As week seven of the KBO comes to a close, a number of interesting trends have begun or continued to develop. A rocky week from the NC Dinos has narrowed the gap between first place and the rest of the league, making for a race that can seemingly only get better. In this week’s rankings, the Doosan Bears and the LG Twins have tied for third place, a testament to how neck-and-neck the top of the league currently is.
1. NC Dinos
28-12 Record, 2-3 Week Seven (1 Rainout)
Despite a week ending with an uncharacteristic losing record, the NC Dinos find themselves atop the KBO standings yet again. The team’s current .700 win percentage puts them on pace for a 101-win season, a feat the Dinos have never achieved in the history of the franchise. The Dinos will have an opportunity to expand upon their league-best run differential next week, facing the second and third worst run-preventing teams in the KBO: the Wiz and the Bears.
2. Kiwoom Heroes
25-17 Record, 5-1 Week Seven
The Heroes have remained right in the thick of the league’s best teams, and their pitching staff has led the way recently. Coupled with a regression from the Dinos staff, the Heroes now have the league’s best team ERA, a strong contributing factor to their second best overall run differential. Starter Eric Jokisch and reliever Cho Sang-woo have led the way, and the Heroes now sit just half a game back of a tie for second place after a league-best 8-4 record over the past two weeks. The offense may benefit as well from the addition of former major leaguer Addison Russell, though that signing is indisputably deplorable and the team deserves to be chastised for providing him with another opportunity to play. The Heroes face two tough matchups in the Twins and Tigers in week eight.
T-3. LG Twins
25-16 Record, 3-3 Week Seven
Tied with the Doosan Bears for the KBO’s second-best record, the LG Twins are just a few days of good fortune away from taking the top spot in the KBO. This week, the Twins continued their perfect streak against the Hanwha Eagles, sweeping them for the second time this season. However, the Twins’ offense was incapable of going punch-for-punch with the Bears’ offense to end the week, making the week a 3-3 wash. The Twins will look to move ahead of the Bears and close in on the Dinos next week with the Kiwoom Heroes and the SK Wyverns upcoming on the schedule.
T-3. Doosan Bears
25-16 Record, 4-2 Week Seven
The Bears have continued their trademark style over the last two weeks: score a ton of runs and hope that’s enough to beat your opponent, who will also score a ton of runs against your subpar pitching staff. A couple ticks up in run differential indicate that the Bears are likely a winning team anyway, but it is interesting to watch their continued success despite their pitching. It’s worth noting that the Bears swept the Twins to conclude week seven but were less than stellar otherwise, including dropping a week six series to the Eagles, a team that won just one game over the last month other than their two wins against the Bears. Currently tied for second with the Twins, the Bears’ run differential is a full 22 runs behind the Twins, so it will be interesting to see how long they can maintain their position in the standings. They face the Wyverns and Dinos in the week ahead.
5. Kia Tigers
23-18 Record, 4-1 Week Seven (1 Rainout)
This week, the KIA Tigers nearly did what no team has done this season: swept the NC Dinos. The Tigers began the week with back-to-back wins against the league’s toughest opponent before a called-game both literally and metaphorically rained on their chances to make it a full three game sweep. The Tigers also moved into second place among the league’s best run-prevention units throughout the course of the week. The Tigers will be tasked with the KBO’s second-best home-run-hitting team next week to prove themselves, facing the Heroes after a meeting with the Giants early in the week.
6. Samsung Lions
20-22 Record, 3-3 Week Seven
The Lions have sneakily been a winning team over the course of the last two weeks, creeping their season record closer to .500 with series wins against the Heroes, Wiz and Bears in that timeframe. After a poor start, the team has picked things up in the last month, and while the offense has continued to sit towards the middle of the pack, the pitching staff has picked things up and now boasts the league’s third best ERA. The Lions now have a positive run differential for the first time this season, another reason for success. They currently sit 3.5 games back of the second wild card spot, and at this point are very much in contention for a postseason berth. Looking ahead into week eight, the Lions match up against the Eagles and Giants, and opportunity to continue winning and move ahead of the Giants, currently a half game ahead of them, in the standings.
7. Lotte Giants
20-21 Record, 2-4 Week Seven
Yet again, the Lotte Giants find themselves hovering around the .500 mark, undoing the impact of last week’s sweep of the Hanwha Eagles. The Giants are one of four teams in the KBO with a negative run differential and are one of three teams that have yet to score 200 runs this season. The Giants will look to break .500 and stay there as the season progresses, starting with games against the Kia Tigers and Samsung Lions next week.
8. KT Wiz
18-23 Record, 5-1 Week Seven
The narrative for the Wiz has remained largely unchanged since week five: after starting the season with a dissonance between a poor record and a solid run differential, the Wiz have now suffered a loss in run differential to accompany a record that continues to sit towards the bottom of the league. The team was 7-5 over the course of the last two weeks, but will need more than slight gains in the standings to have a real hope of contention. Mel Rojas jr. and Kang Baek-ho have led a strong offense, but the pitching continues to plague the Wiz, as their 5.88 team ERA sits just barely ahead of the league-worst Eagles. The Wiz have dates with the Dinos and Eagles in week eight.
9. SK Wyverns
12-29 Record, 0-6 Week Seven
Week seven was one of the more disappointing weeks for the SK Wyverns, piecing together their second winless week of the season. The Wyverns have won just one of their last ten games and currently have the second-worst run differential in the KBO. The Wyverns have the Doosan Bears and the LG Twins, two of the league’s toughest opponents, on the radar for the week ahead.
10. Hanwha Eagles
10-32 Record, 1-5 Week Seven
For lack of an ability to sugarcoat it, the Eagles have continued to be pitiful since a mediocre start, a combination that leaves them two and a half games behind any other team in the league with a -127 run differential that is more than double that of the next worst team (Wyverns, -60). The Eagles offense has been poor throughout the season, but the pitching has taken a dive in recent weeks, leaving the team with both the highest team ERA in the league and the fewest runs scored – and the Eagles are one of just three teams that have played 42 games. It’s difficult to overstate the fact that the Eagles have just three wins in the last four weeks, including a 16 game losing streak. The team will match up with the Lions and Wiz in the last full week of June in hopes of capturing some much needed wins.
Ryan’s Series to Watch
Lions @ Giants: (Friday 6/26-Sunday 6/28): While these two teams are just sixth and seventh in the standings, they have both shown strong stretches; the Giants had the best start in the league before cooling off, while the Lions started poorly but have come on recently. Currently these teams sit just a half game apart in the standings and are within striking distance of the Tigers, whose fifth place spot in the standings holds with it a spot in the playoffs as the second wild card team. This series may have major implications on the wild card spot, at the very least dictating which team will sit in sixth place come the end of the eighth week of play.
Arrick’s Series to Watch
Heroes @ Twins (Tuesday 6/23-Thursday 6/25): These two teams will enter their third head-to-head series of the season at the start of week eight, battling to position themselves at the top of the league. The Dinos (82), Heroes (47), and Twins (42) are the only teams in the KBO with a run differential above 20, making this match-up an important one in proving which teams belong in the winner’s circle and which do not.