It’s Opening Day for the Korea Baseball Organization, the third-best baseball league in the world. And yes, you can bet on it! We’re going to assume you’re new to the greatness of the KBO, but you might not be new to the bat flips. Because in Korea baseball is fun, and pitchers don’t get their feelings hurt when they hang a curveball that ends up in the seats.
And it is glorious.
Don’t worry we’ll put more bat flip video below, but let’s answer your most basic questions about the KBO!
How many teams are there? Who are they?
There are 10 teams in the KBO, and they’re all named after the business conglomerates that own them. Here they are in the order they finished the 2019 season.
Though the teams are based in the cities where the companies are headquartered, they don’t play all their home games in a single stadium; there’s a lot of games in neutral parks around the country during the season.
How many games do the teams play? Are there playoffs?
The regular season is 144 games per team, just like MLB was in 1995. Teams play each other 16 times each during the season. The top five qualify for the playoffs, but each spot below first place makes it significantly more difficult to advance.
The playoffs start with the #4 seed playing the #5 seed in a best-of-three, but the #5 seed starts the series in a 1-0 hole. The winner of that faces the #3 seed in a best-of-five quarterfinal. That winner takes on the #2 seed in a best of five semifinal. And that winner faces the #1 seed in the Korea Series, which is played in a 2-3-2 format just like the World Series.
Wait, there’s ties? That’s unAmerican!
This is Korean baseball, and yes KBO games can end in a tie. It’s a 12 innings limit during regular season, and 15 innings for playoff games. This does mean playoff games can end in a tie, and are replayed from the beginning. There were a total of seven ties during the 2019 regular season.
Am I going to know any of the players?
Maybe! Each team is allowed to have up to three foreign players, so you might recognize Chad Bell of the Hanwah Eagles, he of the 0-4 career record with the 7.11 ERA with the Detroit Tigers. Or Tyler Saladino of the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers, who has 1064 career MLB plate appearances with a .608 OPS.
The KBO is a great landing spot for some Quadruple-A guys to make a nice paycheck. Saladino is making $800,000 this year in Korea. So is Mel Rojas Jr., who played eight seasons of minor league ball before heading to Southeast Asia. You can see all the foreign players on KBO rosters here.
So, how are they playing during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Korea has been somewhat of a test case for being able to re-start sports, and it’s gone well so far during the practices and exhibitions games leading up to Opening Day with no new outbreaks. There are extremely strict social distancing policies in place, including temperature checks and hand sanitizers everywhere in both the stadiums and the quarantined living quarters of all players, coaches, and staff.
There are also instant tests available for anyone with the team if needed, and a plan to allow fans to occupy 20-25% of the stadium once the spread of the virus begins to subside. All spectators at that point will also be required to wear a mask.
Also one baseball tradition will be strictly forbidden: No spitting on or off the field will be permitted.
So how are the crowds normally?
Absolutely amazing. The passion of KBO fans makes Rob Manfred weep into his pile of regional sports network revenue sharing dollars.
Imagine seeing this at an MLB game? Your baseball would never...
This looks awesome! How can I watch the games??
Well literally as we were writing this story, some good news! ESPN will be broadcasting one game per day as part of a brand new rights deal with the KBO.
Here’s a list of the first six games to be broadcast according to reports:
May 5: NC Dinos vs. Samsung Lions
May 6: Doosan Bears vs. LG Twins
May 7: NC Dinos vs. Samsung Lions
May 8: Kia Tigers vs. Samsung Lions
May 9: LG Twins vs. NC Dinos
May 10: LG Twins vs. NC Dinos
If there’s another game you’re interested in seeing — well for now those aren’t available in the US. But they might be soon thanks to the league’s new partnership with Twitch. For now, games will only be broadcast on the platform in Korea.
OFFICIAL | Twitch has acquired the rights to broadcast #KBO games for the 2020 season.— Jason Lee (@Jasons_JaysHub) May 4, 2020
The catch? It will only be available to fans in Korea. No word yet on negotiations between the KBO and Canadian/US broadcasting companies. pic.twitter.com/6l1wbLyirm
So if there’s a game not on ESPN in which you have an interest, we’re not saying a VPN would likely work here, we’re just saying VPN’s are things that make your computer look like it’s in another country if you’d wish for that to be the case.
I’m sold. How do I bet on this?
Here are the futures odds for the 2020 KBO Korea Series Champion:
Doosan Bears +350
SK Wyverns +450
Kiwoom Heroes +500
NC Dinos +600
LG Twins +750
KIA Tigers +800
Samsung Lions +1100
KT Wiz Suwon +1700
Lotte Giants +2000
Hanwha Eagles +2200
Is there daily fantasy available?
Of course! Your KBO rosters at DraftKings will consist of two pitchers, three outfielders, and one of each of the following positions: Catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, and third baseman. You’ll need to pick all your players while staying under a $50,000 salary cap.
Points work as follows:
Single +3 Pts
Double +5 Pts
Triple +8 Pts
Home Run +10 Pts
Run Batted In +2 Pts
Run +2 Pts
Base on Balls +2 Pts
Hit By Pitch +2 Pts
Stolen Base +5 Pts
Inning Pitched +2.25 Pts
Strikeout +2 Pts
Win +4 Pts
Earned Run Allowed -2 Pts
Hit Against -0.6 Pts
Base on Balls Against -0.6 Pts
Hit Batsman -0.6 Pts
Complete Game +2.5 Pts
Complete Game Shutout +2.5 Pts
No Hitter +5 Pts
How do I figure out my picks?
Most of these players are unknowns to the American audience that will be tuning in late at night/early in the morning. We’ve found a few different websites of note that offer a variety of statistical and background information:
Excellent. Now you promised more bat flips —
We’re not here to disappoint.
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