Not only are sports bettors dealing with the lack of events due to COVID-19, but the DFS world is suffering too. To help ease the pain, let’s get familiar with the Korea’s KBO baseball league as they prepare for opening day this week.
Tuesday will be a good day in the year 2020. We’ve not had many of those, but on Tuesday, we get professional baseball back! Well, sort of. While Major League Baseball is still trying to figure out how, when, and where their season will begin, the KBO is ready to roll. For a baseball nut like myself, this is the best news I’ve heard since my last COVID test came back negative.
Draftkings has already put up DFS contests for Tuesday, and odds are game odds are available everywhere for you to enjoy.
Whether you are new to Korean Baseball, DFS, or both, here is a quick crash course in the KBO before opening day.
What is the KBO Baseball?
Formed in 1982, after Koreans became enamored by the MLB via American missionaries, it has genuinely become Korea’s pastime over the last three decades. The league draws about 10,000 fans per game, and those fans are deeply passionate. If you have ever seen a KBO game or had the pleasure of going to one, you quickly realize they are nothing like MLB games. Fans are far more gracious and even have chants for each player on their favorite team.
The KBO plays a slightly abridged 144-game season, and those games are full of scoring and excitement.
Former KBO Players you might know who have been posted to the MLB include Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jung-Ho Kang, Byung-Ho Park, Hyang-Nam Choi, and Kwang-Hun Kim.
Talent goes the other way, too, with each team allowed to sign three players from outside of Korea. Last season the league MVP went to Josh Lindblom, who was an import for the Doosan Bears.
As far as gameplay goes, the KBO and MLB are the same with three minor differences. Unlike the MLB, each team has a designated hitter; games are limited to 12 innings (15 in the playoffs) and the limit as mentioned earlier on imported players.
That’s it. Other than that, there are no differences in the rules between the two leagues.
As of 2020, these are the ten teams that make up the league:
- Doosan Bears
- Hanwha Eagles
- Kia Tigers
- Kiwoom Heroes
- KT Wiz
- LG Twins
- Lotte Giants
- NC Dinos
- Samsung Lions
- SK Wyverns
The Tigers are basically the Yankees of the KBO, having won 11 titles in the 38 years in the league. They last won in 2017, and last year’s champions, the Doosan Bears, are favorites to repeat in 2020. The Bears have made it to the finals five years in a row and won three of those trips.
Since we are looking to the KBO for daily fantasy baseball profits, we should also go over the difference in stats.
Hitters are getting the best of pitchers in the KBO when compared to the MLB. Games average over nine runs per game with totals hovering in the 8.5 to 9.5 range, even reaching 13 at times. Strikeout numbers are also skewed, with the average pitcher posting an 8.9 K/9 ratio while Korean pitchers managed just 6.8. More runs don’t necessarily mean more power as the MLB pitchers give up 1.4 long balls per game, while the KBO average only 0.7. Playing small ball is the name of the game in Korea. So despite all those runs, don’t expect too many dingers.
Betting on KBO Baseball
The betting markets will be familiar to any baseball fan. The only main difference, as mentioned above, is the game totals falling into the 9.5 to 11.5 range for the most part. A good way to handicap these is to focus on bullpens. Several teams have less than stellar arms out of the pen and make for good over bets when the matchup is right.
Bullpens also play a significant role in live betting. If you know a team has a lousy staff and they call for a reliever, pound that over quick and watch the other team implode.
The passionate fans are not only fun to be around but also have shown to be more effective than MLB fans. Home teams won at a .546 clip last year in the KBO baseball season, which outpaces the MLB’s number of .530. If you are tempted to go big on a home team parlay, be aware that home teams swept just eight times last season (0.55%) while away teams failed to do it even once.
Head to head matchups are the same to predict as with the MLB. It just takes some time to get to know the teams and players. Luckily, there are only ten squads in the league, so it is easier to digest.
In the first two weeks of the 2019 season, the Under was 42-27 on totals of 9.5 runs. In the same two weeks, home teams covered the -1.5 spread just 29% of games while away teams covered -1.5 82% of the time.
KBO Daily Fantasy Strategy
Much like betting on the KBO, creating a winning DFS strategy is mainly similar to the Majors. Stacking remains the preferred method of building a roster with points for pitching wins carrying a bit more weight than usual due to the strikeout rates.
The earned run averages for teams last year ranged from the league-leading SK Wyverns (3.48), and the tenth-ranked Hanwha Eagles (4.80).
Imported talent tends to fare a bit better with average ERAs of 3.27 and a WHIP of 1.20. League averages in 2019 for ERA were 3.97 and 1.33 for WHIP when national players are mixed into the equation.
Don’t let that sway you to think that the Korean talent isn’t there.
Last year Hyun-jong Yang of the Kia Tigers led the KBO with a 2.26 ERA in 180 innings pitched. Fourteen starters had an ERA under 4.00 and six of those were Korean players.
The league has lost three of their best arms, with Lindblom heading to the Brewers, Kwang-Hyun Kim to the Cardinals and Angel Sanchez to the Nippon League.
When taking a look at offense, teams combine for more hits per game than the MLB but as mentioned before, those hits are not leaving the ballpark as often. The league was led in OPS by the Kiwoom Heroes (.786) which was better than the MLB league average of .757. The offense is the name of the game in the KBO, so you will want to get familiar with the league’s best bats right away.
The KBO does plan to start the year off with empty baseball stadiums which will be especially weird for everyone involved. So far I’ve watched a few sporting events with no fans and to be honest it was brutal.
As mentioned above, the Korean fans are incredibly passionate and really make the whole experience of going to a game very enjoyable. They also do a great job of encouraging the players while in-game. This probably won’t affect much, to be honest, but keep it in my mind when looking at home/away splits for the time being.
The players have also enacted a ‘no-spitting’ rule for players to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Curious to see what the punishment for breaking that rule is.
Lucky for us, betting and playing daily fantasy for KBO baseball mirrors the experience of MLB betting. We will have a companion article to this tomorrow which gives our specific DFS picks for Tuesday’s opening day of action so check back.