Welcome back to KBO writeups!!! Been insanely busy the last week or two, but still riding an awesome win streak that I'm looking to carry into tonight. Let's get after it!!
WILL UPDATE RECORD THIS WEEKEND – DON’T HAVE TIME TO GO THROUGH AND DO IT RIGHT NOW. THIS WEEK HAS BEEN +13U, AND LAST WEEK WAS POSITIVE ALSO.
G1: Kia Tigers (+100) VS Kiwoom Heroes (-120) O/U 8.5
SP: Hyun-jong Yang
2019 ERA: 2.29
2020 Stats: 5.55 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 58.1 IP, 64 H, 42 K, 16 BB
Based on his Yang’s stellar run from 2013-2019, concluding in an absolutely terrific 2.29 ERA/2.59 FIP season last year, it’s a little surprising that he’s trended so far downwards this season. It’s hard to know what exactly is going on, but Yang seems to either get shelled or dominate his starts. He has four starts of 4+ runs allowed that have definitely inflated his ERA, but also six of 2 or fewer that show some promise on the other end. It’s hard to find any kind of rhyme or reason here – he’s gotten shelled by the same teams he shuts down (i.e. both Kiwoom and KT, where one start was a 5-inning shellacking, and the other was dominant), and it’s easy to think that at some point he’ll emerge from this rut and put it all back together. However, I just don’t think now is that time. He’s coming off an absolute slaughter against NC, where his final statline read 4.1 IP / 8 ER / 11 H / 2 HR / 1 K, and he just pitched against Kiwoom last week in a game that could have been much worse barring some timely pitches and fortunate outs. As Yang prepares to face the Heroes for the third time this season, I’m looking at a few things. His 4.82 FIP, fairly average strikeout and walk rates, and an increasing propensity to give up extra base hits all suggest that even if he does positively regress, he just hasn’t had the same kind of wipeout stuff from the last few seasons. This will be present against Kiwoom, where even in a decent last start he managed just three strikeouts over six innings, leading to plenty of contact and a couple really nice chances. Kiwoom also just saw a lefty last night, so they’re as prepared as they possibly could be for this matchup. I don’t see Yang getting embarrassed by any means, but I think he’ll give up at least 2-3, and Kiwoom will have several chances to add more with some situational baseball.
SP: Won-tae Choi
2019 ERA: 3.38
2020 Stats: 4.02 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 62.1 IP, 62 H, 44 K, 16 BB
While Choi has also had a slightly worse 2020 than 2019, I have a far different sense for his potential versus Yang’s. His FIP, walk rate and strikeout rate are all better, and its extremely clear that he’s giving up less hard contact (17 XBH vs 28 XBH). He’s also had some great success against Kia, a team that’s now in even worse shape with arguably their most diverse hitter (and KBO batting average leader) injured. Choi has the perfect combination of stuff to face a team like Kia, which is extremely top-heavy and relies almost 100% on production from the top 3-4 hitters to make things happen. Choi’s skillset – hardly walking anyone, striking out enough to get by, and limiting hard contact – is pretty much exactly what you’re looking for in a pitcher to support against Kia, considering he should be able to make it through his outing without having to face the top of the order more than once or twice. Kiwoom’s bullpen is pretty shot at this point, as the top two-three relievers have thrown both of the last two days, so I’m going to work heavier on first-half plays vs full game, but this works in the Heroes’ favor anyway, as Kia probably has the better bullpen to start with and does a pretty good job limiting late-inning runs with a few hard-throwing righties. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kiwoom still win behind a strong effort from Choi, but it’s in our best interest to place a great emphasis on the first five than the whole game. Sample size isn’t always the best indicator of future projections, but for what it’s worth, Choi looked absolutely untouchable vs Kia last week, giving up just one soft hit and striking out six over 7 scoreless innings. Now, with Kia missing a top hitter and a critical piece of their lineup, I can’t really see them doing much against Choi.
1: Kiwoom 1H ML (-125) 3U
2: Kiwoom ML (-120) 1U
3: 1H UN 5 (-120) 1U
G2: LG Twins (+130) VS NC Dinos (-160) O/U 9
SP: Chan-gyu Lim
2019 ERA: 4.97
2020 Stats: 4.14 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 54.1 IP, 57 H, 54 K, 14 BB
On the surface, Lim looks like a guy I’m typically taking advantage of. He limits XBH, has a better FIP than ERA (3.99 vs 4.14), and has a high strikeout rate with decent walk rate. But this is a case of needing to understand that there’s more here than meets the eye, and I’m going to start with one thing: Lim’s matchups. Somehow, he’s completely avoided every good team in the league other than outings against KT and Kiwoom, where he was shelled both times (12 IP / 14 H / 10 ER). Other than that, he’s had outings against SK (three times), Samsung (twice), Hanwha (once), and Kia (once), which isn’t exactly a murderer’s row of opponents. I’m looking at his stats from the last few years – not a single ERA or FIP below 4.70 since 2013 – and I think this is a guy that is massively overrated based on the quality (or lack thereof) of opponents. I’m combining the eye test with the data on this one and looking for Lim to show up and get rocked by a Dinos offense that can click in a hurry. I only consider two of his outings this year to be against opponents that can match up bat-for-bat with NC at all, and he’s gotten absolutely rocked in both of them, so I see no reason why that trend changes tonight. LG’s bullpen is pretty shot, having had to use 13 relievers in three days vs Doosan, and I don’t see Lim getting through more than 5 (tops 6) before having to turn it over to a few lower-end arms in the pen. This is a great spot for the Dinos to explode, and I can see them putting 3-4 on Lim before stacking a couple against the pen in the later innings and running away with this game.
SP: Drew Rucinski
2019 ERA: 3.05
2020 Stats: 2.30 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 70.1 IP, 58 H, 65 K, 20 BB
Though Rucinski has had some control struggles that are contributing to a higher FIP than ERA (3.84 vs 2.30), it’s not like that FIP is terrible, and he has consistently shown up to pitch well against oppponents of every caliber. Unlike Lim, Rucinski has had plenty of tough matchups, pitching against Doosan (twice), KT (twice), and Kia (twice), along with a smattering of other lower-end opponents who he’s mostly completely dominated. LG is somewhere in the middle, and they’ve really been slumping recently (other than taking advantage of some bad Doosan pitching), including a 2-hit shutout last night by Bears SP Raul Alcantara, who made LG look like a team that’s never picked up a bat. Despite his stellar ERA, I’m still inclined to believe that Rucinski isn’t the best arm in the KBO, but he’s been really effective recently, and has only allowed more than 3 ER in a start once the entire season, all the way back in early May. Over his last 13 IP, he’s been spectacular, putting up 10 K’s and just 1 ER against Doosan and Kia, two opponents that profile similarly or better than LG. I think he’ll come out tonight extremely competitively, and potentially will have some strong backup in terms of run support that he won’t give up. I don’t see LG scoring more than 2-3 against him, and while NC’s pen isn’t much to speak about, Rucinski has consistently given the Dinos at least 6 IP, with starts frequently floating into the 7+ range. If he can go that far, they’ll do the rest, and NC does have a solid left-handed arm or two they can use to work through LG’s lefty-heavy lineup in the late innings. Regardless, I feel pretty strongly that NC will score enough runs that the cushion will be there, and I’d be far more worried about LG’s long-relief situation than NC’s, though a blown save is always possible in this league.
1: NC TT OV 4.5 (-130) 3U
2: NC 1H -0.5 (-115) 2U
3: NC -1.5 (+100) 2U
1: Doosan -1.5 (-140) 1U
Doosan 1H ML + NC 1H ML (+143): 2U