Founded with six franchises in 1982, the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) has since expanded to 10 teams. While the number of organizations pales in comparison to the MLB’s 30 teams, its size is closer to Nippon Professional Baseball’s (NPB) 12 clubs.
There’s plenty of great betting action in the KBO, even though the league is organized differently than the MLB or NPB. Below, you’ll learn a lot about the KBO system, their gameplay, and more.
Keep reading for six interesting facts about the Korean Baseball Organization, or KBO.
MLB and NPB League Structure Differences
Before we start talking the KBO, we wanted to first discuss Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball for comparison.
The MLB and NPB are both split up into two leagues. The MLB is split into the American League and the National League, with 15 teams in each league. The two leagues are split further into East, Central, and West divisions, with five teams per division.
MLB pits teams against their division rivals more frequently, resulting in some divisions being more competitive year after year. Divisions like the AL East always have several extremely talented teams duking it out for the division crown and a ticket into the postseason.
Bettors making season total bets on MLB must consider the division in which teams play before they wager. Teams like the Blue Jays will have a tough time winning in the AL East, while the Twins have an easy road ahead in the AL Central.
Interleague play is another wrinkle in the MLB, where American League teams will play National League teams every year, introducing yet another consideration when betting on MLB teams. American League teams typically outperform their National League counterparts with a .522 overall winning percentage in all interleague games.
Like the MLB, the NPB is also split into two leagues—the Central League and the Pacific League. The NPB doesn’t have divisions, but they do offer interleague play.
Interleague play in the NPB occurs during a seven-week section in the middle of the season. Teams from the other league play each other in a two-game series, one home and one away.
Like the American League in the MLB, the Pacific League has dominated interleague play in Japan, winning more games than the Central League in 12 out of the 13 seasons since interleague play began in 2005. Odds on interleague play in the NPB will usually favor Pacific League teams.
1 – KBO League Structure Is Different
Unlike the MLB and NPB, the KBO isn’t split up into leagues. The KBO also doesn’t have an unbalanced schedule like the MLB does where teams play more games against their division rivals than the rest of the league.
Instead, the KBO has a perfectly balanced schedule. Each of the 10 teams plays the nine other teams 16 times, resulting in a 144-game regular season.
This schedule should be easier to bet on than the MLB or NPB since you know each team will play every other team the same amount of games, eliminating strong divisions.
The KBO has more unique features and differences from the other professional leagues than just the league structure.
2 – Bat Flips Are a Way of Life
Bat flips are a polarizing subject in the MLB.
When a player on your team flips his bat, it’s a gesture of triumph and camaraderie. But when an opposing player flips their bat, it’s disrespectful to the pitcher and to the game of baseball itself.
Players have been harassed for flipping their bat in American baseball. Blue Jays player Jose Bautista is one example.
In the 2015 NLDS, Bautista flipped his bat after a go-ahead home run that would lead the Blue Jays to victory. In Toronto, it was seen as the defining moment of their 2015 season, but the Texas Rangers saw it differently.
Like many other MLB players who participate in bat flipping, Bautista was hit by a pitch the next season in retaliation for the perceived disrespectful gesture. However, bat flips aren’t seen as disrespectful in the KBO.
Thanks to YouTube and social media, American viewers and baseball fans were introduced to the majesty and splendor of KBO bat flips several years ago. Now, with ESPN airing KBO games in the absence of regular sports programming, you can watch bat flips occur in real-time.
Bat flips aren’t the only difference between the KBO and MLB.
Like the NPB, the KBO also has the tradition of fans making personalized chants for their team’s hitters. Every team has a cheering section in the stadium where fans will dress up, play instruments, and chant a special song for every batter.
3 – Teams Are Named After Corporate Sponsors
Unlike the MLB, where teams are named after the city or region they play in, nine out of the 10 KBO teams are named after corporate sponsors.
Examples include the Kia Tigers, named for the South Korean automobile company.
With headquarters in Seoul, Kia is one of the world’s largest automobile companies, selling over 3.3 million vehicles in 2015. Kia is famous for the Tiger Nose on all of its cars, which was introduced in 2007.
The Tiger Nose is meant to set Kia cars apart from their competitors. While the team was sold to Kia in 2001, the Tiger Nose wasn’t implemented on Kia cars until six years later. Like the team, the tiger nose is meant to be a powerful gesture and set itself apart from the field.
The Samsung Lions are another team named after a corporate sponsor. This time, it’s the South Korean conglomerate, Samsung, known for their cutting-edge smartphones and 4K TVs.
4 – Games Are Available on ESPN
At the time of writing, KBO games are airing regularly on ESPN.
ESPN is showing six KBO games a week. The games air at 5:30 AM ET Tuesdays through Fridays, 4 AM ET on Saturdays, and 1 AM ET on Sundays.
The games play live on ESPN at, frankly, horrible times for American viewers, thanks to South Korea having a dramatically different time zone than the US.
While many may stay up late or wake up early and choose to watch super late-night games (games are often replayed throughout the week on ESPN2 as well), you don’t have to stay up late to make bets on the KBO.
You can bet on the KBO at any time at any one of the US gambling websites, sportsbooks, or mobile apps offering KBO betting.
While you won’t be able to make in-play or in-game bets, you can still make other bets by researching the rosters and starting pitchers for each game.
5 – You Can Bet on KBO Games Online
Several American sports betting sites now offer betting on KBO games.
There’s a big opportunity for you to bet on the KBO once you choose a trustworthy online sportsbook.
It’s a fresh take on baseball, featuring bat flips and a universal designated hitter. Just remember that it’s a high-powered offensive league and the quality of play is a little lower than MLB (think between AA and AAA).
6 – The League Is Full of Former MLB Players
While many high-profile stars have come over from the KBO, like former Dodger great Hyun-Jin Ryu who recently signed a pact with the Blue Jays, several former MLB players have also gone over to the KBO. Some have even returned back to the MLB after sequesters in the KBO.
Eric Thames is one such example.
While he struggled in his original major league stint from 2011 to 2012, failing to hit over .262 in either season and turning in a replacement-level performance, he excelled in the KBO from 2014 to 2016, hitting .381 in a monster 2015 season.
He returned to the MLB after clubs realized he was a legitimate power threat and has been an above-average hitter from 2017 to 2019 with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Several other players, like St. Louis Cardinal Miles Mikolas, have made successful transitions back from the KBO to the MLB.
What do you think about the KBO? Do you enjoy it as much as MLB action? Let us know in the comments.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
The information found on Gamblingsites.org is for entertainment purposes only. It is a purely informational website that does not accept wagers of any kind. Although certain pages within Gamblingsites.org feature or promote other online websites where users are able to place wagers, we encourage all visitors to confirm the wagering and/or gambling regulations that are applicable in their local jurisdiction (as gambling laws may vary in different states, countries and provinces).
Gamblingsites.org uses affiliates links from some of the sportsbooks/casinos it promotes and reviews, and we may receive compensation from those particular sportsbooks/casinos in certain circumstances. Gamblingsites.org does not promote or endorse any form of wagering or gambling to users under the age of 18. If you believe you have a gambling problem, please visit BeGambleAware or GAMCARE for information and help.