Yes, it’s that time again. For baseball fans, the KBO continues to remain the only game in town. ESPN’s coverage of this league has increased its notoriety and frankly, it’s given us the opportunity to have some fun while cashing tickets at the window. There will certainly be some interested onlookers this week in a series rematch between the top two teams in the league. Let’s break down this pivotal matchup that will start on Tuesday and also take a look to see what happened the last time both ball clubs met.
Last month the (6-4) Doosan Bears welcomed the (8-1) NC Dinos for a 3-game set and there was little margin for error in the first two games they played. Both teams won a game apiece by one run before the Dinos put the Bears to bed by doubling them up 12-6 in the decisive third game. One of the benefits of tracking the ATS and CLV stats in the KBO is that I can incorporate this information in my handicap the next time around. The Dinos were a small underdog (+103) when they won the opening game of the series and remained a short dog in the middle game which they lost 2-1. The total of both games closed at 9.5 and 9 respectively before rising to 10.5 in the rubber game which also saw the Dinos close as a favorite on the moneyline.
Doosan Bears Projected Starters
NC Dinos Projected Starters
Of the Dinos projected starters, only Mike Wright started a game in their earlier meeting while Young-ha Lee is the only Doosan probable who pitched in the May series. Both teams will come into this series scorching hot with the Bears being winners of their last four games and the Dinos on a five game win streak. While the Dinos sit just four games in front of the Bears, a closer look reveals that they’re (+94) in run differential. The Dinos also lead the league with a .304 batting average and 49 home runs on the year.
To give you an idea of how dominant they’ve been, there are three teams tied for second in home runs with 32. The Dinos are also slugging 35 points higher than any team in the league and are hitting .327 with runners in scoring position. You’re pretty much exhausted by the time you examine their pitching staff, and that’s when you realize how truly dominant this team is on both sides of the ball. The Dinos lead the league with a 3.58 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 18 quality starts. With their starting pitchers going deep into ball games, they’re able to rotate the arms in their bullpen and keep guys fresh for the duration of the season.
Doosan has some offensive prowess of their own. The Bears are hitting .300 on the season with 28 home runs while being extremely efficient with runners on the bases. Doosan is hitting an eye-popping .341 with runners on second and third base. Where this team struggles will be on the mound, and particularly if they have to go to their pen early. Doosan is eighth in the league with a 5.28 ERA and ninth with a 1.60 WHIP. Opposing teams are simply doing a good job putting balls in play as Doosan has given up the second most hits in the league (313). After going through each teams’ resume coming in, the only thing left remaining is to see how the starting pitchers matchup head to head.
Raul Alcantara (5-1, 4.63 ERA) vs Sung-young Choi (0-0, 5.14 ERA)
Alcantara has yet to face the Dinos this season and has won his last five decisions. The Bears will need to win this game if they’re to have any chance in stealing the series at NC Park. Alcantara has MLB experience and he’ll need to draw on that for his start on Tuesday. He has a 4.73 FIP and my model has flagged him to show signs of regression. Sung-young Choi made his first start of the season on June 3rd against SK Wyverns and surrendered three runs in 3 ⅔ innings before making way for the NC bullpen. The Dinos ended up winning the game 8-6 and they were in control early after plating 5 runs in the first inning. He wasn’t particularly sharp in that outing and if I were looking to bet this game, a play on the total over would certainly be of interest to me should the bookmakers post a line around 10.5.
I could also consider a first five innings moneyline bet on the Bears but I’d have to be getting a really good plus price and the veteran Alcantara could be installed as a short favorite in the game. It wouldn’t surprise me if this opening game went off somewhere around a pick ‘em because savvy bettors would be chomping at the bit to back the Dinos if they were listed as an underdog.
Young-ha Lee (1-2, 4.24 ERA) vs Drew Rucinski (4-0, 2.11 ERA)
Lee’s first start against the Dinos is one he would like to forget. He lasted only 4 innings and surrendered four runs on seven hits before departing with 9.00 ERA and 2.25 WHIP for the game. His FIP is expected to improve by about half a run but I don’t expect this to be the game where he finds success. Dinos starter Drew Rucinski is in his second season in the KBO and continues to settle in nicely. Rucinski has been stingy to opposing hitting with his 1.20 WHIP and 2.11 ERA. This game has Dinos’ run line bet all over it and I’ll be shopping around with the hopes of finding a plus-price.
Chris Flexen (2-0, 2.92 ERA) v Mike Wright (4-1, 2.65 ERA)
The final game of the series could see two American hurlers face off. Both pitchers are off to a good start and are enjoying success in their first season in the KBO. These are two quality arms and my model projects this to be the closest game of the series. Both pitchers have been so hot that it seems they can only regress from here on out. Flexen actually has the better FIP at 4.01 compared to Mike Wright at 5.27. In spite of that, the model has a slight edge to the Dinos and it’s due to their ability to create runs (7.33 per game). Doosan is creating 5.77 runs per game which would be good in most cases if the opponent wasn’t the Dinos. While I expect the Dinos to be installed as a short favorite in this game, the under could be worth a look if a total of 9.5/10 gets posted. This matchup is the most difficult of the three to handicap so it would make sense to factor in how the first two games unfold before deciding on a lean. Either way, I expect this series to have some fireworks and if we can make some money before it’s over I’ll be an even happier bettor. Best of luck to you all and be sure to enjoy the games.