KBO Rooting Guide: Which MLB team does each Korean club mostly resemble?

Matt Weyrich
·11 min read

Early Tuesday morning, the Korean Baseball Organization will begin its season-a little over a month after its originally scheduled Opening Day. Although the coronavirus pandemic delayed its season, the KBO fully expects to play out its full 144-game schedule in 2020.

As for Major League Baseball in the U.S., league officials have yet to announce a target date for the start of the season while North American countries still work to control the virus. In the meantime, American baseball fans will have to turn to the KBO if they want to watch a live game.

Of course, many MLB fans are unfamiliar with the KBO and its clubs. Who are the lovable losers? Which team is seen as the villain to the rest of the league? Who depends the most on analytics rather than money to build their team?

Here's a guide to all 10 teams in the KBO with a look at which MLB club they align with the most.

Doosan Bears

Joined KBO: 1982

City: Seoul

2019 record/result: 88-55, won Korean Series title

Korean Series wins: 6 titles (13 appearances)

MLB team equivalent: Washington Nationals

The Doosan Bears entered the final month of the 2019 regular season trailing the SK Wyverns by seven games for the top spot in the standings. That coveted spot is important because the top team from the regular season earns an automatic bye to the championship, called the Korean Series.

But an epic collapse by the Wyverns allowed the Bears to rocket up the standings, taking over the No. 1 seed on the final day of the regular season. Doosan then swept the Kiwoom Heroes in the Korean Series to win the title and complete an unlikely run to the top of the sport.

Sound familiar? The Nationals rebounded from a 19-31 start to the 2019 season before going on a tear that resulted in the team's first World Series title in franchise history. Although the Nationals have not won nearly as many titles as Doosan, both clubs have been among the best regular-season teams in their respective leagues over the past decade.

Both reigning champions also lost their best position player last offseason. Doosan's Josh Lindblom, the 2019 MVP of the KBO, signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. Washington lost Antony Rendon to the Los Angeles Angels in free agency.

Hanwha Eagles

Joined KBO: 1986

City: Daejeon

2019 record/result: 58-86, missed playoffs

Korean Series wins: 1 title (6 appearances)

MLB team equivalent: Baltimore Orioles

If any team in the KBO has been stuck in a rut, it's been the Hanwha Eagles. Although the club has enjoyed plenty of success in the past, the Eagles have qualified for the playoffs just once since 2008.

However, the team is hoping to turn things around after hiring new general manager Min-chul Jeong last October. A similar sentiment is currently held in Baltimore, where the Orioles are in the midst of a full-scale rebuild under still-green GM Mike Elias.

Though they don't have much recent success to brag about, both teams do have one thing in common going for them: a great stadium. Hanwha Life Insurance Eagles Park is widely considered one of the most beautiful parks in the KBO, while Camden Yards has withstood the test of time as an all-time classic MLB stadium.

Kia Tigers

Joined KBO: 1982

City: Gwangju

2019 record/result: 62-80, missed playoffs

Korean Series wins: 11 titles (11 appearances)

MLB team equivalent: St. Louis Cardinals

Although the Kia Tigers' KBO-best 11 championships beg for comparisons to the New York Yankees, the Bronx Bombers are currently among the best teams in baseball and hail from one of the largest cities in the world.  The Tigers have had plenty of success, but they've lost their touch over the last few years,

Enter the St. Louis Cardinals, who with 11 titles of their own have the most World Series championships of any team in National League history. However, they're in the midst of a rough stretch by their standards: only one playoff series win over the last five years.

Neither the Tigers nor the Cardinals play in a particularly large market, yet their fanbases are among the most passionate in the sport. It wouldn't be out of the question for either team to make the playoffs in 2020-it's never a good idea to count either of them out-but they're both going to need a lot of things to swing their ways if they're going to add to their strong totals.


Kiwoom Heroes

Joined KBO: 2008

City: Seoul

2019 record/result: 86-57, lost Korean Series

Korean Series wins: 0 titles (2 appearances)

MLB team equivalent: Tampa Bay Rays

Despite making it all the way to the Korean Series, no KBO team drew fewer fans to the ballpark last season than the Kiwoom Heroes, who are the oft-forgotten third team in Seoul behind the more successful Doosan Bears and LG Twins. The Heroes, who often have one of the lowest payrolls in the league, rely on a bolstered analytics department to help find value where other teams don't.

The same could be said for the Tampa Bay Rays, who last season bested only the tanking Miami Marlins in attendance while holding the distinction of being the one team in the majors with a payroll below $70 million. Even so, the Rays won 96 games in 2019 and pushed the juggernaut Houston Astros to five games in the ALDS.

It's not a perfect comparison, as the Heroes rely on their deep lineup to win games while the Rays have one of the best top-to-bottom pitching staffs in the MLB. But each team relies on making the best of what little they have, which makes their success all the more impressive when it happens.

KT Wiz

Joined KBO: 2015

City: Suwon

2019 record/result: 71-71, missed playoffs

Korean Series wins: 0 titles (0 appearances)

MLB team equivalent: Seattle Mariners

It's been a rough start for the KT Wiz franchise. After being added as an expansion team in 2015, the Wiz posted the worst record in the KBO for three straight years. They have yet to make the playoffs but managed to avoid a losing record for the first time when they went 71-71 last season.

Seattle Mariners fans can sympathize with what the Wiz fanbase has gone through these last few years. The Mariners joined the MLB ranks as an expansion team in 1977 and didn't make the playoffs for the first time until 1995. Seattle has yet to even make it to the World Series, never mind win one.

The Wiz are probably in a better spot to compete in 2020, but nothing is guaranteed when you have the youngest pitching staff in the league. If the Mariners' track record is any indication, the Wiz have a long way to go before they can be considered serious contenders.

LG Twins

Joined KBO: 1982

City: Seoul

2019 record/result: 79-64, lost playoff quarterfinals

Korean Series wins: 2 titles (6 appearances)

MLB team equivalent: New York Mets

The easiest comparison on this list to make, the LG Twins are the obvious choice for the Mets of the KBO. Based out of Seoul, the Twins have enjoyed some success but are still overshadowed by the Doosan Bears, who share a stadium with them.

While their two Korean Series titles give the Twins some level of respect, they're more of a team that achieves modest success with a few deep playoff runs mixed in. The New York Mets are similar in that they've won two World Series but have only made back-to-back playoff appearances twice in the history of their franchise.

It's easy to forget about the Mets when the Yankees play across town, but their fanbase is still an active one that creates an exciting atmosphere at Citi Field. The same goes for the Twins, who despite sharing a stadium still play in the largest city in South Korea.

Lotte Giants

Joined KBO: 1982

City: Busan

2019 record/result: 48-93, missed playoffs

Korean Series wins: 2 titles (5 appearances)

MLB team equivalent: Pittsburgh Pirates

One of the original six teams to play in the KBO during its inaugural 1982 season, the Lotte Giants are a club rich with history-but they've had more than a fair share of disappointment as well.

Far and away the worst team in the KBO last season, the Giants missed the playoffs for the sixth time over the last seven seasons. The Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that's been playing since the 1800s, have fallen on hard times as well; they've finished fourth or lower in the NL Central each of the past three years and haven't won a playoff series since 1979.

The Giants are a bit more free-spending than the Pirates but when you're a bad team, it really doesn't matter to fans how much you're spending. Lotte is hoping to be a better team than the one that finished last season with a .340 winning percentage. Pittsburgh doesn't look too optimistic that the Pirates will be in the same boat in 2020.

NC Dinos

Joined KBO: 2013

City: Changwon

2019 record/result: 73-69, lost Wild Card series

Korean Series wins: 0 titles (1 appearance)

MLB team equivalent: Minnesota Twins

If you're a fan of home runs, the NC Dinos are the KBO team for you. The former employer of Eric Thames, the Dinos led the Korean league in home runs last season and are poised to do so again with the return of top slugger Sung-bum Na-who played just 23 games in 2019 due to a knee injury.

Over in the U.S., the Minnesota Twins led the league in home runs during a year in which the MLB set an all-time record for the most combined long balls in a season. Of course, that likely won't change in 2020, as they went out and made a big signing for another slugger this offseason in third baseman Josh Donaldson

Neither team ended 2019 the way they would've liked to. The Dinos were the final team to make the playoffs and were eliminated one game into the postseason while the Twins were swept by the Yankees in the ALDS. The 2020 season will present another opportunity for both of them to show it is possible to slug your way to a championship.

Samsung Lions

Joined KBO: 1982

City: Daegu

2019 record/result: 60-83, missed playoffs

Korean Series wins: 8 titles (18 appearances)

MLB team equivalent: San Francisco Giants

Few teams in all of professional baseball have built quick-strike dynasties like the Samsung Lions and San Francisco Giants.

The Lions have won at least three championships in a four-year span twice in the history of their franchise. Meanwhile, the Giants are one of only three teams to win three World Series in a single decade (2010, '12 and '14) over the last 60 years.

But success has evaded both clubs in recent years, with neither team posting a winning record over the last three seasons. However, history shows that once these teams get hot, there's little that can stand in their way of championship glory.

SK Wyverns

Joined KBO: 2000

City: Incheon

2019 record/result: 88-55, lost playoff semifinals

Korean Series wins: 4 titles (8 appearances)

MLB team equivalent: Boston Red Sox

The SK Wyverns may be perennial contenders, but there are a lot of question marks surrounding the team after it lost two stars over the offseason-Kwang-Hyun Kim signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and Angel Sanchez joined the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.

In Boston, the Red Sox are facing similar issues after trading Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers and losing Chris Sale to Tommy John surgery. They didn't make the playoffs last season, but are still less than two years removed from winning the World Series.

It's going to be an uphill climb for both teams without their best players in 2020. Boston fans may still be mad at the Red Sox front office but perhaps in the meantime they can pull for the Wyverns to help generate a little luck for once the MLB season finally does return.

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KBO Rooting Guide: Which MLB team does each Korean club mostly resemble? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington