As far as leagues playing major professional sports, the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) has beaten all its counterparts to the punch in terms of returning from COVID-19-related moratoriums.
The KBO officially began its 39th season on May 5. That’s a full 38 days after its originally planned Opening Day of March 28. The KBO will still attempt to play out its full 144-game regular season despite its late start. However, if any player or coach tests positive for coronavirus at any point, play will be suspended for three weeks minimum.
Games are currently being played without fans and with many umpires wearing masks as a precaution. Otherwise, the games look exceedingly familiar, even to US baseball fans.
The league consists of 10 teams:
- Kiwoom Heroes
- NC Dinos
- Lotte Giants
- Doosan Bears
- LG Twins
- KIA Tigers
- Samsung Lions
- Hanwha Eagles
- SK Wyverns
- KT Wiz
Best KBO betting sites
Sportsbooks offering full array of KBO betting options
The KBO currently serves as the exclusive purveyor of what North American fans and bettors would largely consider one of the “Big Four” sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey).
Fortunately, MLB bettors will find wagering on KBO games carries no learning curve in terms of the bet types offered. The following are KBO-based offerings at multiple leading regulated sportsbooks:
Futures: Bets can be placed on the winner of the 2020 KBO Korean Series, the final championship series of each season.
Moneyline: Moneyline wagers will be available for all KBO regular-season and postseason games. A moneyline wager involves predicting of which team will win a game outright, irrespective of margin of victory.
Run Line: The run line is the oddsmakers’ projected margin of victory for the favored team. A run line bet on a favored team is successful if that team wins the game by more than the run line number. A run line bet on the underdog team is successful if that team either loses the game by less than the run line number or wins the game outright.
Total Runs: A total runs wager is one where a bet is placed on whether the total number of runs scored by the two teams will either exceed or fall short of the figure set by oddsmakers.
Prop Bets: Prop bets are available on KBO contests for game-based outcomes at DraftKings Sportsbook. The current game prop wager consists of a Yes/No proposition on which team will both score first and win the game outright.
Where to bet on KBO
With a gradually increasing but still largely sparse inventory of wagerable sports on the menu, the KBO has quickly become a popular offering in legal, regulated sportsbooks across the United States.
All four operators are offering standard moneyline, run line and total runs bets. DK, FD and PointsBet are also offering futures wagers on the KBO Korean Series winner.
DK Sportsbook has the most extensive menu of KBO-based wagers overall. In addition to the aforementioned bet types, DK is also offering game-based prop bets and innings-based in-game bets for the league’s games.
How is betting on the KBO’s games different from MLB wagering?
Although KBO games fundamentally mirror those played stateside by MLB teams, there are two differences that can have a betting-related impact:
Tie games are possible: Any regular-season game knotted up after 12 full innings goes into the books as a tie. That also renders moneyline bets a push, with bettors on either side getting their wager amount returned.
Universal DH: The designated hitter is available to be utilized by all KBO teams, unless they opt to allow their pitcher to hit. In theory, this means there is a potential for more runs to be scored, although the KBO notably “dejuiced” their ball prior to the 2019 season. This led to a year-over-year decrease in home-run rate of 2.7 percent to 1.8 percent and a decline in runs per game from 5.5 to 4.6.
How to watch the KBO
Just before the start of the KBO season, ESPN was able to reach an agreement with the league for US media rights to air one live game six days per week, Tuesday-Sunday. ESPN or one of its affiliated networks will also broadcast the postseason and Korean Series.
With a 13-hour time difference between South Korea and the Eastern US, these broadcasts often occur during the middle of the night or very early morning hours. However, each game is also rebroadcast the same day, often in the mid-afternoon or later Eastern Time. The games are broadcast in English by the network’s announcers from their homes.
KBO players to know
As the highest level of South Korean baseball, the league has no shortage of impressive talent, both home-grown and imported. MLB fans will find a certain number of recognizable names – many of them pitchers — from recent seasons now plying their craft in the KBO, as teams are allowed up to three foreign-born players on their roster.
Notable former MLB players in KBO:
Preston Tucker, KIA Tigers: First season in KBO after three MLB stints with Astros, Braves, Reds.
Dan Straily, P, Lotte Giants: Another KBO first-timer. Three career double-digit win MLB seasons but disastrous 2019 in Miami.
Aaron Brooks P, KIA Tigers: Big right-hander put together 9-12 mark with four MLB teams in last four seasons.
Aaron Altherr, OF, NC Dinos: Thought to be on verge of breakout after strong 2017 season with Phillies but now looking to resurrect career after combined .140 average last two campaigns.
Casey Kelly, P, LG Twins: Last MLB win came in 2012 but still just 30 years old.
Nick Kingham, P, SK Wyverns: One-time bright Pirates prospect looking for reset.
Notable KBO talents:
Ha-Seong Kim, SS, Kiwoom Heroes: One of KBO’s best pure hitters and still only 24.
Baek Ho-Kang, RF, KT Wiz: Boosted average 46 points last season and just turned 20.
Jeong Choi, EB, SK Wyverns: One of KBO’s great veteran sluggers (336 career HRs).
Byung-Ho Park, 1B, Kiwoom Heroes: Slugged 76 HRs last two years after two lackluster MLB seasons.
Hyun-Soo Kim, LF/1B, LG Twins: Back-to-back .300 seasons after some success with Orioles and Phillies in 2016-17.