Baseball is back. Not in the more popular form of Major League Baseball, but in Korea with the KBO (Korean Baseball Organisation). With opening day for the KBO set for this Tuesday, the 5th of May, here’s a primer of the league and what to expect moving forward.
The Doosan Bears are the defending champions of the Korean Baseball League. They finished the regular season of the 2019-20 campaign with an 88-55 record, owning a 61.5% win percentage and defeated the Kiwoom Heroes in the final round of the playoffs by a convincing 4-0 scoreline.
The KBO has 10 teams as opposed to the MLB’s 30. Each team plays 144 regular-season games, playing each other 16 times apiece. The top five teams advance to the playoffs.
The team placing first on the table after the 144 game regular season earns direct entry into the final round of the playoffs, known as the 'Korean Series' while the next four battle it out for a chance to join them.
Like the MLB, the KBO was previously a batter-friendly league as well. That was up until 2019 when the Korean league addressed that disparity by opting to dejuice their baseballs, resulting in significantly fewer runs. In fact, the KBO’s rate for home runs dropped by as much as 40% between 2018 and 2019.
The rules are similar to the MLB, apart from a few exceptions:
1. Pitchers won’t be compelled to bat.
2. In the regular season, all games tied after 12 innings will end as a draw. In the playoffs, games tied after 15 innings will end as a draw.
3. In this season, all three foreign players in a team will be allowed to play any game. For the previous season, KBO teams were allowed to acquire three international players but participation for each game was capped to two overseas players.
Any player showing symptoms of the coronavirus will be sidelined for at least a few games. Prior to the start of the league, the KBO announced that “a player who shows COVID symptoms will be quarantined, and the stadium where his team last played will be closed for at least two days. If a player tests positive for the virus, a government-appointed epidemiologist will conduct contact tracing and determine others who will be ordered into two-week quarantine.”
ESPN have secured a deal to broadcast the league in the United States, airing one game every day from Tuesday through Sunday, beginning with the Opening Day game between Samsung Lions and NC Dinos.
Interestingly, Twitch has also acquired rights to broadcast the KBO, but only in Korea.
Unfortunately, Australia has not yet struck a deal with the KBO, but users of bet365 will be able to stream the games straight from the bookmaker as long as there is $10 in their account.
Doosan Bears are going to be hard to beat again over a sustained period of time. They have made the Korean Series the last five seasons in a row, winning on three occassions and they would be my pick to go back to back at odds of $4.00.
The only other side I can see challenging for the title is the Kiwoom Heroes. They finished the 2019-20 season with an 86-57 record. They troubled the might of Doosan Bears on numerous occasions throughout the season before ultimately going down 4-0 in the Korean Series.. If there is one team with the depth of resources to surpass the Bears, it would be the Kiwoom Heroes.
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