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Six takeaways from KBO baseball after Opening Day

What trends can we discern after 45 innings of play in the KBO? We break down six takeaways from Opening Day.

We’ve had five games of KBO baseball in 2020, and the reception on social media has been overwhelmingly positive. Last night saw 10 teams playing good baseball at a quicker pace than MLB fans have watched in years.

And yes, there were bat flips.

But what can we take away as info for the rest of 2020? What wagering advice can we extrapolate for the smallest of sample sizes? We’ll take a look at a few trends that might take shape.

The lines were pretty sharp last night

The pandemic either didn’t affect the numbers too much last night, or were accounted for correctly. Favorites were 3-2, teams laying the 1.5 on the run line were 3-2, and the totals were 2-2-1. No real trends so far, but again it’s just five games of 720 to be played this regular season.

Drew Rucinski is going to win a lot of games

Rucinski was the Opening Day starter for the NC Dinos, and his stuff is just too strong for most hitters in this league. He looked extremely comfortable in his six innings of work, throwing 91 pitches with six strikeouts and just three hits. He could turn it up when needed, and his four walks included a pair where he was just wasting pitches. As he gets more comfortable, look for Rucinski to be winning a lot for the team from Changwon.

Na Sung-bum: Not a bum

This isn’t really news as the DH/OF had a 1.089 OPS last season, but he hit a ball over the foul pole last night so far they had to go to review to see if it was fair or foul. His timing on pitches was there, and nobody looked more smooth in the batters box.

If Baek Jung-hyun is the #1 starter for Samsung, that might be a problem

Give credit to the Lions bullpen that looked quite sharp through three innings of work, but Baek simply ran out of gas around the 70-pitch mark. Back-to-back (Baek-to-Baek??) solo shots from Park Suk-min and Mo Chang-min were both hugely missed pitches. Again, it’s one start and one inning, but there were plenty of other balls hit by guys like Aaron Altherr last night that could have been just as damaging if not for fly ball luck.

Are we sure Raul Alcantara is good?

As part of the champion Doosan Bears last year, Alcantara was 11-11 with a 4.01 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. That seems ok, but for an Opening Day starter it’s not terrific, and especially for a foreign player in the KBO. The imports are supposed to be the best players, and we’ve got a decent sample here.

Alcantara got through six innings last night conceding three earned runs, including an opposite field bomb by Kim Hyun-soo, but his strikeout numbers are what’s really concerning: just 100 punchouts last season in 172.2 IP, and only three last night.

Warwick Saupold might have this thing figured out

The biggest storyline from last night was Saupold’s near-Maddux: 101 pitches, two hits allowed. Only two strikeouts, but also an Opening Day record game time of two hours and five minutes. While Saupold was pitching to contact, he was also not really painted in a corner all day. The former Tigers reliever might have made a leap forward in the offseason, but the lack of K’s also means don’t take too much away from his first start. But he’s one to keep an eye on going forward.

But it was against SK Wyverns, who were second-favorite to win the Korea Series this season.