KT Wiz players celebrate after winning game two of the Korean Series agaisnt the Doosan Bears on November 15, 2021 in Seoul, South Korea. The KT Wiz will face the NC Dinos in the next stage of the 2023 KBO Playoffs. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
The 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League postseason began on Thursday, October 19. The five teams that qualified for the playoffs were the LG Twins (86-56-2), KT Wiz (79-62-3), SSG Landers (76-65-3), NC Dinos (75-67-2), and Doosan Bears (74-68-2).
The NC Dinos have been the most impressive team in the postseason thus far. They defeated the Doosan Bears in the best-of-three Wild Card round two games to none. The Dinos started the series with a one-game advantage as the fourth-place team. They won convincingly by a score of 14-9.
The Dinos made easy work of the No. 3 seed SSG Landers in the semi-playoff round, sweeping the series in three games. They will take on the KT Wiz in a five-game playoff series to determine which team will take on the LG Twins in the 2023 Korean Series.
NC Dinos (75-67-2) vs. KT Wiz (79-62-3)
The KT Wiz finished with the second-best record during the KBO regular season and received an automatic berth to the Playoff round.
On offense, the Wiz are led by former Major League Baseball outfielder Anthony Alford and first baseman Park Byung-ho. Alford finished the regular season with 15 home runs, 70 RBI, and a team-best .813 OPS. In 132 games, Park led the Wiz with 18 home runs and 87 RBI.
On the mound, the Wiz received excellent seasons from starting pitchers William Cuevas and Young Pyo-ko. Cuevas, from Venezuela, posted a 12-0 record with a 2.60 ERA in 18 starts. Young had a 1.145 WHIP with 114 strikeouts in 174.2 innings. KT Wiz ace Wes Benjamin is ready to pitch in the series against the Dinos after missing the final few weeks of the season with left arm discomfort. Benjamin had 157 strikeouts in 160 innings.
“I still have confidence in the rest of our pitching staff to face whatever team in the KBO, because I think we’ve performed very well this season,” Benjamin told Yonhap News Agency.
The opposing team Benjamin and the KT Wiz will have to defeat to move on to the Korean Series are the NC Dinos.
The Dinos were led all season by starting pitcher Erick Fedde, who won the 2023 Choi Dong-won Award, the KBO equivalent of the Cy Young Award. In 30 starts, the right-hander posted a 2.00 ERA and 209 strikeouts in 180.1 innings. Fedde was scratched from his postseason start last Wednesday after taking a ball to his forearm in his final regular-season start. It is expected he will pitch in the series against the KT Wiz.
On offense, outfielder Jason Martin led the Dinos with 17 home runs and 90 RBI. He was huge in the Dino’s game three 7-6 win against the SSG Landers, going two-for-four with one home run and three RBI.
Game one of the best-of-five playoff series between the NC Dinos and KT Wiz will begin on Monday, October 30 at 5:30 a.m. ET. The game will occur at Suwon Baseball Stadium, home of the Wiz.
LG Twins (86-52-2)
The LG Twins were the best team in the KBO during the 2023 regular season and clinched an automatic berth to the Korean Series. They have won two Korean Series championships, most recently in 1994.
The Twins led the KBO in team batting average (.280), stolen bases (166), and were second in ERA (3.67)
At the plate, the offense is stacked with power and contact hitters, but outfielder Austin Dean had the best statistical season. Dean spent five seasons in Major League Baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, and Miami Marlins. He hit 23 home runs and 95 RBI in 583 plate appearances in his first season in South Korea.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates and just how we played and have come together to achieve that,” Dean told KBS World in a video interview shortly after the Twins clinched the regular season title. “When we trust ourselves, and we are confident in ourselves, I feel like we are unbeatable.”
One of the better starting pitchers for the Twins who could start game one of the Korean Series is Im Chan-Kyu. He recorded a career-low 3.42 ERA with a 14-3 record, struck out 6.4 hitters per nine innings, and walked just 3.4.
The LG Twins will either face the KT Wiz or the NC Dinos in the Korean Series. Dates and times for the series have yet to be announced, but the Twins will host game one of the best-of-seven series at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul, South Korea.