Through two weeks of the KBO season, a clear frontrunner has emerged in the form of the delightfully fun and seemingly-unstoppable NC Dinos. They are 10-1 and three games up on a trio of teams in second. For the uninitiated, finishing first is of paramount importance because it ensures a trip to the Korean Series against whichever team survives an laddered gauntlet on the other side.
Changwon's finest have raced out of the gate on the strength of shutdown pitching and extremely timely hitting. The Dinos' staff is surrendering only 2.60 runs per contest. Koo Chang-mo has 14 shutout innings to his name with 18 strikeouts and a 0.64 WHIP. Mike Wright has also won both his starts and sports a 1.09 WHIP. Drew Rucinski leads the league with three quality outings in three opportunities so far.
The top-to-bottom form has been spectacular as only Kim Geon-tae carries an ERA north of 4.00. As a reminder, one of the defining characteristics of the KBO is erratic and confidence-crushing bullpen work. NC stands as the exception to the rule.
At the dish, Park Min-woo ranks third in batting average (.432) while Na Sung-bum, Park Suk-min, and Kang Jin-sung have combined for 10 dingers. They are averaging the second-highest runs per game, but the clutch gene has truly been the difference.
Half of the Dinos' 10 victories have been of the one-run variety. One would think that's not possible to keep up over a 144-game season. Yet the record is the record. At this pace, the franchise would finish 100-44 and decimate the Korean single-season mark of 93 wins, accomplished twice by the Doosan Bears. A 126-game schedule was expanded to 133 in 2009, then to 144 in 2015.
Again, it's very early. But the Dinos finished with 73 wins last year and appear poised to rush past that. The franchise record is 84, which also seems in danger. And then there's the very real possibility a positive test delays the league three weeks and a truncated schedule is forced into action.
For now, though, it's great to be a new NC Dinos fan riding an impossibly high wave of success.