Effectively Wild Wiki
Advertisement


Summary[]

Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about beverage consumption, foreign baseball leagues’ potential for popularity in the U.S., and the life and death of legendary flamethrower Steve Dalkowski, who passed away this week. Then they talk to Rob Liu of CPBLStats.com (25:48) and Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net (58:22) about two leagues that have beaten MLB back to action, Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) and South Korea’s Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), touching on how their seasons have started, the best ways for American baseball fans to follow them, the players and teams to know, the aesthetic and stylistic differences between them and MLB, the histories and evolutions of the leagues, their fluctuating home run rates, their foreign-player presences, their embraces of sabermetrics, their engaging ballpark atmospheres, the CPBL’s playoff format, and the KBO’s bat flips.

Topics[]

  • Rob Liu and the CPBL (Taiwan)
    • Lack of publicly available advanced statistics
    • Analytics use by teams
    • How Taiwan brought baseball back sooner
    • Differences from North American baseball
    • Rob's reaction to games without fans
    • The place of baseball in Taiwanese sports culture
    • Team profiles to help U.S. fans pick a team to support
    • Stylistic differences from North American baseball
    • Foreign players U.S. fans may recognize
    • Use of sabermetrics
    • Taiwanese players who have potential to go the U.S.
    • How international scouting has changed due to travel restrictions
    • Trends fans in Taiwan are excited or worried about
    • Playoff structure
    • How the league can take advantage of its time in the spotlight
  • Dan Kurtz and the KBO (South Korea)
    • Origin story of mykbo.net
    • Typical ballpark atmosphere in KBO
    • Dan's reaction to games without fans
    • How Korea brought baseball back sooner
    • ESPN wanted to get broadcast rights to KBO games for free
    • League history
    • Team profiles to help U.S. fans pick a team to support
    • Stylistic differences from North American baseball
    • The de-juiced ball
    • Korean players who have potential to go the U.S.
    • Foreign players U.S. fans may recognize
    • Players who return to MLB
    • How international scouting has changed due to travel restrictions
    • Use of sabermetrics
    • Players to watch
    • Bat flips and other cultural differences
    • 2020 season predictions
    • Trends fans in Korea are excited or worried about

Interstitials[]

Banter[]

  • Can you drink too much tea?
  • Dealing with time zone difference in order to watch games in Taiwan and Korea.
  • The different ballpark atmosphere in East Asian leagues.
  • Could foreign leagues gain a following in the U.S.?
  • Remembering Steve Dalkowski, legendary hard-throwing pitcher

Email Questions[]

  • Matthew (Patron): What do you think it would take for English broadcasts of overseas leagues [presumably East Asian] for them to garner a meaningful following of North American baseball fans?

Notes[]

  • Ben has been drinking a lot of green tea and wonders if it's possible to drink too much. Ben doesn't drink coffee because he's afraid of becoming addicted to it. Meg notes that caffeine has side effects that tell you that you have clearly overdone it.
  • Meg looks forward to seeing the mascots, robot fans, and live cheerleaders to empty stands. She is disappointed that these innovations are unlikely to come to MLB.
  • In response to Matthew's question, Meg notes that having broadcasts in a language you are comfortable with is important. MLB offers Spanish-language broadcasts of games. Once play resumes in the U.S., the other leagues will become overshadowed by MLB. She wonders why winter leagues aren't more popular.
  • Ben predicts it will be a hard sell because you're taking people out of their comfort zone. The lack of play in North America will help.
  • Sam's reply was that there's a relatively small number of baseball geeks who would be interested. In his opinion, for casual fans to be interested, it would take a lot of recognizable North American players joining the league, say, if MLB officially cancels the season and players head overseas.
  • Steve Dalkowski passed away at 80 due to the coronavirus. He lived a very hard life, partying hard, abusing alcohol repeatedly, which led to dementia.
  • Dalkowski was a larger-than-life figure, nicknamed White Lightning because he threw harder than anyone had ever seen.
  • He threw unbelievably hard, but also had no control. In high school, he threw a 24-strikeout no-hitter, where opponents were afraid even to stand in the batters box. He also threw an 18-strikeout 18-walk no-hitter. As a minor leaguer, he threw a 21-strikeout no-hitter throwing nothing but fastballs.
  • His stats per nine innings over five minor league seasons: 14.7 strikeouts (in an era when 5 or 6 was typical), 16 walks, 1.6 wild pitches, 5 hits, and 0.4 home runs allowed, 6.42 ERA. In 1957 and 1958, he either struck out or walked three quarters of the batters he faced.
  • In 1962, Earl Weaver helped get his wildness somewhat under control simply by telling him to take a little off his fastball. His walks dropped to 6 per nine innings. He went to spring training with the Orioles, but he hurt his arm and lost his power.
  • In 1958, an army base used a laser system to measure his velocity, but he was wearing regular shoes, not on a mound, the day after a 150-pitch outing, and was so wild he couldn't hit the target for a reading. After 40 minutes, he hit the target at 93mph.
  • His wildness was mostly vertical, so he didn't hit many batters.
  • Many stories have grown around Dalkowski, but whether they are true is open to doubt. Ben muses that maybe we're better off not knowing.
  • Editor's note: In both Chinese and Korean names, the family name comes first.

Rob Liu and CPBL (Taiwan)

  • Rob's family were all baseball fans. He started the CPBL Stats site in 2015 and is pleased that people are discovering his "biggest secret little league."
  • Most teams that have tracking systems in their home parks do not release the data to the public. As a result, Rob cannot calculate position player WAR because defensive stats are missing.
  • Traditionally, the second position in the batting order was a good bunter. Some teams are experimenting with putting a stronger hitter there.
  • The Taiwanese government acted quickly back in January. Taiwan is blocked from WHO membership and they had to stay two steps ahead of the WHO guidelines knowing that if they got in trouble, the WHO wasn't there to help them.
  • The CPBL allowed fans during spring training but rejected anyone whose temperature was too high. Fans were given hand sanitizer and advised to remain apart.
  • The level of play is comparable to high-A to AA.
  • The CPBL is a hitting league. A team may score ten runs in the top of the inning and give up just as many in the next inning or two.
  • At a typical game, the stadium is nonstop noise: Music, chanting, dancing.
  • Rob finds it amusing that the cheerleaders are still there despite no fans in the stadium. They have kept everything the same, only the fans are missing.
  • The CPBL began in 1990 and quickly became quite popular, and by 1997 there were 11 teams in two leagues.
  • From the mid 1990's to 2010, the league suffered a never-ending stream of game-fixing scandals. Former Brewers pitcher Don August was kidnapped by gangsters (Twitter thread).
  • Ben recommends that people read the Wikipedia page (linked below) for Chin-hui Tsao, the first Taiwanese pitcher in MLB. Rob remembers being heartbroken when he learned about Tsao's involvement in game-fixing.
  • The scandals involved star players and even entire teams. Attendance plummeted, with some games recording only 500 to 1000 fans. Teams folded, leaving only four teams in the league.
  • The CPBL worked hard to shed its former reputation, and in 2021 will expand to 5 teams.
  • Team profiles, comparable MLB team, players to watch
    • Rakuten Monkeys = Oakland A's: A small-market team who invested heavily in scouting to make up for not having much money. They are the defending champions, and have won 6 out of the last 7 titles. Chu Yu-Hsien (朱育賢) is on a home run tear this season.
    • Fubon Guardians = Dodgers: Strong team but unable to bring home the championship. Pitcher Henry Sosa (former Astro) dominated the CPBL last year.
    • CTBC Brothers = Yankees: Not because they are good, but because you either love them or you hate them. Pitcher Ariel Miranda (former Mariner) is the highest-paid player in the league. Lin Chih-Sheng (林智勝) is a veteran only five or six homers away from the league record and within reach of a career 300th homer.
    • Uni-President Lions = Marlins: Raw talent cripped by a bad front-office. For example, the league increased the foreign player cap to 4, but they stuck with 3. "It's almost like they don't want to win." Rob predicts that ten years down the line, Su Chih-Chieh (蘇智傑) will set every CPBL hitting record.
    • Wei Chuan Dragons: 2021 expansion team. Liu Chi-Hung (劉基鴻) is a five-tool prospect, only 19 years old.
  • CPBL doesn't bunt much. Everybody swings for the fences, especially after changes to the ball in 2015, which Rob believes were poorly-controlled cost-cutting measures. In 2016, the home run rates skyrocketed, and three players batted .400. The league realized their mistake and the numbers are now less ridiculous.
  • Other foreign players U.S. fans may recognize: Ryan Carpenter (Monkeys), Justin Nicolino (Monkeys), Lisalverto Bonilla (Monkeys), Ariel Miranda (Brothers), José De Paula (Brothers), Esmil Rogers (Brothers), Josh Roenicke (Uni-Lions), Donn Roach (Uni-Lions), Ryan Feierabend (Uni-Lions).
  • Defensive shifts are becoming popular. Broadcasts still use traditional stats. "The best you might see is OPS+." Rob thinks he saw FIP once, but only once.
  • Top high school talent in Taiwan tends to get poached by U.S. or Japanese teams. "I don't want to be mean about it, but you've got the leftovers in Taiwan." Lately, teams are improving salaries to help retain position players (a bit over $200,000). This helps explain why it's a hitter's league: Pitchers leave, but hitters stay.
  • A few teams have scouts in the U.S., but others evaluate based on recommendations and video clips. Rob believes that the Monkeys send a scout to the Atlantic League to find mid-season replacements, and that the Brothers have a scout in the Dominican winter league.
  • Games can go four hours, and people complain about pace of play. There is a pitch clock, which everybody ignores.
  • The CPBL league consists of two half-seasons. The playoffs consist of a best-of-seven Taiwan Series, possibly with a five-game Wild Card series.
    • If each half-season is won by a different team, then they face off in the Taiwan Series and there is no Wild Card series.
    • If the same team wins both halves, then that team goes straight to the Taiwan Series with a one-win head start. The second and third overall teams play the Wild Card series for the other spot.
    • However, if the team with best overall record didn't win either half-season, then they play a best-of-five series against the lower-performing half-season winner for the Wild Card spot. The better-performing half-season winner goes straight to the Taiwan series with a one-win head start.
  • The latter two cases can lead to teams needing to lose in order to make the playoffs.
  • Rob thinks the interest in CPBL will be short-term. They should use this opportunity to let people know that they exist, and if you want to watch baseball at 1am, they're there for you.
  • Rob lists Eleven Sports Taiwan, Fubon Guardians, and CTBC Brothers as having Twitter accounts.

Dan Kurtz and the KBO (South Korea)

  • Dan was adopted from South Korea at the age of four months. He grew up in Pennsylvania, and didn't return to Korea until he was in college. He started the MyKBO web site to provide English-language information about the league. Dan confesses that his Korean skills are relatively basic.
  • Baseball games in the KBO are raucous events, like a major college football game.
  • Playing without fans reveals conversation that would normally not be audible: An umpire telling a coach to go put on a mask. Players swearing. Dan is interested in seeing how players adjust to this.
  • The Korean public took government guidelines seriously, which allowed them to flatten the curve quickly.
  • Everyone except players (including umpires and coaches) must wear a mask. Players' temperatures are checked. The league is prepared to shut down if a player tests positive.
  • International TV rights to KBO games are held by Eclat. They would have lost money giving the rights to ESPN for free because it costs them money to to set up satellite transmissions. Eclat claims that other broadcasters are interested.
  • KBO games are streamed live domestically on Neighbor, but are not available outside the country.
  • The Korea Baseball Organization began in 1982, now with 10 teams. In Korea, teams are owned by corporations as profit centers. TV ratings and attendance are doing very well.
  • Profiles of selected teams
    • Lotte Giants = Cubs: They haven't won a title since 1992.
    • Doosan Bears: Defending champions, have won 3 out of the last 5 years. Full disclosure: This is Dan's favorite team.
    • SK Wyverns: Won in 2018.
    • Kiwoom Heroes = Oakland A's: Successful small-budget team, the only one that is privately-owned. (Currently sponsored by Kiwoom Group.) Has produced a number of MLB players.
  • The quality ranges from MLB-ready to someone who wouldn't even make it into a rookie league. On average, AA to AAA.
  • Historically, each team selected its own balls subject to league tests. The tests weren't very good, and the result was a home run-friendly league.
  • League officials never acknowledged the juicing, but widened the strike zone to counter the trend. Home runs and scoring (and TV ratings and attendance) are down, strikeouts are up.
  • Players with MLB chances
    • The Kiwoom Heroes agreed to post shortstop Kim Ha-seong at the end of the season, so he's trying for a big season to improve his value.
    • Kia Tigers pitcher Yang Hyun-jong was posted in 2014 but couldn't close the deal with a team. He's looking to try again.
    • NC Dinos Na Sung-bum is returning from a bad injury and hoping to cross into MLB.
  • Teams are permitted three foreign players. The limit of two foreign players per game has been lifted in 2020.
  • Other foreign players U.S. fans may recognize: Nick Kingham (Wyverns), Chris Flexen (Bears), Jamie Romak (Wyverns), Roberto Ramos (Twins).
  • Eric Thames returned to MLB from KBO. Foreign players have a lot of downtime and may as well spend it improving their game.
  • Teams are allowed to make two changes per season related to foreign players. In the current environment, inability to send scouts overseas will greatly reduce the team's ability to make changes. Most foreign players will remain for the full season, which is normally very rare. They'll be enjoying the world's attention as one of the few people playing baseball.
  • As front-office people have gotten younger, they have increasingly accepted advanced statistics. Stadiums have tracking technology.
  • The Lotte Giants hired Sung Min-kyu, a former scout for the Chicago Cubs, as their new GM to bring "new ways" to the team and turn their fortunes around. Sung is asking fans to be patient and give his sabermetric methods a chance.
  • Meg jokes that this means that the Giants are "the official KBO team of FanGraphs."
  • Other players to watch: Jung Soo-bin (CF, Bears) makes amazing defensive plays ("Supercatch" in Konglish). Yu Hui-kwan (P, Bears) succeeds despite having no power, once clocked at 45mph. Kang Baek-ho (1B, Wiz) was believed by some to be the next two-way player, but the Wiz use him as a position player. Ahn Woo-jin (P, Heroes).
  • In the KBO, bat flips are common even for pop flies and are not considered offensive. On the other hand, if a pitcher hits a batter with a pitch, he must tip his cap. Brawls have erupted over this.
  • Dan predicts the Kiwoom Heroes to win the championship.
  • Coaches are worried that the compressed season will hurt pitcher arms. Monday is traditionally a league-wide off-day, but if the revised scheduled includes Monday games, pitchers will be more tired, and home runs will probably increase.
  • KBO already has instituted pace of play measures, such as a pitch clock and requiring batters to stay in the batters box.
  • There is no talk of robot umpires. Foreign players coming to the KBO have to adjust to the very different strike zone.

Links[]

Advertisement