on ESPN more often (especially at a time that I will be able to watch).