Week three in the KBO featured no shortage of excitement, and it was capped off by a Sunday slate of games that included a walk-off grand slam to power the Twins to a win over the Wiz. After three weeks of play, the top and bottom of the league are clearly defined, with the Dinos maintaining a three game lead on the rest of the league and the Lions and Wyverns continuing to struggle. Outside of these teams, though, it has been a dogfight in the middle of the pack, and the KIA Tigers notably moved right into the thick of this race with a five game winning streak to open the week. This week, nine writers voted on our power rankings, for a maximum of 90 points. Here’s how the league stacks up after week three.
1. NC Dinos (90 points; -0)
14-3 Record, 4-2 Week 3
The Dinos have maintained their prowess in week three, closing the week out on two victories. Through week three, NC has not lost a single series, an impressive feat that has been spearheaded mainly by strong pitching. In an offense-heavy league, the team’s 3.26 ERA makes them the only team with a mark under 3.80, and one of just two teams with an ERA under 4.00. Their three best starters, Chang-mo Koo, Drew Rucinski, and Mike Wright, all have ERAs under 3.00. With the league’s third highest-scoring offense to boot, the Dinos have dominated, and there’s no evidence that this will stop in week four. The Dinos open the week with a tough series at home against the Heroes followed by a set with the Lions, whom they swept to open the season.
2. Kiwoom Heroes (78 points; ↑2)
10-8 Record, 3-3 Week 3
The Heroes have proven to be a well-balanced team so far, with the league’s third best ERA and fourth highest runs scored total on the season. They’re still looking for real separation from the rest of the league after another mediocre week, but the Heroes are right in the thick of five teams that have won between nine and 11 games so far, and they have the best run differential of all of them at +16. They have two difficult matchups in the Dinos and Wiz in which to prove themselves in week four.
3. Doosan Bears (74 Points; ↓1)
10-7 Record, 3-3 Week 3
The Bears followed a strong week two performance with a week three that was stronger than the 3-3 record suggests, as the team really only played one bad game all week in a 13-0 loss to the Lions. Still, this is a tale of two teams: while the offense has been the league’s best, the pitching has been utterly abysmal. The Bears will have to hope that they find more pitching success, as Jose Miguel Fernandez can’t maintain a .500 batting average forever and the rest of the offense is likely due for regression as well. The Bears match up against the Wyverns, followed by the Giants, in week four.
4. LG Twins (61 points; ↑1)
11-6 Record, 4-2 Week 3
Last week I pinned the Twins and Wiz series as one to watch to close out the week, and the two teams delivered, with the Twins taking two out of three games, including a walk-off grand slam on Sunday, in a matchup where both teams proved themselves formidable. LG is continuing to display more consistency, with team offensive and pitching stats that are creeping towards the top of the league and now a positive run differential to boot. The Twins will look to keep things rolling in the right direction against the Eagles, followed by the resurgent Tigers, in the week ahead.
5. KT Wiz (52 points; ↑3)
7-10 Record, 3-3 Week 3
The narrative for the Wiz is unchanging: the team continues to underperform its record, and is apparently dragged down by a struggling bullpen. No moment epitomizes this more than the walk-off grand slam that ended the team’s hopes to capture a series win against the Twins on Sunday. A +17 run differential that’s second best in the entire league buoys this team in the rankings, as the Wiz have suffered a lot of close losses up to this point that suggest luck has hardly been on their side, but a good run differential hardly means anything if they can’t start winning. The offense has been very strong so far, which is promising moving forward. Look for two good series out of the Wiz this week, opening against the surging Tigers and then playing the Heroes.
6. KIA Tigers (44 points; -0)
10-8 Record, 5-1 Week 3
It’s possibly a bit counter-intuitive that the Tigers won five games in a row without moving up in the rankings, but it’s difficult to make the case that they belong above any higher ranked team other than the Wiz. If you have more faith in record than run differential, it’s understandable to place the Tigers higher than this. Still, the Tigers have turned around their pitching and now boast the league’s second best ERA, and the offense was far more well-rounded in week three than it had been before. One week of success is hardly proof that this is a great Tigers team, but they’re poised to shoot up the rankings with sustained success. In week four, they’ll have two defining matchups against the Wiz and Twins.
7. Lotte Giants (40 points; ↓5)
9-8 Record, 2-4 Week 3
The Giants have seriously struggled since week one, with a 4-8 record after winning their first five in a row. The team still maintains a winning record, but now has a negative run differential and the league’s third lowest-scoring offense, both bad signs moving forward. Dixon Machado, formerly an apparent superhero, is now barely hitting league average on the year, and just one of the team’s qualified starting pitchers has an ERA under 4.90. The Giants will look to regain their week one form against the Lions and Bears in the week to come.
8. Hanhwa Eagles (29 points; ↓1)
7-11 Record, 2-4 Week 3
The Eagles have continued to play at a relatively mediocre level, dropping both series of the week and coming out with the league’s third worst record. The team still has one of the league’s best pitching staff, but this is supplemented with an underwhelming offense that has continued to struggle to power the team to wins. Of the Eagles’ six qualified batters, just Eun-won Jung is a league-average or better hitter, and his 100 wRC+ is exactly league average; the team doesn’t even have a qualified hitter with a .750 OPS. The Eagles need offense, and fast. They’ll match up against the Twins and Wyverns in week four.
9. Samsung Lions (18 points; -0)
6-12 Record, 2-4 Week 3
The Lions have also been an underwhelming team, though they’ve spread their mediocrity more evenly between the offense and pitching. The sixth most runs scored and third worst team ERA in the league is hardly a recipe for success, and a -17 run differential is no surprise. Points to the Lions for consistency; they’ve had a 2-4 record in each individual week of the season thus far. They face a slipping Giants team, followed by the Dinos, in week four.
10. SK Wyverns (9 points; -0)
3-14 Record, 2-4 Week 3
I have good news about the Wyverns: week three was their best of the season so far! It’s not difficult to see that this is also pretty bad news. The Wyverns finally captured their third win of the season in their seventeenth game, concluding week three with a measly .176 winning percentage to go along with a -46 run differential. The Wyverns are hitting just .234 as a team; only one qualified hitter in the entire Doosan Bears lineup has a lower batting average. The Wyvern offense has certainly been the team’s greatest concern, but the Bears also provide hope for a jump start, as the Wyverns will match up against them and their league-worst pitching staff (by ERA) to open the week before visiting the Eagles, another opportunity to find a spark against a fellow struggling team.
Series to watch in week four
Heroes @ Dinos: A matchup of two of the teams who look strongest in the league so far. Not much more to say than that.
Tigers @ Wiz: One of both Tigers series that are worth watching this week, this will have heavy implications on the standings and help to demonstrate the true nature of two teams that have showed great promise without great success to back it up so far.
Twins @ Tigers: Both teams that are on the rise after week three, this should be an interesting series as these two squads look to capture some big wins.
Wiz @ Heroes: This should be a defining series for both teams, with the Wiz looking for some strong wins and the Heroes looking to keep themselves among the league’s strongest looking teams.
Giants @ Bears: Two teams that have showed extreme strengths and weaknesses through the season’s first three weeks, this matchup will be interesting and revelatory.