Well the KBO regular season has mercifully come to an end and we're all excited to see how the four playoff teams do in the post season. Personally, I'm teaching rural/isolated in Canada and I don't have high speed internet, so I will be living the KBO playoffs through highlights and reading (looking at Korean stuff in a Northern Canadian community is surreal). This post will serve as rankings and thoughts on the four playoff teams, top to bottom (plus some other things at the end).
1. Samsung Lions, Daegu: My personal pick for this year's championship. 5 games less wins than SK in the reg. season, which clinched 1st place and Korea Series appearance earlier in the week. The difference in the 5 games will be made up in the post season. A re-surged team finishing second after a phenom year after missing the playoffs the season before, Lions have modeled themselves on SK by distributing offensive fielding wealth to a lot of their players. But the reason why Samsung will win it all is in the pitching: Jang-won sam, 13-5; Cha Woo-chan, 10-2; Ahn Ji-man, 9-3; Jeong Hyun-ok, 9-1; Kwon Hyuk, 7-1. When the season started, Yoon Seong-hwan was the supposed ace and Bae Yong-su was supposed to return to form. These two did nothing and the 5 pitchers listed above stepped up and made the Lions' season and I believe they will be unstoppable in the championship series.
2. SK Wyverns, Incheon: 3 straight championship series appearances including 2 wins, plus regular season clinch this season. This team is also no slouch. They actually won more games this season (84) than last (80). SK is still the elite team of the KBO. That's all great but there is a problem over here, SK can't hit all that well. Final team stats have them 4th in the league for team hits (1217 vs. 1345 for first place Lotte), again fourth for team BA (.274 vs. .288 for first place Lotte) and their fourth or around there for most other team batting stats. They are second in SB's, and I wonder if they can steal home a clinch. They had the least team K's in the KBO this season with 813. It's going to be tough bringing this decidedly average offence against Samsung's starting staff. And Kim Kwang-hyun is coming off an embarassing 9 hit, 4 ER loss against the EAGLES in his last start.
3. Lotte Giants, Busan: If they had home field they'd probably jump to a 2-0 series lead right away. Giants are coming off a very exciting season (they seem to do this a lot) where they hit a lot (lead the league in offence) and won and lost enough games to keep their fans paying attention. Their home stadium is the craziest in the country, of course, and that can't but help. Actually, it didn't help them last year against the Bears but I do think the Giants will beat Doosan this season. Lotte's on a roll, going 12-5 for September and lead the league in all major offensive categories. There are a lot of issues that's going to prevent them advancing past the second round, however. They ended the season a full 15 wins less than SK and they can't pitch (3rd last in league in ERA, last in K's, and dead last in errors). Actually, the last thing there's fielding, that means they can't field either.
4. Doosan Bears, Seoul: This will be the next team to drop out of the playoff picture next season, as Kia did this season. Not that this Bears team is awful, they're second place in most offensive categories, and actually won 2 more games this season than last (73 to 71). But only 4 can make the playoffs in this league and it looks like the Bears will be the odd man out as LG has started to turn things around and Kia can re-surge. Bears seem tired and frustrated not winning a championship since 01 in front of a tough Gangnam crowd. Bears' offensive threats (Kim Hyun-soo, Yang Eui-ji, Choi Joon-suk, Lee Jong-ok) will put up a few points, and the team's (only) two good starters Kelvin Jiminez and Kim Sun-woo may or may not win their starts. But they don't have enough to win a series against a more energized Lotte team.
Some random news, links:
Twins' Lee Dae-yong steals his 66th (final game):
SK's Choi Dong-su walk-off (final game):
Lions' Cha Woo-chan wins 10th game (final game):