Tanner Tully, shown here with the Cleveland Guardian, will start the KBO playoff opener for the Doosan Bears. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network
The KBO playoffs start with the wildcard matchup between the NC Dinos and Doosan Bears at 5:30 a.m. EDT on October 19.
The Dinos went 75-67-2 and got the fourth seed, while the Bears went 74-68-2 and were the last team to make the playoffs getting the fifth seed. The Dinos will begin the series with a 1-0 lead and will have to win one game at their home ballpark, Changwon NC Park in Yangdeok-dong Masanhoewon-gu, Changwon, South Korea, to advance to the next round. The Bears will have to win two games to move on.
The Dinos will start Tanner Tully against Gwak Been for the Bears. Tully made his KBO debut this season and started 11 games, throwing 65 innings and striking out 47 batters with an ERA of 2.92. Tully, 28, was drafted by the Cleveland Guardians in the 26th round of the 2016 MLB draft and made three appearances with the Guardians in 2022. He pitched 19 games with the Yankees Triple-A affiliate the Scranton /Wilkes-Barre RailRiders this season.
Gwak Been, 24, made 23 starts and pitched 127 innings with 106 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.90. He has pitched four seasons for the Bears and made his KBO debut in 2018.
Dinos ace Erick Freddie is not on their 40-man roster due to injury. Freddie, 30 won the KBO triple crown leading the league in wins with 20, strikeouts with 209, and and ERA of 2.00. Freddie is the fifth pitcher, and the first non-Korean pitcher, to record at least 20 wins and 200 strikeouts in a KBO season.
Freddie made his KBO debut this season and was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the second round of the 2011 MLB draft. Freddie made his MLB debut with the Washington Nationals in 2017 and pitched six seasons for them. He’s thrown 454 career innings in the major leagues with 352 strikeouts and an ERA of 5.41.
The Dinos offense features the 2023 KBO batting champ outfielder Ah-seop Son, who hit .339. Son, 35, is the oldest player to win his first batting title in the KBO. He has a lifetime batting average of .321 and has finished in the top 10 in batting average seven times since his career began in 2007. Son also hit five home runs with 65 RBI this season.
The Bears lineup has the 2023 KBO stolen base leader, outfielder Soo-bin Jung, who swiped 39 bags during the regular season. Jung, 33, made his KBO debut in 2009 and has 275 career steals. The winner of the Bears/Dinos series will play the SSG Landers in a best-of-five series starting October 22 or 23 at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, South Korea.
The SGS Landers went 76-65-3 during the regular season. The Landers have relief pitcher Jin-yong Seo, who led the KBO with 42 saves this season. Jin-yong Seo,31 has pitched nine seasons in the KBO. This year he pitched 73 innings with 64 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.59. The SGS Landers also have infielder Jeong Choi who leads playoff hitters with 29 home runs this season. Si-hawn Roh was the regular season home run leader with 31 for the Hanwha Eagles. Jeong Choi, 36, has played 19 seasons in the KBO and had 87 RBI, seven stolen bases, and an OPS of .936 this season.
The winner of this series will play a best-of-five series against the KT Wiz (79-62-2) starting October 30 or 31 at Suwon Kt Wiz Park in Jowon-dong, Jangan-gu, Suwon, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. The winner of this series will play the defending KBO Champions and top seed LG Twins (85-56-2) in a best-of-seven series on November 7 at LG’s Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul.
LG Twins first baseman Austin Dean had 96 RBI this season, good for third in the KBO. Dean, 30, also hit 23 home runs with an OPS of .892. He was drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 4th round of the 2012 MLB Draft and played five seasons in MLB and hit 11 home runs in 333 at-bats. This was his first season in the KBO.