Chang-mo Koo still cruising


In a recent article, VSiN referred to NC Lions pitching star Chang-mo Koo as “Chang-mo Kershaw” because of his dominant stats. Since then, the 23-year-old phenom won the KBO’s first “Player of the Month” award of 2020 and has continued humbling hitters. 

Through his most recent outing Friday vs. the Kiwoom Heroes, Koo has only allowed four earned runs in 48 innings of work. That’s an ERA of 0.75. He’s struck out slightly more than one batter per inning (52 K’s so far), while allowing just 11 walks. 


Koo isn’t quite unhittable. He finally allowed his first home run in that outing vs. Kiwoom. And the Dinos are only 5-2 in his starts because of a couple late losses due to low run support. His personal won-lost record is 5-0. He’s become so expensive in betting markets (-340 vs. Kiwoom) that backers may need NC to win all of his starts to earn any future profit. 

Here’s how Koo stacks up against other top KBO starting pitchers. The chart below uses a minimum of 35 innings pitched to isolate heavy-use hurlers. Data is from the great website. 

Top KBO Starting Pitchers
Chang-mo Koo (NC): 0.75 ERA, 0.69 WHIP
Eric Jokisch (Kiwoom): 1.49 ERA, 0.97 WHIP
Dan Straily (Lotte): 2.08 ERA, 1.11 WHIP
Drew Rucinski (NC): 2.23 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
Je-seong Bae (KT): 2.66 ERA, 1.34 WHIP
Tae-in Won (Samsung): 2.68 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
Aaron Brooks (Kia): 2.76 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
Mike Wright (NC): 2.77 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
Ki-young Im (Kia): 2.82 ERA, 1.12 WHIP
Chris Flexen (Doosan): 2.92 ERA, 1.19 WHIP

Of note…
*That’s 10 different pitchers with ERA’s below three above the 35-inning threshold…a bit of a surprise given all the early talk about juiced baseballs and high scoring games. Elite KBO starters can control their destiny to a meaningful degree. 

*Koo is well clear of that strong field. Jokisch should be drawing more raves from global media as a dominant pitcher given his season-to-date numbers. 

*NC has three pitchers in the top eight, which gives the Dinos some insurance in the championship chase. If one ace is felled by an injury, there are two other high quality arms ready to lead the rotation. None of the other top contenders has more than one arm on the list. Kia has two, but is only a borderline threat. Keep that in mind if you’re pondering bets on the futures board. NC is less fragile than other teams you might be considering. 

*Foreign pitchers claim three of the four top spots, and six of the 10. We didn’t use a top 12, because the next two names on the list dropped to the mid-three’s in ERA. But, those slots also go to foreigners with Drew Gagnon of Kia (3.57 ERA and 1.07 WHIP) and David Buchanan of Samsung (3.63 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) also getting outs this season. Koo is head-and-shoulders above Korean-born stars, and in a completely different class than back-of-the-rotation innings munchers that fill out so many rosters. 

*Last season, as a 22-year old, Koo finished with an ERA of 3.20 and a WHIP of 1.18. That would just miss this current list. But, it’s likely that a full-season ERA of 3.20 would crack the final top 10 of 2020 as everyone absorbs more innings. He’s a young superstar on track to pitch in an MLB rotation. (Side note of importance to stat handicappers, Koo has improved his walk rate from 3.45 per nine innings last year to 2.06 this season. Huge!) 

As is the case with Kershaw, betting the high-priced Koo for profit on the money line will be tricky or impossible. Sharps will be looking to fade him if he starts to show any sort of regression. If he continues to crush…

*Sharps will look to bet Unders when Koo is matched vs. other top starters. His losses were by scores of 3-2 and 2-1, and he won a 1-0 decision early in the season.

*Sharps will consider NC at -1.5 runs on the run line vs. vulnerable opposition. The Dinos have victories by scores of 8-2, 7-2, 18-7, and 14-2 in Koo starts.

*Sharps will look at NC on the futures board (currently plus 200 to win the title at Caesars) if the next tier of contenders fails to produce a potential juggernaut. The team with the best regular-season record earns an auto-berth in the championship series of the step-ladder playoff format. Healthy NC would obviously be a favorite in that series rather than a plus 200 dog. 

VSiN will continue to check in on this KBO breakout star through the season.

Last time, we dug deep into Hanwha’s 17-game losing streak. After making it 18, the Eagles finally soared to victory over the Doosan Bears by scores of 7-6 and 3-2. Doosan lacked fire after its disappointing 1-2 performance in a showcase series with NC. Hanwha is now 2-18 vs. the money line and at plus 1.5 on the run line its last 20 games. 

No sweeps anywhere in the league this past weekend. NC may also have been flat off the Doosan series, dropping two of three to Kiwoom. LG, Kia, and Samsung won two of three from Lotte, SK, and KT respectively. 

Current KBO Standings
Better than .550: NC Dinos 26-9, LG Twins 22-13, Doosan Bears 21-14
Tweeners: Kiwoom Heroes 20-16, Kia Tigers 19-17, Lotte Giants 18-17, Samsung Lions 17-19 (but no games vs. Hanwha yet). 
Worse than .375: KT Wiz 13-22, SK Wyverns 12-23, Hanwha Eagles 9-27

Sunday saw KBO home teams go 6-0 for the second time in four days. But, visitors got the best of it Friday and Saturday. For the season, home teams are now 97-77 in empty stadiums…a winning percentage of .557. That’s a no-juice money line equivalent of -126, suggesting 26 cents as a rough estimate for home field advantage in empty stadiums (remember that we exclude neutral site games for this assessment). 

Casual observers should have a good feel for the NC Lions by now. This week provides a great chance to learn about the rest of the league. No NC telecasts!

ESPN viewers will get a look at six different KBO teams midweek, leading into three straight telecasts of the “Jamsil Derby” featuring contenders LG and Doosan at their shared stadium this weekend. 

ESPN Schedule
Tuesday: Lotte at Kiwoom
Wednesday: LG at Hanwha
Thursday: KT at SK
Friday thru Sunday: Doosan vs. LG

Be sure to check your daily listings for start times and replays. Last week’s “KBO telecast info” page at ESPN’s website sent afternoon viewers to cornhole competitions rather than KBO replays.

We’ll be back Thursday to preview that much-anticipated Doosan/LG rivalry showdown. See you then!