1. NC Dinos: Won 5, lost 1.
A big week for NC who began with an expected sweep of kt before taking down the only team above them in the league. They crucified Kia on Sunday and generally struck gold against the weak relief pitching on offer.
Park Suk-min made a welcome return to form on Sunday, knocking over 2 homers in a tour-de-force that included 6 rbis and 4 runs scored. Xavier Scruggs, Na Sung-beom and Mo Chang-min also contributed maximum pain to a bewildered Tigers pen.
Elsewhere, Jeff Manship beat a KBO record by notching 6 straight wins in his debut season. As the graph below shows, NC have some very reliable arms to trust in the bullpen, unlike Kia. This, in our opinion, is another key reason why NC are far more likely to take the Series than Kia this season.
2. Nexen Heroes. Won 5, lost 1.
A really good week for the Heroes, even if they snuck in under the radar. A series win, at home, against Doosan Bears followed by a sweep of the misfiring Eagles in Daejeon. Nexen are one of those teams that just seem to continually follow a good week with a mediocre one.
This probably explains why they’re sitting in tied 5th spot with a 500 average. They’re 5 and 1 v the defending champions, but on top of that, they always seem to pummel Doosan too.
Nexen also had the luxury of seeing their three starters, Shin Jae-won, Jo Sang-woo and Yang Hoon, all collect wins in Daejeon. Just as well, because their bullpen is really hurting their chances of progressing up the table right now. Using Sunday as an example, Yang pitched 5 innings of 1 run baseball (4 hits). The pen tried really hard to blow that, leaking 3 runs in the final two innings. Jeon Geun-woo popped out with men at 2 and 3 to end the game.
3. LG Twins: Won 4, lost 2.
Three series wins on the bounce for the Twins, another of the KBO weekly yo-yo clubs. The only let down was the unexpected shut out by kt on Saturday, when Henri Sosa, so dominant against the Tigers in his last outing, was hammered to the tune of 6 earned runs in just 3 innings.
The highlight of the week for the Twins was Wednesday’s shut out of the Wyverns, KBO’s hottest batting line up. Ryu Jae-gook was only needed for 6 innings as his offense had opened up an early 9-0 lead.
They closed out the series on Thursday inspired by Oh Ji-hwan and then took care of kt at the weekend. A mention for the much maligned Jin Hae-soo. The former Tiger and Wynern isn’t fondly remembered by fans of his previous clubs but as LG mounted a playoff push in 2016, he was one of the best set up men in the league last season. This year he has already collected 8 holds in 14 performances, with an ERA almost unheard of in this league.
4. Kia Tigers: Won 4, lost 2.
An awful end to an otherwise decent week for the Tigers. Sunday’s hammering by NC felt overdue as Kia have, for too long, relied on opponents wasting several chances before snatching games through clutch hitting.
Saturday’s loss at the top of the 12th was unfortunate but fogotten in the narrative of dreadful relief pitching is that the Tigers could only manage 2 hits in the final 6 innings against the NC bullpen. They had the look of a team desperately hoping the pitchers could keep NC off the scoreboard and then strike with a walk off homer. On Saturday, Jeff Manship restricted them to 1 run and 5 hits in 6 innings.
The screenshot below is telling, however. When Kim Jin-woo departed on Saturday, the first guy from the pen in a big game had hardly played in 5 years and came armed with an unhealthy ERA. The rest were not much better. They sent down Han Sung-hyeok and replaced him with Kim Gwang-su. The latter rewarded his coaches with a truly pathetic performance. 1 inning, 5 hits, 5 earned runs. These Kia bullpen players bring absolutely nothing to the party.
5. SK Wyverns. Won 3, lost 3.
Lost a midweeker to LG, surprisingly finding runs hard to come by on Wednesday and Thursday. They then did something very few teams have done this season; lose to Samsung.
We have them just above the other 50% because the wild batting performances this weekend. Even in Saturday’s Daegu loss, SK scored 3 home runs, adding to the 2 from Friday and 5 on Sunday. They have 47 for the season, with a gap to their nearest rivals which already looks insurmountable.
Pitching continues to be a problem, like it does for most teams. Merrill Kelly is 1 and 3 for the season with a high ERA but even when he left on Saturday before the close of the 6th, the bullpen absolutely made sure he got the loss by tagging on 7 more runs. Still, they’re fun to watch and every team will dread playing against Choi Jeong, Han Dong-min and Kim Dong-yeop.
6. Doosan Bears. Won 3, lost 3.
The Bears must really be sick of the Heroes now. Nexen have some great batters but for whatever reason, they just seem to love those navy and white kits more than any other. Tuesday’s loss was overshadowed by the horrific injury suffered by opening pitcher Kim Myeong-shin. Every pitcher’s worst nightmare; the ball driven right back at you.
They’ll take some enjoyment with the weekend win over Lotte but saddened that Hong Seong-heun’s retirement ended in a 6-0 defeat. Saturday’s 5-3 win was classic KBO; Doosan didn’t have to work very hard. 6 of their men were given a free pass in the 7th alone, turning a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 lead.
Doosan never got going on Sunday, and eventually saw any chance of a win disappear in the 8th. Their offense only managed 5 hits all day against some decent but hardly top class Lotte pitchers. Another mixed week for the Bears.
7. Lotte Giants. Won 3, lost 3.
We have Lotte as the last of the 50%ers because winning a series against Hanwha should be a given right now and then for Saturday’s humiliating meltdown in Jamsil.
After star slugger Lee Dae-ho was ejected, Lotte carried a 3-0 lead into the 7th inning. Jang Si-hwan, a recent trade from kt, walked the first 4 batters of the inning (Yang Yi-ji was hit by pitch) to bring the score to 3-1. When he faced Oh Jae-il, he started with a ball and then was pulled. Park Si-yong continued the trend by walking Oh and within a few more minutes, Lotte were losing the game.
At least Sunday brought a much needed win (and a shut out as well). Kim Won-jung struck out 5 batters in 6 innings. Pitching inconsistencies a seemingly incurable virus for another KBO club.
8. kt wizz. Won 1, lost 5.
A solitary win but their fixtures were not that easy (NC and LG). Their win was a 6-0 shutout of LG in which Ko Yong-pyo pitched a complete game (113 pitches, 6 strike outs, 6 hits). Ko is the younger brother of Kia’s utility non batting, non base stealing Ko Yang-hyeok.
9. Samsung Lions. Won 1, lost 5.
They finally won a game – their 4th of 2017 – but there’s nothing else to talk about. Their pitching and hitting is weak and apart from the odd Lee Seung-yeop home run, there isn’t a lot to get excited for.
10. Hanwha Eagles. Won 1, lost 5.
It has gotten to the point where any team must view a losing series v Hanwha as a complete failure. It shouldn’t be this way. Kt await this weekend. The Eagles need to bouce back soon.