O Korean Baseball Organization regular season, South Korea's highest level of baseball, is in full swing, making KBO one of the first major professional sports leagues to return to action during the coronavirus pandemic.
For those who are familiar with the Korean baseball league, it is an action-packed baseball, full of home runs, bat flips (lots and lots of bat releases), former MLB players and Korean-born stars who could follow the path of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ji-Man Choi from KBO to major league stardom.
You can watch the action with six regular season English broadcast games per week, broadcast mainly on ESPN2 at 5:30 am ET Tuesday through Friday, 4 am on Saturdays and 1 am on Sundays.
ESPN's KBO broadcast schedule
(All ET times; in addition to the listed game replays, all KBO League games on ESPN2 will also be streamed directly to the next live game broadcast.)
Friday, May 15
05:30: ESPN2 – Doosan Bears vs KIA Tigers (live)
14h: ESPN2 – Doosan Bears vs. KIA Tigers (relay)
Saturday, May 16
4 am .: ESPN – Doosan Bears vs KIA Tigers (live)
Sunday, May 17
1 am .: ESPN – Kiwoom Heroes x LG Twins (live)
Tuesday, May 19
5:30 am.: ESPN2 – NC Dinos vs. Doosan Bears (live)
2 pm .: ESPN2 – NC Dinos vs. Doosan Bears (relay)
Wednesday, May 20
05:30: ESPN2 – LG Twins vs. Samsung Lions (live)
2 pm.: ESPN2 – LG Twins vs. Samsung Lions (relay)
Thursday, May 21
5:30 am.: ESPN2 – NC Dinos vs. Doosan Bears (live)
1 p.m .: ESPN2 – NC Dinos vs. Doosan Bears (relay)
Friday, May 22
05:30: ESPN2 – KT Wiz vs LG Twins (live)
2 pm .: ESPN2 – KT Wiz x LG Twins (retransmission)
Saturday, May 23
4 am .: ESPN – Doosan Bears vs Samsung Lions (live)
Sunday, May 24
1 am .: ESPN – Hanwha Eagles vs NC Dinos (live)
KBO highlights – get ready for some bat launches!
ESPN Week 1 KBO Power Rankings
1. Kiwoom Heroes: 5-1 (Last week: 1) – Sang Woo Cho was the anchor of the busy Kiwoom bullpen, going 3 to 3 in chances of rescue.
2. Doosan bears: 3-2 (3) – Jose Fernandez from Cuba, which reached 0.334 by Doosan last year, leads the KBO with an average of 0.591 (13 to 22).
3. LG Twins: 2-3 (2) – The twins recovered from a 6-0 deficit on Sunday and handed NC Dinos their first defeat 10-10.
4. NC dinos: 4-1 (6) – The Dinos broke the score 4-0, getting solid starts from the ex-great leaguer Drew Rucinski and Chang Mo Koo, who agreed to launch 12 closing entries.
5. Lotte Giants: 5-0 (8) – A team ERA with 3.13 from the best league led to a great start for the Giants, who finished last in 2019.
6. SK Wyverns: 1-4 (4) – SK scored 17 low runs, despite Dong Min Han's 0.944 percentage.
7. KT Wiz: 1-4 (5) – Wiz's youth team is starting slowly, with an ERA team of 7.19.
8. Samsung Lions: 2-4 (7) – Lions, who are reaching just 0.199 as a team, have scored more than half of their 27 total races in a 14-2 victory over Kia.
9. Kia Tigers: 2-4 (9) – Tigers have the worst racing differential in the league (-15), but they also have the best hitter of week 1, Preston Tucker (.476, 3 HRs, 11 RBIs). Tucker played three seasons in the MLB with the Braves, Reds and Astros.
10. Hanwha Eagles: 2-4 (10) – Hanwha appears to be recovering from a weekend game of three games against the Giants.
(Selected by Joon Lee, Alden Gonzalez and Dan Mullen)
KBO players you need to know
Eui-Ji Yang, C, NC Dinos. American pitcher Josh Lindblom was the 2019 MVP, after leading the league in wins, strikeouts and innings and finishing second in the ERA, but signed a three-year, $ 9,125 contract with Brewers to return to the MLB. This leaves Yang as the main player who returned in the MVP vote. The veteran catcher will turn 33 this month, but has reached .354 / .438 / .574, leading the KBO in all three categories, while reaching 20 home runs in 118 games – with more walks than strikeouts. Last year was his first season with the Dinos, after spending the first nine seasons of his career with the Doosan Bears.
Hyeon-Jong Yang, LHP, Kia Tigers. League MVP in 2017, Yang finished third in the 2019 vote after moving from 16 to 8 and leading the league with an ERA of 2.29. The 32-year-old southpaw ventilated 163 out of 184⅔ entries and allowed only six home runs. After control problems early in his career, he only walked 1.6 for nine entries last season, the best of his career.
Ha-Seong Kim, SS, Kiwoom Heroes. One of the young stars in the league, Kim, hit .307 / .389 / .491, with 19 home runs, 38 doubles and 33 steals in 37 attempts. Now 24, Kim has been a regular since he was 19 and has been one of the best players in the league. Even with a drop in offensive in 2019, after changes in the ball, Kim improved his OPS by 48 points, making it his best season yet.
Baek-Ho Kang, RF, KT Wiz. At just 20, Kang hit .336 / .416 / .495 with 13 home runs on 438 teenage bats last season, although his power dropped from 29 home runs with the dead ball. Even so, his average rose 46 points, and he also showed solid discipline on the boards for such a young player, making him the Juan Soto of KBO, of sorts. Like Soto, Kang is also a sight to behold, with a high kick in the legs, even by Korean standards and some of the best bat flips in the league. He must be in the middle of the Korean roster at the next World Baseball Classic.
Jeong Choi, 3B, SK Wyverns. One of the great veteran players in the league, with 335 career runs in his career, Choi was a high school pitcher and hitter before finally deciding to become a professional. He was a member of the World Baseball Classic teams in 2009 and 2013 and led the KOB in home runs in 2016 and 2017. He is 33 years old, but is coming out of a season in which he reached .292 / .399 / .519 with 29 home runs, ranking tied for second in home runs and fourth in OPS.
Byung-Ho Park, 1B, Kiwoom Heroes. Park's two-year period with the Minnesota Twins it didn't go so well when he hit .191 on 215 at-bats (albeit with 12 home runs) in 2016 and spent the entire year 2017 on Triple-A. He returned to Korea and remains the top player in the league, reaching 43 home runs in 2018 and leading the league with 33 in 2019.
Hyun-Soo Kim, LF / 1B, LG Twins. You must remember Kim from his time with the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies in 2016 and 2017. He returned to Korea in 2018 and hit .362 with 20 home runs, but dropped to .304 and 11 in 2019. He is 32 and one of the biggest names in the league, but has moved up from fifth place. in the league at OPS for 25, so let's see if age is catching up to him.
Casey Kelly, RHP, LG Twins. A choice from the first round of the Red Sox in 2008, Kelly became one of the best prospects for the Fathers. But he had Tommy John's surgery in 2013 and jumped by the minors, with some appearances on the main Fathers' pictures, Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants, before going to Korea in 2019. He went 14-12 with an ERA of 2.55 for the twins (although 19 races not done helped to decrease the ERA), reaching 126 out of 180⅓ entries. Kelly launches a low sinker from the 90s that helps him hit ground balls, but does not result in a high strikeout rate. That was not enough to keep him in the main areas, but it was effective enough at KBO. Kelly's American teammate Tyler Wilson also had a good season for the twins, getting 14-7 with an ERA of 2.92 and Kelly-like peripherals.
Jose Miguel Fernandez, 1B / DH, Doosan Bears. Fernandez had a cup of coffee with the Los Angeles Angels in 2018, but signed with Doosan in 2019 and was one of the league's best hitters, reaching 0.334 / .409 / 0.483 with 15 home runs while leading the league in hits. Fernandez played some second base and third base for the Angels, but the Cuban's glove doesn't really work on the field, except on first base, and he doesn't have the power to play there in the USA. He spent most of his time in HD in 2019 for Doosan.
Jamie Romak, 1B, SK Wyverns. The Canadian native managed 39 plate appearances for the Braves and Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014 and 2015. Now he enters his fourth season at KBO as one of the league's main stragglers. He hit .276 / .370 / .508 in 2019 with 29 home runs – after seasons of 31 and 43 players. Romak brings an approach of three real results to KBO: he was second (tie) in home runs, fifth in walks and second (tied) in strikeouts. – David Schoenfield