This article is part of our KBO Power Rankings series.
We're coming down to the home stretch of the KBO regular season, and it looks like the title race is all but decided. An extended run of mediocrity from the Dinos had looked as recently as a few weeks ago to threaten their place atop the standings and waste their hot start to the campaign. Suddenly, however, they've returned to their original form or perhaps even better than their original form, as they've lost just one of their last 15 games. None of the title challengers have come close to sticking with them, and they now have an eight-game lead over the second-place Wiz with just 21 games left to play (and just 20 for the Wiz). Even if the Dinos were to collapse and finish the year with a 7-14 record down the stretch, the Wiz would have to go 15-5 to pass them. While we can't quite officially hand the first-place finish and the bye into the Korean Series that comes with it to the Dinos just yet, it would be quite a shock to see them lose out. That doesn't mean we no longer have a playoff race, however, as just six games separate the second-place Wiz from the seventh-place Giants, with two teams among that six-team group set to finish the season in disappointing fashion.
1. NC Dinos
Last Week: 1
Run Differential: +175
The Lowdown: As mentioned in the introduction, it's hard to envision anyone catching the Dinos at this point, as their 5-1-1 week helped them pull a full eight games safe atop the standings. It's worth noting that their recent hot streak which has helped them pull away included just two games against playoff teams and 13 games against bottom-four teams, though the Dinos handled them very convincingly, winning by an average score of 7.3 to 4.1. The schedule gets tougher from here, with series against the Heroes, Twins, Tigers and Giants coming up, but it would take an epic collapse for the Dinos to fail to finish first.
DFS Name to Know: Veteran catcher Eui Ji Yang has an excellent shot at finishing with a four-digit OPS for the third straight season, as he's right on that line now after storming to a .395/.462/.703 slash line over his last 46 contests.
2. KT Wiz
Last Week: 2
Run Differential: +78
The Lowdown: I've had the Wiz this high for a few weeks now, and the standings finally agree with me, as their 4-3 week was enough to move them into second. While they haven't quite completely secured the franchise's first-ever playoff berth, they can feel pretty good about having the sixth-place Tigers five games behind them. Their pitching remains impressive and has been key to their charge up the standings, as the unit which was once among the worst in the league now ranks third in runs allowed per game after allowing just 4.1 per game over their last 17 contests.
DFS Name to Know: Mel Rojas Jr. is as hot as ever at the moment, homering five times last week while driving in 11 runs and slashing .464/.469/1.036 as he makes a push for the Triple Crown.
3. Doosan Bears
Last Week: 5
Run Differential: +63
The Lowdown: The Bears sat sixth in the standings heading into their weekend series against the Tigers after yet again dropping two out of three to their nemesis, the last-place Eagles, who somehow own a 6-5 record against them this season. It was evidently the wake-up call they needed, however, as they swept the Tigers by a combined score of 28-6 to move back into fifth. With their bats waking up again and with Chris Flexen and Won Joon Choi giving the rotation depth behind Raul Alcantara, they look like they can beat anyone in the playoffs, though they'll have to go through a long slog if and when they get there unless they can surpass a few teams in the standings in the final few weeks.
DFS Name to Know: Kyoung Min Hur has at least one hit in eight of his last nine games, hitting .406/.487/.625 with 10 runs and nine RBI over that stretch, striking out zero times to cut his season-long strikeout rate to 4.9 percent.
4. LG Twins
Last Week: 4
Run Differential: +96
The Lowdown: An unimpressive 3-4 week against a pair of contenders in the Giants and Wiz sees the Twins fall behind the Bears in these rankings, but the Heroes' collapse helps them hold onto the fourth spot. They certainly aren't getting hot at the right time, however, as they've gone just 4-7 over their last 11 games, with their pitching staff allowing six runs per game over that stretch. Their lineup still ranks second in scoring, an impressive feat considering they play at the league's most pitcher-friendly park, though the loss of Roberto Ramos to an ankle injury right as he was heating up again definitely hurts.
DFS Name to Know: Hyung Jong Lee has been on a tear over his last eight games, homering five times and driving in 14 runs while hitting .433/.500/1.033.
5. Kia Tigers
Last Week: 6
Run Differential: -7
The Lowdown: It's a bit odd to move the Tigers up by a spot immediately after they were swept convincingly by the Bears over the weekend, but I've chosen to place them ahead of the tumbling Heroes after they swept them earlier in the week. They have a tough task ahead of them, as they have to make up two games on the defending-champion Bears over their final 23 contests (or three on the Twins, four on the Heroes or five on the Wiz), but they certainly have a chance to make a charge this week, as their next seven games come against the Eagles and Wyverns. They may need to go something like 6-1 over the upcoming week, but that's not out of the question given the schedule.
DFS Name to Know: Drew Gagnon has allowed two or fewer earned runs in six straight starts, cruising to a 2.35 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP over that stretch.
6. Kiwoom Heroes
Last Week: 3
Run Differential: +72
The Lowdown: The Heroes fall dramatically here after an awful week which saw them get swept by the Tigers and lose two out of three to the Wyverns, neither of which is a playoff team at this point. They're still likely to make the playoffs, as they're safe by four games and have just 14 left to play, as their domed home stadium has helped them avoid rainouts, but they're certainly limping their way there. They've won just two of their last 10 games and just seven of their last 20 after heading into that stretch looking like a real candidate to challenge the Dinos for the top spot.
DFS Name to Know: Hye Sung Kim is settling into the second spot in the Heroes' order and certainly seems to deserve the role, as he's hit .412/.444/.544 over his last 16 games.
7. Lotte Giants
Last Week: 7
Run Differential: +16
The Lowdown: The Giants are still more likely than not to finish the year on the outside looking in, but they're very much still in the hunt, as the three-game gap that separates them from the fifth and final playoff spot isn't an insurmountable margin. They had an impressive week, taking two of three from the Twins before demolishing the lowly Eagles by a combined score of 28-6 over a three-game sweep, but they'll likely need another similarly strong performance this upcoming week against the Wiz and Lions.
DFS Name to Know: Dan Straily allowed five or more runs three times in a five-start stretch from mid-August through early September, but he's fully past those struggles now, as he's allowed a total of three earned runs across his last four starts, posting a 1.00 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP over that stretch.
8. Samsung Lions
Last Week: 8
Run Differential: -56
The Lowdown: The Lions grabbed one win in three against the Wiz and managed a win and a tie in four games against the Dinos, which is about as good as it gets for them these days. They were in the playoff hunt for a respectable portion of the season, sitting five games over through their first 55 games, but their 24-43-3 record over their last 70 is good for just a 35.8 percent winning percentage. They'd be just three games up on the Wyverns if they'd played at that pace all season.
DFS Name to Know: Dong Yeop Kim's season can be neatly split into two halves, as he hit .258/.295/.407 in his first 48 games of the year but has since gone on to hit .382/.416/.636 over his last 48 after returning from his second demotion of the season in early August.
9. Hanwha Eagles
Last Week: 9
Run Differential: -231
The Lowdown: The Eagles went just 2-4 over the past week, though they outscored the defending champion Bears by a combined 18 runs in their two victories. Their 7-6 record over their past 13 games (all of which have come against playoff contenders) is enough to keep them ahead of the Wyverns in ninth place. They do still have another series remaining against the Bears, the team against which they have the best record this season, but seeing whether or not they can finish with a winning record against the team that has made five straight Korean Series is more or less all they have left to play for this year.
DFS Name to Know: Si Hwan Noh owned an OPS of .611 as recently as September 19 but has raised that mark by over 90 points since then, hitting .333/.439/.667 with three homers over his last 13 games.
10. SK Wyverns
Last Week: 10
Run Differential: -206
The Lowdown: The Wyverns managed a pair of wins against the collapsing Heroes to end the week, but that's not enough to move them back up into ninth in these rankings. They allowed just three runs combined in those two wins, an encouraging sign after they gave up double digits in three straight games earlier in the week, but their starting pitching is just nowhere near good enough to keep them competitive on a regular basis. Of the nine pitchers who have started a game for the Wyverns this season, just one (Seung Won Moon) has an ERA below 5.
DFS Name to Know: The aforementioned Moon has allowed a total of six runs across his last five starts, with all but one of those coming in a single outing, posting a 1.86 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP over that stretch.