1. Kia Tigers: Won 5, lost 1.
A fantastic week for the league leaders who won 5 straight and swept Nexen Heroes for the first time in over 4 years. They’re now on 11 and 3 for the season, despite some mediocre stats.
This is an imperfect roster and their excellent start comes down to three key factors; brilliant opening pitching (for the most part), clutch hitting and solid defense. Yang Hyun-jeong, Pat Dean and Hector combined to toss 23 innings this week, conceding just 2 runs.
The importance of An Chi-hong’s return from mandatory army service can’t be overstated, with the second basemen producing game winning hits against Doosan (Thursday) and Nexen (Sunday). However, as the graph below shows, Kia have problems.
2. SK Wyverns. Won 5, lost 1.
After losing their opening 5 games, SK have responded well to post a .500 average and move rapidly up the table. They started their week with a loss at home against the high-flying Giants, but won the series before demolishing Hanwha at the weekend.
They scored runs for fun in Daejeon (28 in three games), and now lead the league in home runs (22) and sit second for OPS. Not bad for a team that opened their season with just three runs in as many games against kt.
SK boast three of the most dangerous batters in the league now – Choi Jeong, Han Dong-min and Kim Dong-yeop – who together have blasted more home runs (12) than most of the KBO teams. Add in Lee Heong-gu’s immediate impact since being traded by Kia, and this is a team capable of springing a surprise.
3. NC Dinos. Won 4, lost 2.
A mixed bag from NC, who swept LG in Jamsil but looked in danger of being whitewashed by Doosan when the pitching match up for Sunday was announced. Early season stats suggest their current league position isn’t an accurate reflection of their play so far.
They’re really struggling with the bat, posting below average numbers in most of the key categories and have hit a league worst 5 home runs all season. Eric Thames is gone and the man with the unenviable task of replacing him is Xavier Scruggs. Too many men are left stranded on base, as Saturday’s return of just 2 runs from 11 hits and 3 walks emphasised.
Pitching is also poor, with NC last for quality starts (4) and an ugly 4.98 era. We could go on and on. They’ve a lot of work to do.
4. Doosan Bears. Won 3, lost 3.
Yet to really get going this season. They lost a home series to Kia Tigers midweek and then won a series in Masan at the weekend. With Jang Won-jun pitching on Sunday, they might feel this was a wasted opportunity to sweep their closest rivals from 2016.
They began with a hammering of Kia and then got clawed back on Wednesday against an inexperienced starter and a wobbly bullpen. But the real killer was Thursday’s loss. As good as Hector pitched (7 innings, 0 runs), Doosan were undone by some horrendous base running on two occasions. They lost the game 4-3.
Friday and Saturday felt like a return of form but they are heavily reliant on first baseman Nick Evans. The American likes multiple home runs per game and brought his tally to 4 for the season. He also has 14 rbis to his name, good enough for second in the league.
5. Lotte Giants. Won 3, lost 3.
Games in Munhak and Sajik brought 3 wins but Lotte will probably feel they left one behind. Sunday’s match up against a terribly bad Lions team looked favourable but somehow their bats fell silent. They scored 10 runs in defeat to SK on Thursday (the second time in as many days they suffered a walk off loss to the Wyverns). Wednesday’s 2-1 reverse was also noteworthy because all but one Lotte player with a plate appearance struck out (15k in total).
Still, the Giants are moving in the right direction after a few barren years and can continue to rely on a little bit of Lee Dae-ho magic. Batting remains their strongest feature with the team posting league best numbers for RBIS and OPS.
Pitching stats are mostly okay too. They’ll feel their position is accurate but a big test awaits this midweek against a Dinos team out for revenge.
6. Nexen Heroes. Won 2, lost 4.
A lot of teams ended the week with that record. We have Nexen in 6th even though they suffered a long overdue sweep by Kia at the weekend. Nexen still post good numbers and were unlucky to run into the inform duo of Pat Dean and Yang Hyun-jeong.
Nexen are exciting. Their lead offs are quick so extra base hits are always a possibility. They give up a lot of hits but they get men on base. Their current league position is poor but they have the tools to climb.
They comfortably own the league’s worst era (5.65) so addressing that and other pitching problems remains a priority.
7. LG Twins. Won 2, lost 4.
Meh. Swept by NC in three close games, they ended up with a series win against kt despite going 10 innings without scoring a run on Saturday.
The early season optimism has blown away. They’d only scored 9 runs in 5 games before Sunday’s handy thrashing of Ju Kwon’s wizz. Sosa remains a class act but he’ll have been annoyed by Thursday’s shutout defeat when his offense gave him only 5 hits all game.
They look the most vulnerable to a loss of form or personnel.
8. kt wizz. Won 2, lost 4.
It was always gonna be hard for the league’s newest team to maintain their surreal start to season (they topped the table giving up just 8 runs in 8 games). Nexen had far too much power for them on Tuesday, scoring 12 times off 17 hits and 5 walks.
They rebounded to take game three and then shut out the Twins on Saturday before ending the week as they started it; a thumping and 12 runs conceded.
In total, kt scored 20 runs in 6 games last week but conceded 40. They had high hopes for Ju Kwon at the start of the season but unfortunately he started both of their heavy defeats last week. kt are definitely more competitive than last season. Hopefully they can keep this up.
9. Hanwha Eagles: Won 2, lost 4.
The Eagles began with 2 wins against Samsung before losing 4 straight, taking some serious punishment by a revitalised SK Wyverns. The biggest worry was two of their better starters, Song Eun-beom and Lee Tae-yang, picked up weekend losses in match ups that looked favorable before first pitch.
Hanwha have a special ability to allow games get out of control very quickly and their maddening inconsistency in all areas of the field probably means another year without playoff baseball.
They don’t have any one player who is dominating games for them, like Evans (Doosan), Luis Jimenez (LG), Choi Jeong (SK), Lee Dae-ho (Lotte) etc. Their batting stats are average and whilst their pitching is generally okay, like a lot of KBO teams, it doesn’t really matter who starts the game, more who comes in first.
10. Samsung Lions. Won 2, lost 4.
Samsung had to wait until their 11th game of the season before recording their first save. That was yesterday’s 3-0 win over Lotte which also marked their first shut out of 2017. With just 3 wins to their name, already this looks like being a painful year for Samsung fans.
The interesting thing is the previous week Samsung were shut out 4 times in 5 games and when they finally scored runs against Hanwha on Tuesday (they managed 8 in total), they still lost the game. Still, they’re finally scoring runs and, on paper, boast a very experienced trio of Korean starting pitchers. There’s a lot that needs to be fixed.