JP's KBO June 15 - 16 Writeup
June 15th – 16th Twitter: @jpbattingprac
JP’s KBO Notes – Day 23 (Overall Record: 119-84-6, +74.23U)
Welcome to Day 23 of KBO Writeups! We saw a few crazy things go down on the Sunday slate – first, Hanwha finally won a game, walking off vs Doosan in the 9th inning of a doubleheader. Then, Hanwha won again, coming from out of nowhere to secure their first series win in a looooong time. However, let’s take these wins with a grain of salt – they were messy bullpen games, and given Doosan’s horrendous pen, it’s not all that surprising that Hanwha was able to hang tight in game one. If you take a look at the game two box score, you’ll see that most of the Bears in the starting lineup were backups vs Hanwha’s ace, hence the low-scoring affair. All of this is to say I’m extremely unsold on the Eagles, and think that sooner rather than later they’ll probably have another losing streak going. More on that to come.
The other game I bet on Sunday involved the Dinos and Heroes, a game in which I took the position of game over and both teams totals over. I came close to sweeping it, as the 9-5 final covered over 12 and NC TT OV 6, coming just short of securing Kiwoom’s TT OV 5.5. NC’s Kim escaped trouble a few times in his KBO debut, ending with a statline of: 4.1 IP / 4 H / 3 BB / 3 ER / 5 K. Nothing terrible, but not exceptional either. Kiwoom left their starter in for just 2.2 innings, creating an unusual bullpen affair for the final 6 innings of the game. It wasn’t the prettiest way to end the week, but NC did avoid getting swept and losing three straight games for the first time this season.
Moving into tonight’s slate, there’s a massive disparity between the good and bad pitchers, and for the most part, the games are lined up where the aces face aces, which should make for some really good and really bad baseball. The highest end of the slate includes Drew Rucinski, Eric Jokisch, and Aaron Brooks, three guys that have been terrific all season, but – especially in the cases of Rucinski and Brooks – turned it into high gear lately with quality starts against some of the best offenses in the KBO. Oddly enough, the only start of Jokisch’s season where he allowed more than 2 ER was two weeks ago against Hanwha. He recovered from that, however, and put another QS on the board last week against a struggling Samsung team, allowing just 1 ER over 6 IP. He has the most favorable matchup of the elite crew, facing a Lotte team that’s taken advantage of bad pitching recently but isn’t anywhere near an offensive powerhouse. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
OVERALL RECORD: +74.23U (119-84-6) – $100 bettor up $7,423
Record on 4U MAX Plays: 5-1 (+14.4U)
Record on 3U Plays: 22-7-1 (+37.45U)
Record on 2.5U Plays: 3-6 (-8.37U)
Record on 2U Plays: 47-24-4 (+33.9U)
Record on 1U Plays: 35-32-1 (-3.75U)
Record on .5U Plays (nearly all +200 or greater): 7-12 (+0.8U)
G1: Kia Tigers (+125) VS NC Dinos (-155) O/U 9.5
SP: Aaron Brooks
2019 ERA: 5.65 (MLB)
2020 Stats: 2.76 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 42.1 IP, 43 H, 34 K, 7 BB
Brooks has looked absolutely masterful this year, commanding a top-10 spot on the KBO leaderboard in ERA (2.76) and top-5 in FIP (3.15). He was enjoying perhaps his best start of the season last week vs a strong KT team before rain cut the game short after five innings, allowing just three hits and no runs before the cancellation. Brooks faces arguably his toughest challenge of the season tonight against NC, a team that was thriving offensively before a slower series vs Kiwoom. NC put up a combined 7 runs over the first two games of that series before putting up 9 in game three, which should be noted came against a low-end starter making his third career appearance in the KBO. I think the opinion of the Dinos became slightly inflated over the last few weeks, as pre-Kiwoom they faced in order the SK, Hanwha, and Doosan who rank 6th, 8th, and 10th in team ERA, respectively. The Dinos were particularly explosive against a Hanwha team currently in complete disarray, so while I do think NC is certainly legit, I don’t see them as a team that is going to score 6+ runs every day. In fact, today is probably a really good test for both sides. Brooks is the first solid arm they’ve seen in a while, and the Dinos may be the best team he’s seen this year, so what we see here should give us an indication of where the respective sides are. Brooks isn’t the most electric pitcher in the league, but his command is terrific (1.49 BB/9) and he is outstanding at limiting XBH (just 7 in 42.1 innings). I’m really encouraged by the consistency Brooks has demonstrated – he’s only allowed more than 2 ER in a start twice the entire season (3 against SK, 4 against Doosan), and has lasted 6+ innings in four out of seven starts. With the top arms in the bullpen well-rested, I think Kia will plan on sending Brooks out for six and using a few top arms to finish the job in what should be a close game.
SP: Drew Rucinski
2019 ERA: 3.05
2020 Stats: 2.23 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 44.1 IP, 39 H, 41 K, 11 BB
Looking through their respective statlines, it’s pretty easy to draw comparisons between Rucinski and Brooks. They both prioritize command and soft contact (Rucinski has allowed just 6 XBH the entire season), and have similar resumes in terms of teams pitched against. Rucinski’s FIP is significantly higher, sitting at 3.71, but it was 3.92 last year in a consistently good campaign, and at some point, you have to just wonder if he’s a guy who will always have a higher FIP than ERA. Rucinski looked terrific vs Doosan in his last start, and was unfortunate that two of the only three hits he allowed were home runs. Doosan is a far better offensive team than Kia, and has more power up and down the order, so if he manages to limit contact to the same degree as he did in that game, Kia’s lineup isn’t deep enough to compete 1-9. That’s been one of my consistent points about Kia this season: they just don’t have nearly enough potential threats in the lineup, so starters that can beat the top of the order twice and don’t walk hitters near the bottom are almost a lock to throw 5+ good innings, something I think we can count on Rucinski for. Rucinski has looked really solid over his last five starts – allowing just 6 ER over his last 33 IP – and while that did come against some lower competition in the form of SK twice, Hanwha, and Samsung, I think his most recent appearance vs Doosan shows that he’s for real. Like Kia, NC has a few relievers that they can turn to at the end of games, and since they’ll all be rested, I think a game flow of Rucinski for 6ish followed by a few different arms for one inning each (depending on matchups) is a very realistic way this game can, and should, go.
1: UN 9.5 (-120) 2.5U
2: Kia TT UN 4 (-125) 1U
3: NC TT UN 5.5 (-130) 1U
G2: Hanwha Eagles (+160) VS LG Twins (-215) O/U 10
SP: Min-jae Jang
2019 ERA: 5.43
2020 Stats: 7.59 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, 21.1 IP, 36 H, 14 K, 3 BB
After a halfway decent start to the season, Jang has fallen off the table, getting blasted over his last three starts for a statline of 9.1 IP / 14 ER / 24 H / 5 K / 1 BB, composed of outings against KT, LG, and Lotte. It’s unclear what the catalyst for his precipitous dropoff was, but it was possibly just natural regression, given that he has never had a full-season ERA under 4.41 (that was back in 2010). His FIP is a not-so-horrendous 4.65, but without batted ball data, it’s hard to know whether all these hits he’s given up were the result of hard contact or lucky bounces, two crucial aspects of evaluating a pitcher. That being said, there are a few reasons why I’m not giving Jang the benefit of the doubt tonight. First, I’m inclined to believe he’s allowing seriously hard contact, given that he’s given up 13 XBH in just over 21 IP, an atrocious line that suggests even if hitters are getting lucky and finding holes, they’re pretty well-deserved. Secondly, Jang faces the team that hits the ball the hardest on average, as approximately 21.7% of Twins ABs result in a hard-hit ball, according to Sports Info Solutions. Perhaps this explains why in Jang’s previous outing vs the Twins, he was rocked for 8 hits, 6 ER, and 2 HRs over just 3 IP. I’m really not inclined to think that tonight’s result is going to be much different, and if Hanwha plays the bullpen game, I don’t feel any more confident about them, considering they have the 3rd-worst bullpen by ERA in the league. LG should pounce early and often, and with a massive platoon advantage over Jang, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them put up 4-5 in the early going.
SP: Chan-heon Jung
2019 ERA: 1.64 (as a reliever)
2020 Stats: 3.52 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 23 IP, 22 H, 25 K, 6 BB
Though he has been relatively sparingly used and had to face two of the best offenses in the KBO, Jung has been pretty effective in his four starts this season, including in one against this Eagles team earlier in the season (though that roster looks completely different than the one he’ll face today). LG has consistently given him about 9 days in between starts – likely due to this being the first time in his career that he’s a starter, rather than reliever – and he’ll be coming off 11 days of rest for this one. His previous start – against Samsung – was one of the best starts for any pitcher this season, as he put up seven dominant shutout innings and struck out 11, giving up just three hits. Though he hasn’t had many appearances, the Twins aren’t afraid to use him for extended starts, as he’s topped 90 pitches twice (including an 107-pitch outing vs Kiwoom). Jung’s peripherals are encouraging also – he is rocking a 3.88 FIP that ranks in the upper fraction of the KBO, and his K% is through the roof at 27.2. This should put him in a great position against Hanwha, who (other than a recent 6-run output vs Doosan’s back-end relievers) can’t really hit for power or average, and certainly won’t be able to keep up with LG if they do their job and score early. This is a great opportunity for Jung to secure his place in the rotation, whether that’s once a week or once every 10 days, and a good outing would go a long way for both the Twins and his personal benefit. Furthermore, LG will have a fully rested bullpen that should be able to stack with Jung and lock the game down. They rank first in the KBO in bullpen ERA (4.43), and I could see this game being Jung for six, followed by three relievers to shut it down. Though expecting Jung to limit Hanwha to nothing would be unfair, I do think he’ll have an extremely productive start and easily give his team a chance to jump out and take a permanent lead.
1: LG -1.5 (-140) 3U
2: LG 1H -1 (-130) 3U
3: LG TT OV 6 (-115) 2U
4: OV 10 (-120) 1U
5: LG 1st Inning ML (+210) .5U
G3: Kiwoom Heroes (-280) VS Lotte Giants (+200) O/U 9.5
SP: Eric Jokisch
2019 ERA: 3.13
2020 Stats: 1.49 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 42.1 IP, 34 H, 33 K, 7 BB
Jokisch’s last time facing Lotte is a very good example of the pitcher he can consistently be, with room for an even higher ceiling. In that outing, he threw 102 pitches over 6 innings, allowing 6 hits, 2 ER, and striking out 4. That game resulted in a 12-4 Heroes victory, and Jokisch did exactly what he needed to: shut the Giants down for the first three innings while the Heroes took a 4-0 lead, then proceeded to limit the damage over the next three frames and exit with a 7-2 lead, which would get even more skewed against a bad Lotte bullpen. One of the really nice things about Jokisch is that he’s good for 6+ and less than 3 ER pretty much every start, and five of his seven starts have resulted in 1 ER or fewer. Lotte looked a little more potent offensively in their previous two series (vs Hanwha and LG), but they tacked on a ton of damage vs a tired bullpen that had to endure a doubleheader amidst five straight days of games. That will not be the case in this game, where they’ll have to face whatever arms the Heroes choose to throw out from a decent bullpen ranking third in the KBO in ERA. Like most of these pens, the bottom-end arms are practically a travesty, but their higher-end guys are way better than just serviceable, and that’s who we should see today (as long as Kiwoom is in the lead, or the game is close; I expect it to be the former). Jokisch’s terrific ERA is supported by an equally dynamic 2.81 FIP, and while he doesn’t strike out a ton of batters, he limits hard contact, shown by the fact that he ranks first in the KBO in hard hit rate (11.3%). This plays perfectly against a Lotte team that struggles to hit for power, and will have to rely on stringing long innings together to hurt Jokisch, who excels at preventing that. Kiwoom is just coming off a big-time series win vs NC, and they’ll be hungry to take game one at home here.
SP: Kyung-eun Noh
2019 ERA: 4.08
2020 Stats: 5.45 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 33 IP, 37 H, 20 K, 8 BB
Noh’s statline doesn’t look great, but if you take out his two absolutely dominant starts vs a Hanwha team that barely qualifies as a KBO-level organization (lol), you get the following:
20 IP / 18 ER / 24 H / 11 K / 8 BB, “good” for an 8.10 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. This is where Noh is at the latter stages of his career, and he didn’t even pitch in 2019, preceding that with a stretch of seasons of ERAs between 4.08 and 11.66. I actually bet on Noh in his last start vs the Eagles, where he threw 7 innings of one-run ball, but again, we’re talking about a team composed mostly of KBO Minor Leaguers, rather than one of the better hitting teams in the KBO. Kiwoom can be inconsistent, and they don’t hit great pitching that well, but one thing they will do is hit Noh, who they knocked around for 5 H / 4 ER over 4 IP in late May. Lotte has a pretty middling bullpen (5.05 ERA), and if Kiwoom takes an early lead, they may just mail it in against Jokisch and save up for tomorrow night. This is a game contingent on the Heroes offense, rather than pitching staff. Jokisch will limit Lotte to three runs or less, so Kiwoom needs to step up and contribute at the plate and put this game out of reach early. If the Heroes tack on a few runs in the early innings, they can easily run away with it. Against Noh and the Giants last time out, they put up 5 by the fifth inning, but a disastrous start by Jake Brigham cost them the game. That won’t be the case in this outing, as a fresh bullpen and elite starter provide enough momentum on their own.
1: Kiwoom -1.5 (-140) 2U
2: Kiwoom 1H -1 (-145) 2U
3: Kiwoom 1st Inning ML (+190) .5U