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Pinstripe Alley adopts a KBO team

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MLB’s hiatus has left a chasm in many of our lives, but perhaps that hole can be partially filled by baseball in Korea.

LG Twins v Doosan Bears - Preseason Game Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

It sucks. There is no Yankee baseball as May rapidly approaches, a time when the regular season would really be ratcheting up into gear. But that does not mean baseball is not being played elsewhere, and this raises an intriguing prospect. Yesterday, Ducky, along with several other community members, proposed the idea that we adopt a KBO team to follow through their season, providing a shared outlet to get our baseball fix and have a continuous discourse. I love this idea.

First, a little background on the KBO before we vote on the team we’d like to follow. Founded in 1982 with six franchises, the KBO has since expanded to ten teams. All but one of the teams are named after the companies which own them. Every team plays each of the others sixteen times in the regular season, good for a 144-game schedule.

There are several important distinctions that differentiate KBO play from MLB. There is a universal designated hitter, as there are no separate leagues. There is also the possibility of games ending in an official tie, as there is a maximum innings limit of twelve in the regular season and fifteen in the playoffs. The KBO limits the number of foreign players per club to three.

The playoff structure is quite a departure from MLB. Five teams qualify for the playoffs, in a step-ladder format based on regular season standings, with the lowest-seeded team advancing through rounds against progressively higher-ranked teams. This means that the regular season champion is guaranteed a spot in the KBO Korean Series. Here is a breakdown of how the system plays out:

The fifth-seeded team plays the fourth-seeded team in the first round in a best-of-three series. In addition, the fourth-seeded begins the series with a 1-0 lead, needing only one win to progress while the fifth-seeded team requires two.

The winner of the first round plays the team with the third-best regular season record in a best-of-five series, and the winner of this round advances to face the second-ranked team in another best-of-five series.

The playoffs culminate with the KBO Korean Series, which pits the winner of the previous round against the regular season champions. While this series is best-of-seven, the possibility of tie means the series can extend beyond seven games.

Now that we’ve gotten the formalities out of the way, here are your candidates for PSA’s team:

Kia Tigers

Considered the Yankees of the KBO, the Tigers have won the most Korean Series titles of any franchise with 11, and impressively have never lost a championship series. They were a founding member of the KBO in 1982 and play their games at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju. They employ the best pitcher in KBO, lefty Hyeon-jong Yang, who posted a 2.29 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 184.2 innings pitched.

Doosan Bears

Another founding KBO member, the Doosan Bears play in Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. They could be considered the equivalent of the Giants or Red Sox, as they are the most recently dominant team, winning three of the last four KBO Korean Series titles. Their alumni include Sun-Woo Kim, who played for the Red Sox, Nationals, Rockies, and Reds.

Samsung Lions

The Samsung Lions are based out of Daegu and play in Daegu Samsung Lions Park. They have made the most appearances in the KBO Korean Series championship game, with 17, and trail only the Tigers with eight wins. They enjoyed the majority of their success between 2002 and 2014, winning seven of their eight titles during that span.

LG Twins

One of two teams to play in pinstripes, the LG Twins share the stadium with their rival Bears. They are two-time Korean Series champions and employ former Orioles starting pitcher Tyler Wilson, as well as Casey Kelly, who was included in the Red Sox package to acquire Adrian Gonzalez.

Lotte Giants

The other pinstriped team, the Lotte Giants play their home games at Busan Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan. Their stadium has been called the Mecca of Korean Baseball. Their home city of Busan is also the birthplace of current Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. According to a Gallup Poll, and attendance figures, the Giants are the most popular team in the KBO.

SK Wyverns

The Wyverns play their home games in Munhak Baseball Stadium in Incheon, which is also the hometown of current Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi. They have won four KBO Korean Series titles, and hold the second-longest winning streak in professional baseball history at 23 games in 2010, trailing only the New York (now San Francisco) Giants.

Hanwha Eagles

The Hanwha Eagles, based out of Daejeon, play their home games in Daejeon Hanbat Baseball Stadium. The Blue Jays’ new ace, Hyun-Jin Ryu, played for the Eagles for seven seasons before joining the Dodgers. He totaled a 2.80 ERA and 1,238 strikeouts in 1,269 innings pitched in the KBO. You might also recognize another former Tiger, Chan-Ho Park, who had some memorable postgame comments during his short stint as a Yankee.

KT Wiz

With a name that sounds like half-K-pop band, half-SoundCloud handle, the KT Wiz are the newest members of the KBO, incorporating in 2015. They play their home games at Suwon Baseball Stadium in Suwon and sport fresh white, red, and black jerseys.

Kiwoom Heroes

The Heroes play in the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul and were founded in 2008. Their most notable former player is almost certainly Byung-Hyun Kim, who memorably gave up ninth-inning leads to the Yankees in Games Four and Five of the 2001 World Series.

NC Dinos

The NC Dinos are one of the newer additions to the KBO, and recently opened their new home stadium, NC Changwon Park, in Changwon. They are the former stomping grounds of ex-Brewers slugger Eric Thames. The best position player in the KBO, Eui-ji Yang, plies his trade for the Dinos. He’s a catcher who batted .354/.438/.574 with 20 home runs last season.

There are many ways we can go about selecting our team. Perhaps you like one name over the others. It’s possible the uniforms or home stadium of a particular franchise catches your eye. Maybe the parent company makes a product that you enjoy. There could be a specific player who graduated the KBO and is playing in MLB or is still in KBO and is destined for MLB. I for one am leaning toward the Heroes, because of the incredible moments Byung-Hyun Kim provided for Yankees fans.

Poll

Which KBO team should we follow as a community?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Doosan Bears
    (25 votes)
  • 1%
    Hanwha Eagles
    (4 votes)
  • 37%
    Kia Tigers
    (111 votes)
  • 5%
    Kiwoom Heroes
    (17 votes)
  • 2%
    KT Wiz
    (8 votes)
  • 8%
    LG Twins
    (24 votes)
  • 13%
    Lotte Giants
    (39 votes)
  • 12%
    NC Dinos
    (38 votes)
  • 5%
    Samsung Lions
    (15 votes)
  • 5%
    SK Wyverns
    (15 votes)
296 votes total Vote Now