Take another step forward, New Jersey sports betting fans.
And now baseball is back, on a reasonably good level.
The Korean Baseball Organization (the KBO) has arrived with a triumphant splash, via ESPN and all the best NJ sportsbook sites.
This is the most popular sports league in South Korea. It has a 144-game schedule, 10 teams, and rosters that have sported MLB players over the years.
The season began May 5.
It may not be the Philadelphia Phillies, but it is here and it is live.
Some of the favored teams to win this league’s championship are:
- Doosan Bears
- Nc Dinos
- Kiwoom Heroes
How to watch KBO
News spread rapidly this week when ESPN announced it had struck a deal with Eclat Media Group to show six live 2020 regular-season games per week from the KBO League.
Contests will be held without spectators.
It is televised “over-nightly” by ESPN with aired games, either live or re-broadcast, starting anywhere from 1 a.m.-5:30 a.m.
One game will air each day, Tuesday through Sunday, generally on ESPN2 and on the ESPN App. The telecasts will air in wee-morning hours, owing to the time difference between the US and South Korea. The league generally does not play on Mondays.
Here’s the weekend schedule:
Friday, May 8
- 2:30 a.m.: ESPN2 — NC Dinos vs. Samsung Lions (Rebroadcast)
- 5:30 a.m.: ESPN2 — Kia Tigers vs. Samsung Lions (Live)
- 3 p.m.: ESPN2 — Kia Tigers vs. Samsung Lions (Rebroadcast)
Saturday, May 9
- 1 a.m.: ESPN2 — Kia Tigers vs. Samsung Lions (Rebroadcast)
- 4 a.m.: ESPN2 — LG Twins vs. NC Dinos (Live)
- 10 p.m.: ESPN2 — LG Twins vs. NC Dinos (Rebroadcast)
Sunday, May 10
1 a.m.: ESPN2 — LG Twins vs. NC Dinos (Live)
KBO betting at NJ Sportsbooks
FanDuel Sportsbook was first out of the gate, posting odds for KBO on the next day’s games. Box scores can already be Googled, and presumably will become more widely available on ESPN.
You know it won’t take too long to become familiar with team names
FanDuel posted the following futures odds to win the league championship.
- Doosan Bears +350
- SK Wyverns +400
- Kiwoom Heroes +460
- NC Dinos +600
- Kia Tigers +800
- LG Twins +900
- Samsung Lions +1300
- Lotte Giants +2400
- Hanwha Eagles +2900
- KT Wiz +2900
DraftKings Sportsbook has some notable differences on some teams, especially the longshots. There is already some value shopping.
Of course, the season is 144 games, but three teams started the season 2-0:
Washington Nationals slugger Eric Thames, MVP of this league in 2015, says the league is noted for off-speed pitching and small ball, as teams manufacture runs.
With that in mind, there are some players to keep an eye on.
Min-Woo Park of the Nc Dinos is a career .327 hitter.
Byong Ho Park of Kiwoom has 310 career homers. He once played for the Minnesota Twins.
A little KBO history
Doosan (2019 record: 88-55-1) is the reigning titleholder and has won three Korean Series titles in the last five years.
The Kia Tigers have accumulated the most championships (11) in KBO history, followed by the Samsung Lions (8) and Doosan Bears (6).
Three former MLB players signed with KBO teams this season:
- Dan Straily
- Aaron Altherr
- Adrian Sampson
They join fellow ex-big leaguers such as Preston Tucker and Casey Kelly.
Flippin out for KBO
Or, not Flippin Out.
One of the league’s catchy traits is the bat-flip.
Many players do it naturally, without hesitation, as a follow-through to their swing. The bat practically slides out of a hitter’s hands, completing a graceful motion, a ballet with the bat, if you will. The whole thing looks choreographed.
Unlike in America, the flip is not considered disrespectful. It does not show up a pitcher. It does not merit a brushback pitch or a beanball war.
The flips have already been entrenched in highlight lore. Look for that to become even more prominent.
Curiosity is going to carry this league for a while. And so will the absence of MLB.
The KBO at least has the ability to become a niche product.
And the beauty for operators, and gamblers, is that it does not need to deliver three-hour television ratings. Just enough interest for someone to click, and bet.