Baseball is back in South Korea, as the KBO is set to begin on Tuesday afternoon with a slate of five games. All five games are scheduled for 1:00 a.m. EST. This is one of four major baseball leagues in the world. With the CPBL playing baseball for a few weeks now, two major baseball leagues are up and running. Taiwan and South Korea are two of the biggest success stories fighting against the coronavirus.
The KBO is a step up from the CPBL in terms of talent. Players get paid more in the KBO and is more in line with the NPB in Japan. Having said that, the NPB is the second-best baseball league in the world behind Major League Baseball. While a major baseball league, CPBL teams would typically get torched by South Korean clubs.
We’ll have more KBO as the season progresses. We’re just going to pick one game for today, and then begin to open up more in the near future. All of these players, especially in the early stages of the regular season, are going to be small recreational plays. Let’s see how things play out first before diving deeper into a new league for most people.
ESPN managed to work out a deal with the KBO and six games a week will be broadcast on the network. In other words, a game a day pretty much. The times are going to be a little inconvenient given the time zones, but the hardcores will find a way to watch. Opening Day in South Korea provides baseball fans in the west coast a pretty decent time, with a start time of 10:00 p.m. PST.
The first matchup on the docket for ESPN is the NC Dinos vs. Samsung Lions. Clubs in Asia are named after companies typically for advertising money. You’re probably used to it if you’ve been following the CPBL, though. No, Rakuten is not a city in Taiwan. We have a pretty good matchup to get our KBO betting series underway on Tuesday.
The Dinos are coming off a 73-70 season with a loss against the LG Twins in the wildcard round. They are still searching for their first championship since entering the league in 2011. Conversely, the Lions were 60-83 a season ago and did not qualify for the playoffs. They’re KBO veterans with their first season in 1983. Samsung have won eight championships, and four-peated from 2011 to 2014. However, have played under the .500 mark in the previous four years. Head below for our free NC Dinos vs. Samsung Lions pick in the KBO for May 5, 2020.
NC Dinos vs. Samsung Lions KBO Betting Odds:
NC Dinos vs. Samsung Lions Prediction:
The pitching will have to settle in and show more strides forward for the Samsung Lions if they’re going to improve on their 60-83 mark from a season ago. As a team, they were able to improve on the bump in 2019, but improvements must continue to be made. The Lions have posted a total team ERA of 5.65, 5.90, 5.19, and finally a 4.64 ERA in 2019. Getting their ERA below 5.00 is stepping forward. Jung-hyun Baek is expected to get the call for the Lions in the season opener. Baek has been with the Lions for the duration of his career since entering the KBO in 2017.
Baek didn’t have much going for himself towards the start and mid-way point of his career, but has been able to show signs of improvement recently. In fact, Baek is coming off a career-high ERA of 4.24 as a starting pitcher. He was a member of the bullpen earlier in his career, but has gotten more work in the rotation the past few years. Baek recorded a 4.38, 4.58, and 4.24 ERA in his last three seasons. While pitching was a bit better for the Lions in 2019, their offensive numbers took a hit, with a .288 batting average in 2018 to a .256 average last season.
The pitching staff as a collective unit was vastly superior for the Dinos in 2019. They posted a 4.02 ERA for a very respectable season hurling the ball. That should be the case again this season. Former major leaguer, Drew Rucinski, will get the call for the Dinos in the opener. He spun a 5.33 ERA in 41 games in the majors from 2014 to 2018 with the Angels, Twins, and Marlins. In his last season in the majors, Rucinski posted a 4.33 ERA with the Marlins in 2018.
Rucinski was one of the top pitchers in the KBO last season. He found a home with the Dinos in 2019. Rucinski felt comfortable immediately and proved to be a big signing. The 31-year-old made a nice impact, with a 3.05 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 30 starts. He should be able to silence a Samsung offense that should continue to struggle in 2020. The former major leaguer gets a nationally televised game in the US in his first outing of the year. Look for him to impress and lead the Dinos to a win out of the gate in the season opener.