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KBO Power Ratings Weekly Preview (into 7/21/2020)

Top Flight Sports (@TopFlightSI) KBO Power Ratings/Weekly Preview (into 7/21/2020)

GREEN = Trending Upward    RED = Trending Downward

  1. NC Dinos (42-19-2) It’s been two weeks since my last update to these power ratings but we are approaching the halfway mark in the season and, at this point, I don’t think we are going to see movement week to week with the order like we did earlier in the year.  One team that hasn’t moved at all is NC, the Dinos took over the top spot a week into the season and have held it down in each subsequent iteration of the ratings.  NC just continues to win baseball games, the Dinos now have a 5.5 game cushion at the top of the standings with a 42-19-2 record and every time it looks like this team might fall back to the pack they rattle off a string of wins to keep any other team in striking distance at arm’s length.  From a betting standpoint I do still think NC is overvalued and the Dinos bullpen is still a massive issue that could be the downfall of this team.  Statistically, NC has the worst bullpen in the league and it’s now by a wide margin as they are the only team in the KBO with a bullpen ERA over 6 (currently 6.38).  I think some of that probably has to do with the fact NC plays a lot of blowouts and gives up runs in garbage time but most of the Dinos losses have come down to the bullpen giving it up in some form or fashion and when the stakes get higher, especially against the better teams in the league, this could be a reason NC starts to fall back.  Aside from the bullpen you won’t find another issue as NC has a loaded lineup and far and away the best trio of starting pitchers in the league.  Drew Rucinski, Mike Wright and Chang-mo Koo making 60 percent of the Dinos starts gives NC a massive edge and offensively NC leads the KBO with 6.37 runs scored per game and 1.42 home runs per game.  NC had a couple tough matchups last week having to go on the road to Kiwoom and come home to face the red hot KT Wiz and managed a 3-2-1 week which means to this point a rain shortened week where the Dinos went 2-3 is still their only losing week of the season.  NC has another challenging week ahead with Samsung coming to down followed by a trip to Suwon for another series with the KT Wiz, I still think from a value perspective you are better off trying to pick your spots to play against the Dinos but it’s something you will want to do carefully as this team can really hit and, despite their very few shortcomings, are as good as any team in this league at getting the clutch hit and finding a way to win.  I don’t think the numbers tell the entire story with the NC bullpen so, while it is their one vulnerability, I think the numbers will probably improve once they have a stretch where they are playing close games against good teams.  It’s an embarrassment of riches in Changwon for this NC squad and, while I will probably find one spot to go against them this week, I will be doing so with extreme caution because they really are the best team in this league. 
  1. Kiwoom Heroes (38-26) – Kiwoom had a tough weekend up in Incheon and it caused the Heroes to fall to third place but they remain at #2 in my ratings because I still think the Heroes might be the best team in this league when it’s all said and done this season.  Kiwoom enters the new week 10 games over .500 at 38-28 and what’s amazing is they have done it almost the entire time missing TWO foreign players.  For any new readers unfamiliar with the league each team gets three foreign players and these are usually guys that were just playing in MLB or are trying to earn their way back to the MLB and play a massive role in the success of these respective teams.  We have seen instances where one foreign player goes down and it completely derails a team so the fact Kiwoom got literally nothing from Taylor Motter (who has since been cut) and just got starting pitcher Jake Brigham back last week speaks volumes to how good this team actually might be.  Brigham has looked great since returning which gives Kiwoom as good of a 1-2 punch as you will find in this league as the Heroes other import starter Eric Jokisch is having an MVP caliber season.  Kiwoom has easily the best Korean born position player in the league in 21 year old Jung-hoo Lee who will likely be in the MLB sooner than later and the Heroes just made arguably the biggest mid-season signing in the history of the KBO in Addison Russell who should be joining the Kiwoom lineup in a couple of weeks.  If Russell ends up getting on the field without issue Kiwoom will end up being the best team in this league as Russell should absolutely destroy the pitching the KBO has to offer.  Finally, Kiwoom has one of the best bullpens in the KBO so there literally isn’t a hole to be found in this Heroes roster and before they were bit by a letdown spot they took two of three from NC in Seoul earlier last week.  This week Kiwoom has a huge opportunity to take back control of 2nd in the standings as the Heroes start the new week with three against Doosan in Seoul.  Kiwoom then returns home for a series they should win easily with Lotte, I think the Heroes will be hungry after a disappointing result over the weekend and this is a team I will look to back if possible and will have a very hard time fading.
  1. Doosan Bears (38-26) – I’m giving the top three teams the TRENDING UPWARD tag because week in and week out these three teams continue to separate themselves as the elite trio in this league.  Doosan are the defending KBO Champions and, while I don’t think the Bears have quite as much talent on their roster as NC or Kiwoom, are right in the discussion because they continue to go out and win games.  Doosan doesn’t hit the long ball like NC but one could make a case the Bears actually have the best lineup in the league as they lead the KBO with a .302 team batting average and 10.79 hits per game.  Raul Alcantara and Chris Flexen, two former MLB pitchers and two of Doosan’s import players, have been great but Flexen left his last start with an injury and outside of these two there isn’t much pitching on this roster.  Doosan’s bullpen seems to be improving but is middle of the road at best with a 5.51 ERA and if Flexen does miss time it means they will have to probably call another guy up from the futures team and that will really weaken a staff that is shaky as it is right now.  Doosan played through a stretch where they were missing numerous starting position players but managed to continue to win and now have all of them back so I don’t think it’s coincidence the Bears have won four of their past five series with the outlier being a rain shortened split.  Doosan plays six at home this week but none of them will be easy as Kiwoom comes to town followed by the biggest rivalry in the KBO renewed with LG.  Keep tabs on the stats of Flexen, if he has to miss a start it means a bad bullpen is going to be working overtime and there might be a couple really good spots to go against Doosan later in the week.  
  1. LG Twins (34-29-1) – I’m going to remove the “Trending Downward” tag from LG since they went 4-2 this past week but they still lost a series against Lotte and three of their wins were against Hanwha so that’s not enough to be trending upward toward the top three.  LG is still banged up, they are missing two key guys in their lineup and import slugger Roberto Ramos has been dealing with a back injury all season but if this team can get healthy I think they might be the biggest value in this league going forward.  When LG is at full strength I think they are right there with NC and Kiwoom and I think there’s legitimate reason to believe if the Twins lineup starts producing more they will rattle off a bunch of wins and be right back in the mix.  Coming into the season I thought LG would have the best tandem of import pitchers because both Casey Kelly and Tyler Wilson were outstanding last year and back for another year.  So far that hasn’t been the case as Kelly and Wilson both have inflated ERA’s and WHIP’s from what they finished with last season but both were excellent in their most recent starts and I think we can expect some “positive regression” from this duo going forward.  I’m also extremely high on 18 year old rookie phenom Min-Ho Lee who is making a start every 10 days or so for LG in an effort to limit innings and has been outstanding with a 1.80 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and he hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in a start yet this season.  LG’s bullpen has regressed recently but the Twins had easily the best bullpen numbers in the league the first 6 weeks of the season so I think their 5.52 team bullpen ERA might be overstated as well and something that could get lowered in the coming weeks.  LG has a tough week coming up as they start with a road series at KT and while they are technically the road team in their weekend series there’s a caveat as it’s against Doosan in the stadium they share with the Bears.  Doosan has had LG’s number this season but I think LG might get the matchups they want in that series and if the Twins can take anything from KT I think we could finally see LG trending upward next week for the first time in over a month.  
  1. Samsung Lions (34-31) Here’s our first mover as Samsung bounced back from a bad week with a 5-1 week this past week as the Lions continue to jockey for position with KIA in my ratings.  Samsung took two of three from KIA to start last week so putting the Lions back at five was a no brainer and if Samsung continues to play well I don’t think the Lions overtaking LG is out of the question either.  Samsung lacks the pop that the lineups in front of them on this list have but I really like the overall makeup of this Lions team and I expect them to continue to win games with excellent pitching and great defense.  Samsung has been going at it with just one import pitcher as well but this past week they got Ben Lively back and he tossed five solid innings in a win over Lotte.  Samsung’s other import starter, David Buchanan, is having a fantastic season as he enters the new week 8-4 with a 3.36 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP.   The rest of Samsung’s rotation are all serviceable and the Samsung bullpen, led by former St Louis Cardinals closer Seung-hwan Oh, is one of the best relief units in the league.  Samsung has been without import player Tyler Saladino who is on the IL nursing a back injury but he’s a solid hitter and someone that can play a bunch of positions and play them all well and will only serve as another boost for this Samsung squad when he returns to the lineup in the coming weeks.  This week could be tough for Samsung since they will be without Saladino and on the road for six games at NC and KIA.  I like the fact they will have Lively and Buchanan in the KIA series so if Samsung can steal one from the Dinos I think it sets them up to play well at KIA over the weekend and it’s still very possible the Lions could have another strong week.  
  1. KIA Tigers (33-29) Since Samsung moved up to #5 it means KIA is back to #6 and deservedly so as the Tigers did not have a good week this past week.  KIA made my decision easy when they started the week by dropping two of three at Samsung.  I cashed a 3* bet with KIA on Friday as they won the opener of a home series with Doosan but the Tigers were hammered by the Bears the rest of the weekend and it’s all but solidified my thoughts that KIA is one of the more overrated teams in the league that is probably at their ceiling four games over .500.  KIA is managed by former MLB All-Star Matt Williams, I think he’s the best coach in the KBO right now and he’s managing this team the way an MLB team would be managed which is different from the traditional managerial style in Korea.  Williams interacts with the players more than usual and has embraced analytics and I really think he’s gotten the absolute most out of what, on paper, looked to be a sub-par roster.  I also think it helps that KIA knocked it out of the park with their import player signings as pitchers Aaron Brooks and Drew Gagnon and outfielder Preston Tucker are all having excellent seasons for the Tigers.  My issue with KIA is, after the three former MLB players on the team there just isn’t much talent on this roster, especially with Sun-Bin Kim still on the DL who is arguably KIA’s best offensive player.  KIA is dead last in the KBO in road batting average and near the bottom in road runs per game and it’s just going to be hard to be much more than a .500 team in this league if you can’t win on the road.  KIA statistically has the best bullpen in the league right now but they still have a 4.51 bullpen ERA so I think that might be an overrated statistic since that tells me there really isn’t a single good bullpen in this league.  KIA has an opportunity to exercise some of their road demons early in the week at Hanwha before coming home to face Samsung but Hanwha is playing better and Samsung will have their top starters lined up for that series so this could be another average week at best for an average KIA team.  
  1. KT Wiz (31-32-1) – For the first time in weeks I’m not going to have KT trending upward because I do think the Wiz missed an opportunity to take a step forward last week but this team has a strangle hold on at least 7th right now so I will keep them neutral in this spot.  I absolutely love this KT Wiz team, they are loaded with young talent and have a great lineup anchored by Mel Rojas Jr who is arguably the best player at any position in the KBO.  Baek-ho Kang has emerged as one of the better power hitters in the league and the KT lineup features four guys (Rojas and Baek included) who are among the top 10 players in the entire KBO in batting average.  I also love the fact the KT bullpen is finally serviceable enough where they aren’t just going to go out there and choke away any and every lead late.  KT has lowered their bullpen ERA from over 7 at one point to 5.73 and I think it has to do with the return of import starter Michael Cuevas as the Wiz are far less stretched out on pitching each week.  KT’s other import starter, Odrisamer Despaigne, is pitching every fifth day so this means the Wiz have a quasi 4 man rotation and it’s allowed the Wiz to save whoever they would be using as the 5th starter and throw that guy out of the bullpen.  If KT didn’t have a disastrous bullpen early on this team would be way over .500 right now because there’s easily 6-7 games the Wiz just inexplicably blew late because they couldn’t get the final couple outs.  I was a little disappointed in the results for KT last week because I thought they probably should have swept Hanwha at home (they took two of three) and would have defeated NC at least once (they tied one and lost two).  With that being said I think it will only motivate KT coming into this week and I love how this week sets up for the Wiz as all of their offensive numbers are better at home and all six of their games will be in Suwon.  The opponents won’t be easy as it’s LG first followed by NC but I think this is a statement week for the Wiz, they should be the value especially later in the week against NC and I will absolutely have KT as a “play on “ team again this week. 
  1. Lotte Giants (30-32) – The records might not indicate it but I think there’s a drop off from 7th to Lotte down in 8th followed by a massive drop off to SK and Hanwha who are the two worst teams in the league.  Lotte somehow got off to a 5-0 start and when they did I took to Twitter to make sure everyone knew this team was a complete fraud.   I was right about that as Lotte is 25-32 since and I think the fact this team has even won 25 over that stretch is a miracle since, aside from a couple of good starting pitchers, there’s really nothing this team does particularly well.  Lotte have Dan Straily who is one of the top two or three best pitchers in the KBO but he only has four wins this season and it has everything to do with the fact the rest of this team just isn’t that good.  Adrian Sampson was supposed to be good but missed the first month of the season and hasn’t been able to get it together with a horrific 6.50 ERA and 1.77 WHIP so as long as you aren’t betting against Lotte on the days Straily takes the mound you can rest assured a bet against Lotte is probably a good bet.  Lotte, much like the two teams beneath them, just isn’t good offensively and the KBO is a league where teams that don’t score consistently just don’t win.  Lotte managed a 3-3 week last week which should be expected in a two start week for Straily but that won’t be the case this week and with six straight on the road coming up (which makes nine straight on the road overall) as long as Straily isn’t pitching Lotte will absolutely be a fade.  Lotte will be overpriced in their series with SK and, as bad as the Wyverns have been, I think they will be worth a look considering how well they played against Kiwoom over the weekend.  Lotte will finish this road swing up at Kiwoom where Straily will give them a shot in one game but they will be deserved underdogs in the other.  I still expect Lotte to be well under .500 by the end of this season so it’s fade or nothing with the Giants for me this week and most weeks the rest of the season.   
  1. SK Wyverns (21-44) – SK went 3-3 this past week and took two of three from Kiwoom so for the first time in a while I’m not going to have them trending downward in the ratings.  I would need to see another winning week before I consider having SK trend upward but this team actually played solid baseball all week last week and if there were ever a week for the Wyverns to have some success it’s probably this one.  SK was somehow 88-55 last year and tied Doosan for first place in the league standings but they lost some key guys and the new ones brought in just haven’t cut it this season.  SK cut injured import pitcher Nick Kingham and have since signed former Astros and Dodgers 1st Baseman Tyler White but it will take close to a month to get him into the team so this is a move that’s clearly in preparation for next season.  Another import player, Jamie Romak, is having an excellent season but he’s really the only guy in this SK lineup that hits consistently and, again, teams simply can’t win in this league if they aren’t scoring runs.  SK’s pitching isn’t all that bad but the big offensive outbursts are few and far between and the Wyverns rank near the bottom of the league in almost every offensive category which is why they are entering play this week at a dismal 21-44.  SK has played a bunch of UNDERS this season and, while the value was washing up on these the past couple weeks, scoring has been up around the league the past couple weeks so UNDER in SK games where there is a decent pitching matchup might be the way to go.  SK has a manageable week with three at home against Lotte followed by three at Hanwha, it’s tough to get excited to back a team as bad as SK but if they have one of their better pitchers on the mound they are probably worth a look in any of those games.

10. Hanwha Eagles (17-48) – The Hanwha Eagles are awful, all the research I did prior to the season told me Hanwha had the worst roster in the league and would be by far the worst team and they have not disappointed in that regard as they enter the new week an atrocious 17-48.  I’m beside myself for having made a 5* play on Hanwha this past Sunday but they had their best pitcher on the mound against essentially LG’s “B team” (the Twins have a number of injuries and were resting guys) and Hanwha STILL couldn’t cover the +1.5, throwing the game away in the 8th inning.  I will say this, I love the signing of import player Brandon Barnes and now that he’s in the lineup I do think there’s a possibility Hanwha wins a few more games in the second half than they did in the first half but aside from Barnes there’s just nothing to like about this Eagles team.  Hanwha beats themselves with errors and just unintelligent play more than any other team in this league so while there will be spots where there’s big time ML or RL value it really needs to be weighted against the overall incompetence of the management and most of the guys Hanwha are putting on the field right now.  With all of that being said I actually think this week sets up favorably for Hanwha.  They have six home games opening the week with KIA who has been atrocious on the road all season and they close the week with SK, the one team in the KBO that might actually be worse than the Eagles.  I also think teams are going to pitch to Brandon Barnes not knowing what he’s truly capable of and we could see him single handedly improve this Hanwha offense to where they are scoring enough to win games.  It’s going to be hard to ever back Hanwha to win a game outright however I will continue to look for spots where Hanwha is unnecessarily getting +1.5 as I think it will cash more than it doesn’t going forward.