Korean Baseball Cheat Sheet - For Us Desperate for Live Sports

By Samuel Fuller
May. 19, 2020

Before this Coronavirus madness, the extent of my knowledge on the Korean Baseball Organization was Eric Thames joining the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers franchise with a Korean fight song. Also, Milwaukee signed John Lindblom to be a top-to-mid rotation arm for the 2020 campaign that never started. Yep, that's about it.

I'm getting desperate for live sports, and with the weather shifting into the few warm months we get in Wisconsin, it's time for some baseball. Well, all we have for the immediate future is the KBO, so let's break down a foreign league and I'll give you the 4-1-1 on what you need to know:

ESPN's KBO Power Rankings:

1. NC Dinos (10-1)

2. Kiwoom Heroes (7-5)

3. Doosan Bears (7-4)

4. LG Twins (7-4)

5. Lotte Giants (7-4)

6. KT Wiz (4-7)

7. Samsung Lions (4-8)

8. Kia Tigers (5-7)

9. Hanwha Eagles (5-7)

10. SK Wyverns (1-10)

Alright, so there's one dominant team, eight teams in the middle of the pack, and an SK Wyverns team that can't find a win. Who should you cheer for? Let's find out:

NC Dinos (10-1)

Former MLB players: OF Aaron Altherr (Phillies), RSP Mike Wright (Orioles), and RSP Drew Rucinski (LAA/MIN/MIA, Neenah, WI native)

Key Batters: 1B/OF Jin-Sung Kang (.467 Avg, 3 HRs, 9 RBIs, 1.633 OPS), 2B Min-Woo Park (.432 Avg, 9 RBIs, 1.116 OPS), OF Sung-Bum Na (4 HRs, .973 OPS), and 3B Sok-Min Park (.300 Avg, 3 HRs, 1.054 OPS)

Key Pitchers: LSP Chang-mo Koo (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 18 K's), RSP Drew Rucinski (2-0, 17.1 IP, 14 K's), RSP Mike Wright (1-0, 2.45 ERA, 11 K's), and CL Jong-Hyeon Won (1-0, 1.80 ERA, 4 Saves)

Are you an NC Dinos fan?: Min-Woo Park is on pace for a historic leadoff-hitter year, Chang-mo Koo is arguably the best young starter in Korea, and Drew Rucinski's a key starter from Neenah, Wisconsin. Also, they're well ahead of the rest of the league, so bandwagon on! (I'm looking at you, new Kansas City Chiefs fans)

Kiwoom Heroes (7-5)

Former MLB players: 3B Taylor Motter (TBR/SEA), 1B ByungHo Park (Twins), RSP Jake Brigham (Braves), and LSP Eric Jokisch (Cubs)

Key Batters: RF Jung-hoo Lee (.372 Avg, 3 HRs, 10 RBIs, 1.161 OPS) and 2B/DH Geon-Chang Seo (12 Hs, 9 RBIs)

Key Pitchers: LSP Eric Jokisch (2-0, 0.53 ERA, 14 Ks), CL Sang-Woo Cho (0.00 ERA, 4 Saves), RSP Jake Brigham (4.15 ERA, 11 Ks), and RSP Won-tae Choi (2.92 ERA, 10 K's)

Are you a Kiwoom Heroes fan?: Illinois native Eric Jokisch is their best pitcher, they have a 21-year-old phenom in Jung-hoo Lee, and they've played team ball well enough to close out results despite drying up at the plate. Also, they were #1 in ESPN's pre-season KBO Power Rankings, so they're expected to contend for a title this year

Doosan Bears (7-4)

Former MLB players: DH Jose Miguel Fernandez (Angels), RSP Raul Alcantara (A's), and RSP Chris Flexen (Mets)

Key Batters: DH Jose Miguel Fernandez (.453 Avg, 24 Hits, 9 RBIs, 1.170 OPS), 1B Jae-il Oh (.404 Avg, 3 HRs, 13 RBIs, 1.174 OPS), LF Jae-Hwan Kim (.326 Avg, 4 HRs, 14 RBIs, 1.086 OPS), IF Jae-Won Oh (.375 Avg, 1.125 OPS), and 2B Ju-Hwan Choi (.303 Avg, 3 HRs, 1.028 OPS)

Key Pitchers: RSP Raul Alcantara (2-1, 4.00 ERA, 16 K's), RSP Chris Flexen (2-0, 3.75 ERA, 12 IP, 12 K's), and Young-ha Lee (1-0, 2.38 ERA, 7.9 H9 Ratio)

Are you a Doosan Bears fan?: Doosan is SO good at hitting (league-best .337 Avg), yet SO bad at giving up runs (league-worst 6.24 ERA), so games will stay competitive. All of Doosan's statistical leaders are American, plus they won the title last year? Doosan will be a big bandwagon fan destination.

LG Twins (7-4)

Former MLB players: LF Hyun-Soo Kim (Orioles), RSP Tyler Wilson (Orioles), and RSP Casey Kelly (SDP/ATL/SFG)

Key Batters: LF Hyun-Soo Kim (.400 Avg, 9 RBIs, 1.082 OPS), Roberto Ramos (.378 Avg, 4 RHs, 1.261 OPS), and Chun-Woong Lee (.333 Avg, 4 SBs)

Key Pitchers: LSP Woo-Chan Cha (2-1, 16 IP, 19 K's) and RRP Woo Young Jong (1-0, 1.69 ERA, 1 Save)

Are you an LG Twins fan?: Orioles and Twins fans, here's your team! Outside of those clubs, LG's an above-average, team-first ballclub that plays in the biggest stadium in Seoul. Plus, I like my LG smart TV.

Lotte Giants (7-4)

Former MLB players: 1B Dae-ho Lee (Mariners), SS Dixon Machado (Tigers), and RSP Dan Straily (OAK/HOU/CIN/MIA/BAL)

Key Batters: LF Jun-woo Jeon (.320 Avg, 4 HRs, .986 OPS), RF Ah-Seop Son (.405 Avg, 1.051 OPS), SS Dixon Machado (4 HRs, 14 RBIs, .987 OPS), and 1B Dae-ho Lee (.372 Avg)

Key Pitchers: RSP Dan Straily (2.12 ERA, 17 IP, 19 Ks), RRP Won-Joong Kim (1-0, 1.42 ERA), and RRP Seung-Min Koo (1-0, 1.42 ERA)

Are you a Lotte Giants fan?: Major League journeyman Dan Straily is tearing it up, and while they're an average team talent-wise, they've proven they can put wins together by opening the season with five consecutive W's.

KT Wiz (4-7)

Former MLB players: RSP Odrisamer Despaigne (SDP/MIA/CHW), RSP William Cuevas (Red Sox), and 3B Jae-Guyn Hwang (Giants)

Key Batters: 1B Baek-ho Kang (.333, 4 HRs, 11 RBIs, 1.148 OPS), RF Mel Rojas (.426 Avg, 20 Hits, 1.120 OPS), and C Seon-Woo Chang (.324 Avg, 12 RBIs)

Key Pitchers: RSP Odrisamer Despaigne (1-0, 2.65 ERA, 17 IP, 18 Ks), RSP Hyeong Jun So (2-0, 3.18 ERA), and RSP Jae-Sung Bae (1.35 ERA)

Are you a KT Wiz fan?: Other than major league journeyman Odrisamer Despaigne, this team is filled with young studs like 20-year-old slugger Baek-ho Kang and 18-year-old Hyeong Jun So. If you like rising talent, cheer for KT.

Samsung Lions (4-8)

Former MLB players: SS Tyler Saladino (MIL/CHW) RSP Ben Lively (Phillies), and RSP David Buchanon (Phillies)

Key Batters: DH Dong-Yub Kim (.300 Avg, 11 RBIs) and 2B Sang-Soo Kim (.324 Avg)

Key Pitchers: RSP Chae-Heung Choi (2-0, 3.27 ERA, 9.8 K/9), and RSP David Buchanon (1-1, 3.46 ERA, 0.769 WHIP)

Are you a Samsung Lions fan?: Samsung's lost their last three games 33-12, and aside from the notable Brewers, White Sox, and Phillies ties, there's not much for new potential fans to like - the Lions appear to be a below-average ballclub with no stellar individuals.

Kia Tigers (5-7)

Former MLB players: RF Preston Tucker (HOU/ATL/CIN), RSP Aaron Brooks (KCR/OAK/BAL), and RSP Drew Gagnon (Mets)

Key Batters: RF Preston Tucker (.449 Avg, 5 HRs, 20 RBIs, 1.395 OPS)

Key Pitchers: RSP Aaron Brooks (3.00 ERA, 17 K's), and RSP Hyeon-Jong Yang (1-1, 3.46 ERA, 0.769 WHIP)

Are you a Kia Tigers fan?: Kia's reputation as the "Yankees of the KBO" will turn a good amount of potential fans away, but MVP-favorite Preston Tucker will be more than enough to win over some Americans. Other than him, well, the team ain't so good.

Hanwha Eagles (5-7)

Former MLB players: RF Jared Hoying (Rangers) and RSP Warwick Saupold (Tigers)

Key Batters: DH Seon-Jin Oh (.346 Avg) and SS Joo-Suk Ha (.333 Avg)

Key Pitchers: RSP Warwick Saupold (1-1, 1.64 ERA, 22 IP, 0.818 WHIP, 1 Shutout), RSP Min-Woo Kim (1.96 ERA, 18.1 IP, 19 K's, 0.709 WHIP), RSP Yi Hwan Kim (1-0, 1.64 ERA, 7.4 H/9), and CL Woo-Ram Chung (2.08 ERA, 3 Saves),

Are you a Hanwha Eagles fan?: Hanwha's pitching is stellar (league-best 3.31 ERA), but the Eagles have absolutely no power (league-worst 4 Homers). Former Tigers prospect Warwick Saupold is an early candidate for Pitcher of the Year, and if their batting order steps up the run production, the bullpen's healthy enough to close out games against greater opponents.

SK Wyverns (1-10)

Former MLB players: RSP Nick Kingham (PIT/TOR), 1B Jamie Romak (LAD/ARI), and RSP Ricardo Pinto (PHI/TBR)

Key Batters: RF Dong-Min Han (.341 Avg, 5 HRs, 11 RBIs, 1.152 OPS) and 2B Chang-Pyung Kim (5 SBs)

Key Pitchers: LSP Tae-Hun Kim (1.38 ERA, 0.769 WHIP), and RSP Jong-Hoon Park (3.60 ERA, 9.9 K/9)

Are you an SK Wyverns fan?: Dong-Min Han is going off at the plate, but pretty much everyone else on SK Wyverns is struggling big time, hence the 1-10 record. Cheering for SK means you're REALLY rooting for the underdog. However, if you're looking for potential employment in South Korea, the Manager position may be open soon!

BONUS POINTS - LEAGUE LEADERS (5/20)

HITTING

Average: Jose Miguel Fernandez (Doosan, .453), Preston Tucker (Kia, .449), Mel Rojas (KT Wiz, .420), and Min-Woo Park (Dinos, .417)

Home Runs: Preston Tucker (Kia, 5), Baek-Ho Kang (KT Wiz, 5), Roberto Ramos (LG, 5), and Dong-Min Han (SKW, 5)

RBI's: Preston Tucker (Kia, 20), Baek-Ho Kang (KT Wiz, 14), Dixon Machado (Lotte, 14), Jae-Hwan Kim (Doosan, 14), and Jae-Il Oh (Doosan, 14)

OPS: Preston Tucker (Kia, 1.395), Roberto Ramos (LG, 1.375), Baek-Ho Kang (KT Wiz, 1.265), Yong-Ho Cho (KT Wiz, 1.251), and Jung-Hoo Lee (Kiwoom, 1.239)

PITCHING

Strikeouts: Dan Straily (Lotte, 19), Woo-Chan Cha (LG, 19), Min-Woo Kim (Hanwha, 19), Chang-Mo Koo (NC Dinos, 18), and Odrisamer Despaigne (KT Wiz, 18)

ERA: Chang-Mo Koo (NC Dinos, 0.00), Eric Jokisch (Kiwoom, 0.53), Jae-Sung Bae (KT Wiz, 1.35), Tae-Hun Kim (SK Wyverns, 1.38), and Warwick Saupold (Hanwha, 1.64)

Innings: Warwick Saupold (Hanwha, 22), Min-Woo Kim (Hanwha, 18.1), Aaron Brooks (Kia, 18), Raul Alcantara (Doosan, 18), and David Buchanan (Samsung, 18)

WHIP: Chang-Mo Koo (NC Dinos, 0.643), Eric Jokisch (Kiwoom, 0.706), Min-Woo Kim (Hanwha, 0.709), and Tae-Hun Kim (SK Wyverns, 0.769), and Warwick Saupold (Hanwha, 0.818)

Saves: Jong-Hyeon Wong (NC Dinos, 5), Sang-Woo Cho (Kiwoom, 4), and Woo-Ram Chung (Hanwha, 3)