Korean Baseball Betting Advice: What to Know About The KBO
Baseball is back!
While Major League Baseball is still on hiatus, the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) has its opening day on Tuesday, May 5. Several of these games, played in South Korea, will be broadcast live on ESPN with potential re-airings throughout the day.
No matter how you slice it, we have real, live honest-to-goodness baseball to watch and, more importantly, bet on.
I’ve spent the last two weeks digging in as much as I can into the league, its teams and its players. Here is kind of a crash course in Korean baseball (also check out my KBO predictions):
WHAT THE HELL IS THE KBO?
The KBO is the Korean Baseball Organization. It is a 10-team league, and the teams play a 144-game season. The teams play each other 16 times, and the schedule is structured similarly to MLB, with teams playing multi-game series. The league was founded in 1982.
HOW IS THE KBO DIFFERENT FROM MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL?
The differences in the leagues are mostly superficial. Besides having fewer teams and playing fewer games, there are only a few small differences between the two leagues, and the game is still fundamentally the same.
The designated hitter is universal, so it’s basically the American League. And the playoff structure is completely different, with the team that finishes in first place getting a bye all the way to the Korean Series (their World Series).
The main difference is that there are ties in Korean baseball. If teams are tied after 12 innings, the game ends in a draw. Also, bat flips after monster home runs are not only allowed but they are encouraged.
ARE THERE ANY DIFFERENCES IN THE ACTUAL SPORT?
No. Baseball is baseball. All the fundamental rules are the same. Last year the league experienced a mini “dead ball era”, with a change in the ball resulting in fewer home runs and less scoring. But prior to 2019, the league was often described as having “steroid-era MLB-levels of scoring”. High scoring and lots of home runs means wild games and crazy comebacks, though, so it is all good fun.
ARE THERE ANY PLAYERS THAT I WOULD KNOW?
All teams are allowed to have two foreign-born pitchers and one foreign-born hitter. So each team has a few MLB washouts kicking around, and there is a lot of pressure on these guys to produce.
Dan Straily, who won 14 games with a 3.76 ERA in 2016 and who made 89 starts from 2016-2018, is making his KBO debut. Tyler Wilson, Dustin Nippert, Mel Rojas Jr., Chad Bell, Chris Flexen, Odrisamer Despaigne, Mike Wright, Ben Lievely, Adrian Sampson, Preston Tucker and Aaron Brooks are all names MLB fans would recognize.
Also, former San Francisco Giants great Matt Williams is the first-year manager for the KIA Tigers. That has been one of the league’s biggest offseason storylines.
WHO ARE THE BEST TEAMS?
I don’t want to go too deep in the woods here with a full team-by-team breakdown. But here are the 10 teams, who are all named after the corporations that own them rather than named after the cities in which they play:
Doosan Bears – The defending champions have won three titles since 2015. They did lose league MVP Josh Lindblom to the Milwaukee Brewers, though.
SK Wyverns – They had a horrible late-season collapse the led to them finishing the regular season in second place. They had the best pitching staff in the league last year but lost their top two arms (Kwang Hyun Kim and Angel Sanchez).
Kiwoom Heroes – The youngest team in the KBO last year led the league in runs scored (5.4 per game). They also had the No. 3 pitching staff and could be primed for a step forward this year even without league RBI leader Jerry Sands.
Lotte Giants – This team is the most popular in the league. But they are coming off a train wreck of a season, finishing in last place despite having the league’s highest payroll.
Kia Tigers – Historically, these guys are a bit like the New York Yankees of the KBO. They’ve won 11 championships in 37 years, most recently in 2017. But they finished in seventh place last year and are under the gun this season.
Samsung Lions – These guys were a dynasty, winning four championships from 2011-2014 and then losing in the Korean Series in 2015. Since then they have gone in the toilet, finishing ninth, ninth, sixth and eighth.
NC Dinos – The Dinos have one of the best lineups in the league, leading the KBO in home runs and finishing second in batting average last season.
LG Twins – This team is excited about the one-two punch of Americans Casey Kelly and Tyler Wilson leading pitching staff. However, both are currently under league-mandated quarantine (since they traveled from the U.S.).
KT Wiz – This is the newest team in the league, founded in just 2013. They haven’t been very good. But after finishing in last place in 2016 and 2017, and in ninth place in 2018, they made a jump forward to sixth place and a .500 record last year.
Hanwha Eagles – These guys stink. They have finished in the bottom three in the league eight times in 11 years, including a ninth-place finish in 2019. A miracle run to the playoffs in 2018 has been their only success in over a decade.
CAN I WATCH THESE GAMES AND BET ON THEM?
Yes, ESPN has agreed to the rights to broadcast these games. Unfortunately, the games all begin between 1 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. EST. So, unless you’re an early riser (or a night owl living on the West Coast), catching them live is a little bit of a stretch. But with nothing else going on, I will not be surprised if ESPN decides to re-air some of these games throughout the day.
As for betting, all major sportsbooks are going to have lines on these games. Right now, sportsbooks are willing to put up lines on basically anything. And if they are going to have lines and take action on video game car racing, they will have odds on real baseball.
WILL DOC’S SPORTS HANDICAPPERS HAVE PICKS IN THESE GAMES?
You bet your sweet ass I’m going to. I went 3-0 in Taiwanese baseball and then bailed on that to focus all of my attention on prepping for the start of the KBO. Like I said: baseball is baseball. The teams and names may be different, but the sport is the same. I’ve posted three straight winning MLB seasons and made my clients money in six of the past seven years. Right now, I’m currently on a +2,700 run in Belarusian soccer as well. If I can handicap Belarusian soccer, I can handicap Korean baseball.
Robert Ferringo is a professional sports bettor and handicapper for Doc’s Sports and is considered one of the top MLB betting experts in the country. He has posted three consecutive winning MLB seasons and closed the 2019 season on a +$10,000 baseball run for his followers. Robert has beaten the books for six of seven profitable seasons on the diamond and is looking forward to another winning season for his clients. Robert is currently selling picks for KBO Baseball (available under OTHER SPORTS) and you can try out Ferringo’s baseball picks for free when you set up your complimentary $60 account here.
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