The Korean Baseball Organization has rapidly taken up many fans from the United States in the absence of Major League Baseball, a movement spearheaded by the league’s deal with ESPN to air one game from Korea each day. While fans are still growing acclimated to a league that differs from MLB in many ways, they still exhibit a strong fervor for their teams regardless. Early in the season, it’s difficult to tell which teams’ performances are truly indicative of their talent levels, but we’re going to try to rank the teams anyway. Rankings this week were determined by twelve voters, with each vote being worth the inverse of its position (so, for example, a first place vote for a team is worth ten points, a seventh place vote worth four, etc.). As a result, the maximum possible score that a team could receive this week was 120. Our rankings revealed three tiers of teams out of the gate, as three teams are well above .500, two teams are close to .500, and the rest of the pack is well under .500. Without further ado, here are our power rankings of the Korean Baseball Organization teams after one week of play:
1 (Tie). Lotte Giants (5 wins, 0 losses; 109 points)
The Giants are now KBO’s only undefeated team, looking far stronger than their showing last season in which they finished in last place despite the league’s highest payroll. With an offense led by Dixon Machado, Jung Hoon and Jeon Jun-Woo, the Giants are currently averaging over six runs per game on offense, and a pitching staff led by Dan Straily has been solid in every game thus far. The team plays the defending champion Bears followed by the Eagles next week, and should be fun to watch moving forward.
1 (Tie). NC Dinos (4-1; 109 points)
The Dinos have looked very strong out of the gate, winning their first four games before falling to the Twins on Sunday. The offense has been strong, led by No Jin-hyuk, Yang Eui-ji and Lee Myung-gi, and starting pitchers Drew Rucinski and Koo Chang-Mo were both excellent in their first starts of the season, throwing six innings each and allowing no runs between them. The bullpen is certainly cause for concern, but the Dinos have looked very strong nonetheless. They face the Wiz and Wyverns next week, the same teams swept by the Giants in week one.
3. Kiwoom Heroes (5-1; 106 points)
The Kiwoom heroes are off to a hot start in the first week of the 2020 KBO season. After winning their first series in Gwangju against the rival Kia Tigers, the Heroes swept the Hanhwa Eagles in their opening series at home. The pitching staff has been strong all around, and the offense, led by 1B Park Byung-ho and LF Lee Jung-hoo, is averaging almost six runs per game. They’ll stay home to host the Samsung Lions for three before heading on the road for a three game stint with the LG Twins. – Jack Dorfsman
4. Doosan Bears (3-2; 75 points)
After finishing with the best record and winning the Korean Series last season, the Bears have had a solid 2020 thus far as they sit in fourth place after taking two of three from the twins and splitting a two game set with the Wiz. The pitching hasn’t been excellent, allowing twelve runs in each of their two games with the Wiz, but the team has been winning games regardless with the offensive help of DH Jose Miguel Fernandez, 1B Oh Jae-il and LF Kim Jae-hwan. The Bears match up against the undefeated Giants, followed by the Tigers next week.
5. Hanhwa Eagles (2-4; 74 points)
The Eagles started strong, taking two of three against the Wyverns, but were swept at the hands of the Heroes to close out the week. They’ve featured some strong individual performances regardless, including excellent pitching from starters Warwick Saupold and Kim Ee-whan. Veteran 3B Song Kwang-min has been a bright spot in an offense that has scored consistently, but been fairly mediocre. The Eagles have kept every game close, but are certainly at risk of sliding if they don’t turn things around after their three game skid. They’ll attempt to do just that against the Tigers and Giants in week two.
6. LG Twins (2-3; 54 points)
The LG Twins ended the week with a comeback victory against the then undefeated NC Dinos. This snapped a three game losing streak and it’s clear that “inconsistent” will be a common phrase for this team. The pitching, hitting, and even fielding is incredibly inconsistent and LG Twins fans are in for an emotional rollercoaster of a season. Roberto Ramos and Kim Hyun-soo have clearly emerged as the biggest offensive threats but after that it’s a lot of question marks. The one thing that’s very clear is Twins fans are loud and proud. A rowdy and lovable group of fans that ride or die with their team. Next week, the Twins take on the Wyverns, followed by the Heroes. – Scott Bentley
7. KT Wiz (1-4; 39 points)
It’s been tough sledding thus far in 2020 for a talented KT Wiz team. After coming back from seven down against Doosan only to lose in extra innings, the Wiz have only one win in their first five contests. The offense, led by third year slugger Kang Baek-Ho, has exploded for twelve runs in each of the team’s first two games against Doosan, but the pitching has severely lagged behind. This team certainly has the roster to make a playoff push, which keeps them from the very bottom of our rankings, but it remains to be seen if they can turn around their early troubles. The Wiz match up against the Dinos and Lions in week two. – Peter Khayat
8. Kia Tigers (2-4; 38 points)
The Tigers have suffered mainly at the hands of their pitching staff, as they’ve allowed nearly seven runs per game and no fewer than three in each of their first six games. Still, their bullpen has been fairly good, and an offense led by SS Kim Sun-bin and outfielders Choi Hyung-woo and Preston Tucker has performed well so far. The Tigers match up against the Eagles and Bears in week two.
9 (Tie). Samsung Lions (2-4; 28 points)
The Lions finished toward the bottom of the KBO in 2019, and they suffered a sweep at the hands of the Dinos to open up the 2020 season. The bullpen has been great, with five relievers all boasting an ERA of 0 after a combined 14 2/3 innings pitched, but the starting pitching has struggled considerably and the offense has featured DH Kim Dong-yeop as the only player with at least 5 plate appearances hitting over .300. The Lions face the Heroes and Wiz in week two.
9 (Tie). SK Wyverns (1-4; 28 points)
After a strong 2019 in which the Wyverns tied for the league’s best record, the team has stumbled out of the gate in 2020, taking only one game against the Eagles out of their first two series. The offense has been struggling, with Han Dong-min and Jeong Jin-gi being the only two players with at least 10 plate appearances and an on base percentage over .340. Relievers Kim Jung-bin and Kim Ju-on have pitched well thus far, with no earned runs between them in 6 innings pitched, but the pitching staff has struggled otherwise as well. The Wyverns face the Twins and Dinos this coming week, both teams coming out of week 1 with some momentum.
Let us know how you would rank these teams after one week of play @Diamond_Digest on Twitter!