That is Half Two of the Could version of my month-to-month column through which I recap what’s been occurring within the Korean Baseball Group on each a league- and team-wide scale. In case you missed it, Half One mentioned league-wide traits, then lined the SSG Landers, LG Twins, Samsung Lions, and NC Dinos. In the present day’s put up will cowl the remaining six groups. When you have any questions, be happy to depart them as feedback or attain out to me via Twitter. With out additional ado, let’s discuss some KBO!
If there was any doubt concerning Baek-ho Kang 강백호’s celebrity standing, this season has blown it away. By way of 52 video games, the younger first baseman is batting over .400. He’s second within the league in wRC+ and first in Batting WAR. What’s his secret? Kang doesn’t have overwhelming uncooked energy – our Eric Longenhagen assigned it a 55 grade – however he’s constant sufficient with what he has to maintain a excessive BABIP. He’s additionally extraordinarily choosy throughout at-bats, fouling and taking unfavorable pitches earlier than pouncing on one he likes. Right here’s a graphical illustration of his swing choices final season (courtesy of Statiz):
That’s some glorious selective aggression. Kang’s swing charges are within the 80s on in-zone pitches, however they drop dramatically on something exterior. He’s seeing and hitting the ball so properly that in a single recreation, the Lotte Giants launched an excessive infield shift overlaying Kang’s pull-side. And what does he do? Why, he executes two good bunts the opposite manner for hits, in fact. Later that recreation, he deposited an 88 mph fastball into proper subject to go 3-for-5 general. At this level, Kang’s protection is his solely weak point. I believe he finally ends up as a DH if he decides to deal with main league baseball, however he’ll mash sufficient to be at the very least a stable common.
The remainder of the Wiz hasn’t been as scorching, however they’re hanging in there. Zoilo Almonte has been effective (108 wRC+). Controversy arose over his perceived lack of hustle, however it died down after Almonte’s hamstring points got here to mild. Final season’s Rookie of the 12 months Hyeong Jun So 소형준 had what’s hopefully a bounce-back begin in opposition to the Giants on June 5, putting out 9 over seven shutout innings; the remainder of the rotation has chugged alongside with none notable setbacks. Outdoors of a struggling bullpen that’s seen higher days, that is nonetheless the stable staff I lined final month.
The Doosan Bears are a bit just like the St. Louis Cardinals, in that they handle to win sufficient video games for a playoff berth irrespective of the circumstances. Keep in mind once I criticized the Bears for buying and selling the versatile Deok-ju Ham 함덕주 for a below-average infielder? Nicely, now that infielder has a reputation: Suk-hwan Yang 양석환, who topped out at an 88 wRC+ in 2017 and is at present posting a 118 wRC+ because the Bears’ on a regular basis first baseman (his twelfth dwelling run of the 12 months got here at present). Satan magic is within the air. This isn’t a BABIP-driven fluke, both, as Yang’s energy surge appears real. Elsewhere, accidents have derailed Ham’s begin to his 2021, although clearly the Twins couldn’t have foreseen that.
I additionally foolishly wrote that Aríel Miranda 미란다 “appeared like a catastrophe ready to occur,” however lo and behold, the walks are down whereas the speed and strikeouts have held. In my protection, it was troublesome to inform which model of Miranda would finally emerge.
The Bears have a knack for signing after which refining international pitchers. That custom started with Dustin Nippert 니퍼트 a decade in the past, who was succeeded by Josh Lindblom 린드블럼, and extra lately, Chris Flexen 플렉센 and Raúl Alcántara. However whereas Miranda has appeared the half, the title of Magic Bears Overseas Pitcher this season belongs to Walker Lockett. By way of 11 begins, Lockett leads all certified pitchers in ERA (1.87) and the entire KBO in WAR (3.4). His FIP is in fact larger, and I don’t purchase his one-homer-per-67 innings tempo, however Lockett’s sinker-changeup combo supplies him an honest shot at reigning as one of many KBO’s premier contact suppressors. Each the rotation and the bullpen has been glorious, and so has the offense. This staff is a well-oiled machine that may proceed to function till… I dunno, perpetually?
I wrote final month that I’d be monitoring Jung-hoo Lee 이정후’s energy. He’s hit only one dwelling run in 53 video games, so sadly it doesn’t appear to be he’ll replicate his 15-homer 2020 season. Lee continues to be one of many league’s finest hitters, thoughts you – he’s rocking a 161 wRC+ to date, however I might have cherished to see a easy, linear improvement. I do agree with Eric that the in-game energy will finally surge (30 current, 55 future), and he’s nonetheless 23, so Lee’s evolution as a slugger is way from full.
The lack of a perennial 6 to 7 WAR participant in Ha-Seong Kim 김하성 was large for the Heroes, however Hye-seong Kim 김혜성, his similarly-named alternative, is filling what as soon as felt like a gaping gap. Hye-seong performs to his strengths. He doesn’t have the pop of his predecessor, however he’s a superb baserunner, swiping 22 baggage this 12 months whereas getting caught simply as soon as. His protection pales compared, however he’s satisfactory at brief. He makes sufficient contact and attracts sufficient walks to convincingly maintain a 90-100 wRC+. Hye-seong Kim isn’t the immediately recognizable star that Ha-Seong Kim was, however he’s all of the Heroes want.
Now, what to do with ByungHo Park 박병호? His April demotion didn’t assist in any respect; the primary baseman has sunk to a 89 wRC+, a product of hitting .212/.317/.378. Park’s profession arc jogs my memory of Miguel Cabrera’s, within the sense that each hitters’ outputs cratered at age 34-35. Accidents are responsible in Cabrera’s case, however for Park, there’s no apparent offender. The one actual blemish on his well being document exists in 2020, when he missed two months as a result of a hip damage. It’s unhappy to see his fly balls repeatedly die on the warning monitor. Let’s hope Park has one final hurrah left in him.
To say the Tigers had a foul month may be an understatement. Their offense continues to be horrible, contributing to a league-trailing 18 dwelling runs; for comparability, the league-leading Dinos have 75. Proper fielder Received-jun Choi 최원준 and catcher Min-sik Kim 김민식 are disciplined sufficient to attract walks and stay productive, however the remainder of the lineup simply isn’t there. The Tigers desperately want Preston Tucker 터커’s energy to return. It’s nonetheless on the market, someplace. Tucker belted 32 dwelling runs in 2020, however he’s on tempo for simply 9 this season.
Making issues worse, the pitching workers has been decimated by accidents. After finishing a begin on Could 18, Daniel Mengden has been unavailable ever since with a forearm flexor pressure, and Aaron Brooks is on the Injured Record with the very same difficulty. With out these two, the Tigers are left with an assorted mixture of replacement-level stand-ins. The one doable technique to salvage this case is that if rookie southpaw Eui-lee Lee goes on a tear, however my hopes aren’t excessive, as pessimistic as that sounds. Although his fastball, slider, and changeup are all plus pitches, inconsistent command led to 14 earned runs in 16.2 innings in Could.
Total, the outlook for this staff doesn’t look good. There’s no straightforward resolution, both. The Tigers may anticipate Brooks and Mengden to return, then hunt for a Wild Card spot, however it’s a dangerous gamble that might lead to too many losses throughout the interim. On the identical time, they’re not helpless sufficient (but) to warrant a rebuild. The primary possibility would reveal whether or not the second is viable, so maybe the staff ought to proceed on their course. For a greater thought, let’s examine again in subsequent month.
They really did it. The Giants fired supervisor Mun-hoe Her 허문회 and changed him with Futures’ League (the KBO’s minor league equal) supervisor Larry Sutton 서튼, resolving a long-standing battle between the entrance workplace over which course the staff ought to take.
As I famous in my April recap, the Giants have been destined for baseball purgatory with out such a change. The excellent news is that we’re going to see way more enjoying time allotted to Giants’ prospects. Already, pitcher-turned-catcher Gyun-an Na has made an affect within the rotation, dealing with 24.1 innings throughout 4 begins with a 3.94 FIP. Sutton has proven a choice for catcher Si-wan Ji 지시완, whose protection has improved and whose batted ball information is anecdotally above-average.
On the flip aspect, this semi-rebuild pushes the Giants farther away from rivalry. A number of the regulars have been underperforming, certain, however they’re in all probability extra dependable long-term in comparison with prospects nonetheless in improvement. The staff can also be unlikely to hunt out a commerce for a starter or a reliever. However actually, it’s a brand new course that may pay dividends sooner or later. Up so far, the Giants had by no means dedicated themselves to a rebuild, not to mention any form of course. I hope the followers are as affected person as I’m.
There’s not a lot so as to add onto what I wrote concerning the Eagles in Could – they’re nonetheless within the midst of an entire rebuild, with its progress troublesome to gauge as an outsider. One quirk I did discover is that the Eagles have the second-lowest ratio of flyouts to groundouts. Utilizing this as a proxy for launch angle, it looks like the staff’s younger hitters may give attention to elevating the ball extra. Perhaps the teaching workers is addressing this and it’s simply I don’t know, however it did stand out.
Breakout hitter Si-hwan Roh 노시환’s personal ratio is 0.67 (that means extra groundouts than flyouts), however he’s been torching baseballs when he doesn’t make outs. Roh was slugging .533 once I final wrote about him. He’s cooled down since, however solely to a .497 mark, and he nonetheless leads his staff with 11 dwelling runs. However describing his expertise by means of phrases isn’t sufficient. Right here’s a grand slam he hit in opposition to the Dinos in a pivotal motion:
I’ve watched that blast a couple of dozen occasions now. His minimal, but environment friendly stride jogs my memory of Giancarlo Stanton, and each are muscular sufficient to be according to one. Roh can also be fast to open up his hips, which appears doable due to how he can instantly pivot his left knee outwards because the foot lands. All in all, it’s a compact and explosive swing, and I can’t wait to see if he can keep his present tempo for 30 dwelling runs.