On Deck for My KBO ESPN Debut

Over the past two months, with no Major League Baseball to watch due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve absorbed myself in the progress and eventual return to play of the Korea Baseball Organization. It’s a league to which I had previously paid little mind beyond the arrival of Hyun-Jin Ryu 류현진, the return of Eric Thames 테임즈, and the departures of several less familiar players, such as knuckleballing lefty Ryan Feierabend 피어밴드, but it’s one to which I suddenly felt more drawn via my connections to FanGraphs alumni Sung Min Kim 김민 and Josh Herzenberg. Both are now living in Busan and working for the Lotte Giants, the former in the R&D department, the latter as the team’s pitching coordinator and quality control coach. Recent discussions with them, with MyKBO proprietor Dan Kurtz, and with KBO alums Josh Lindblom 린드블럼 and Eric Hacker 해커 have taught me a great deal about the league and helped bring me up to speed in offering some analysis.

Thanks to an agreement between the KBO and ESPN, the latter is now broadcasting six games per week, albeit in makeshift fashion, with homebound hosts (either Karl Ravech or Jon Sciambi on the play-by-play, and either Jessica Mendoza or Eduardo Perez as color analyst) narrating over a feed provided by South Korea’s SPOTV network. During their broadcasts, they’ve brought many of the aforementioned folks on the air for guest spots, a few innings at a time, to talk about the league and their experiences with it. The result often looks like the Zoom chats that have become so ubiquitous during our stay-at-home situations. Occasionally, the format draws criticism because the focus drifts away from the action on the field, but for those of us starved for baseball, it’s just about the only game in town.

As noted at the end of Tuesday’s piece on Jose Miguel Fernandez 페르난데스, I am the next man up in ESPN’s guest queue. On Wednesday morning at around 7:30 AM Eastern, I’ll be joining Sciambi and Perez for a couple of innings during a game between the SK Wyverns and the Doosan Bears. The Wyverns, whom I wrote about on Friday, are not only off to a 3-15 start but are now reeling from the loss of slugger Dong-min Han 한동민, who as recently as Saturday shared the KBO lead in home runs with the LG Twins’ Roberto Ramos — six, as many as his Wyverns teammates combined. In Sunday’s game against the KIA Tigers, Han fractured his right tibia via a foul ball:

Ugh. So that’s a bit of a downer, but I’m sure that we’ll have no shortage of topics to discuss nonetheless. The game begins at 5:25 AM ET on ESPN2, and will re-air on the same channel starting at 2 PM. If you have the ESPN app on a streaming device — phone, Apple TV, Roku, etc — you can also access it that way at your own convenience. I’m looking forward to doing this spot, and hope that it shines a spotlight on FanGraphs’ efforts to keep up with the league.

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Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.

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Great segment Jay! Stellar book positioning