May 6, 2020 - Sports

Getting to know the KBO

Logos: KBO; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season began late Monday night, and with ESPN set to air six live games each week, it's time we get to know what this league, which began in 1982, is all about.

The state of play: In the world baseball hierarchy, talent evaluators rank the KBO beneath MLB, NPB (Japan) and AAA (MiLB), but above AA, High A, CPBL (Taiwan) and Low A.

  • Format: There are 10 teams but no divisions, with teams facing off 16 times each for a 144-game regular season.
  • Playoffs: The fourth- and fifth-place teams face off in a Wild Card round, with the winner advancing to play the third-place team (best-of-five series). The winner of that then faces the second-place team in the semifinals (best-of-five). Finally, the semifinal winner faces the regular season champion in the Korean Series (best-of-seven). Translation: Winning the regular season is huge.
  • Fun fact: While traditionalists in MLB still gripe about bat flips, they're an expected and respected part of the Korean game. Please enjoy.

The teams:

1. Doosan Bears (reigning champs)

  • Year established: 1982
  • City: Seoul
  • Korean Series: 6 championships, 7 runners-up
  • MLB comparison → Yankees (very successful, located in largest city)

2. Hanwha Eagles

  • Year established: 1985
  • City: Daejeon
  • Korean Series: 1 championship, 5 runners-up
  • MLB comparison → Orioles (currently rebuilding, beautiful ballpark)

3. Kia Tigers

  • Year established: 1982
  • City: Gwangju
  • Korean Series: 11 championships, 0 runners-up (Jordan-esque!)
  • MLB comparison → Cardinals (storied franchise, white and red color scheme)

4. Kiwoom Heroes

  • Year established: 2008
  • City: Seoul
  • Korean Series: 0 championships, 2 runners-up
  • MLB comparison → Rays (low payroll, roofed stadium)

5. KT Wiz

  • Year established: 2013
  • City: Suwon
  • Korean Series: N/A
  • MLB comparison → Padres (expansion team, no titles, larger city to the north)

6. LG Twins

  • Year established: 1982
  • City: Seoul
  • Korean Series: 2 championships, 4 runners-up
  • MLB comparison → Angels/Mets (second most popular team in big city)

7. Lotte Giants

  • Year established: 1975
  • City: Busan
  • Korean Series: 2 championships, 3 runners-up
  • MLB comparison → Cubs (rich history, strong fan support, not as successful as you'd expect)

8. NC Dinos

  • Year established: 2011
  • City: Changwon
  • Korean Series: 0 championships, 1 runner-up
  • MLB comparison → Brewers (Eric Thames played for both, on the rise)

9. Samsung Lions

  • Year established: 1982
  • City: Daegu
  • Korean Series: 8 championships, 10 runners-up
  • MLB comparison → Giants (won most titles last decade, struggling lately)

10. SK Wyverns

  • Year established: 2000
  • City: Incheon
  • Korean Series: 4 championships, 4 runners-up
  • MLB comparison → Red Sox (perennial contenders, lost biggest star in offseason)

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