1) Ceremonial First Pitch
To receive the ceremonial first pitch in MLB is a great honor. But in the KBO, the first pitch is more of an art form. The idea of the KBO first pitch is a representation of fan engagement. From acrobatic routines to martial arts techniques, the first pitch at a KBO game is an exhibition that is highly anticipated and engaging.
2) Level of Play
The KBO showcases the highest level of baseball in South Korea. While the KBO may not have the world’s most talented players, they can surely put on a show. With the abilities of the players, along with the competition level, the KBO is deemed to be between AA and AAA, which puts them just a step below the NPB. The elite talent of the KBO is apparent, but the bulk of the less skilled players in the league drag down the skill and competition level of the league as a whole. The elite players of the KBO would be accomplished anywhere, but because the players of the league are drawn from a much smaller pool than MLB, there is a wide range of talent throughout the league.
3) ESPN Rights
For weeks, sports fans have been begging for live games, and ESPN came through with a solution. ESPN has agreed to a broadcast deal with the KBO to televise six games per week. Additionally, ESPN also announced that they would cover the postseason of the KBO. While details of the postseason coverage have yet to be announced, this is a tremendous victory, not just for ESPN, but for the KBO to increase its prevalence. The selection of which ballgames are going to be broadcasted will be decided weekly, but each game will feature English commentary from ESPN broadcasters. In addition to both the coverage of the regular and postseason, ESPN and the KBO have also agreed to provide ESPN the rights to game highlights. Those of you who aren’t waking up at 4:00 am to watch the games live can view highlights on ESPN throughout the day.
4) The Art of the Bat Flip
The idea of the bat flip has been controversial in MLB. Some may argue that players are revealing their intense emotions, while others say bat flipping is a form of breaking traditions, and disrespectful to the opponent. If you flip your bat in MLB, you are doing so at your own risk. Your next time at the plate may not go as well and could result in being drilled by a fastball. The KBO has embraced the nature of bat flipping and is an integral part of the game’s culture. The introduction of the bat flip in South Korea is a bit of a mystery, as there isn’t a player or specific year where it was more self-evident. After it became more popular, it shifted to be widely accepted and has resided in the game ever since.
5) The Juiced Ball
A juiced baseball is basically where there is a deliberate manufacturing alteration in the properties of the baseball that make the ball bounce off the bat at a faster or slower rate. With the KBO known for its high-scoring contests in recent years, the league decided to de-juice the baseballs, which have limited many offensive stats in the league. The baseball used in the KBO is currently larger and heavier than in recent years, which continues to impact the offensive mindedness of the players.
The collective league batting average in 2018 was .286, which dropped to .267 in 2019. For the five seasons leading up to 2019, the average number of runs of each team per game was 5.5 runs. In 2019, the run total for each team dropped by nearly a run per game to 4.6 runs aside.
With this in mind, the effect of the slugger is being diverted, and the idea of small ball is coming into play, which has teams finding other ways to manufacture runs. One way teams are achieving these results is by the art of the steal. In the KBO in 2018, there were 928 steals, compared to 993 during the 2019 season.
6) KBO Atmosphere
The environment of a KBO game is the complete contrast of MLB and comparable to the CPBL. The intensity of the fans who attend a KBO game showcases more passion than any other league. It could be said that MLB fans appear detached from the game until it becomes the postseason, and that is if your team even secures a playoff spot. It doesn’t matter which team you are a fan of in the KBO, as each team’s fans care about every single game. In the KBO, you can both see and feel the excitement and heartbreak of the fans. The pace of play is swifter than other leagues and offers more drama than you may be able to handle.
7) MLB players in the KBO
With the 2020 season underway, the KBO features some familiar faces.
As one of the top prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, Nick Kingham signed with SK Wyverns. While Kingham pitched 131 2/3 innings in the majors, he now has the opportunity to showcase his talents while possessing the ability to return to the big leagues.
Of all the players joining the KBO this season, Dan Straily has the most experience in the majors than anyone. Straily entered MLB in 2012 and has been a journeyman ever since, as he played for six teams throughout his eight-year MLB career. While Straily has an ERA of 4.56 and WHIP of 1.31, he averaged a respectable 7.6 strikeouts per game, which could aid his success in the KBO.
While Seung-hwan Oh is currently serving a 42 game suspension for his role in a gambling scandal, he is one of the best relievers in the history of the KBO. The return of Oh on the mound is highly anticipated for the Samsung Lions who are eager to have him back.