Andrew Farrell, Bullpen, Daegu Samsung Lions Park, Doosan Bears, Gocheok Sky Dome, Gwangju-KIA Champions Field, Hanbat Baseball Stadium, Hanwha Eagles, KIA Tigers, Korean baseball, KT Wiz, LG Twins, Lotte Giants, Masan Baseball Stadium, Munhak Baseball Stadium, NC Dinos, Nexen Heroes, Power rankings, Sajik Baseball Stadium, Samsung Lions, SK Wyverns

KBO rankings. End of May

1. Doosan Bears. Won 4, lost 1.

Tuesday’s game was rained out but otherwise Doosan continued their decent run of form and moved into the top 3 following LG’s horror week. The only blip was Friday’s loss at home to kt.

What made that game interesting was seeing Yoo Hee-gwon pitch another 9 innings having done so in his last outing in Gwangju. But that only tells a tiny part of the tale. Yoo allowed 16 hits in his 128 pitches. 16 hits!!! 3 earned runs came from that (plus 2 walks). 9 batters were also struck out in his remarkable performance. Amazingly, the game went to extra innings despite kt utterly dominating and once Yoo departed, Lee Yong-Chan stepped in and had a ‘mare.

Yoo is now 4-1 for the season. On only one other occasion has he allowed more than 10 walks in a game and he was destroyed that day. 16 hits in 9 innings is pretty surreal. Pity Doosan didn’t land a walk off hit to give their man a thoroughly unbelievable win.

Credit: Yoo Hee-gwon and his 16 hits.

2. Kia Tigers. Won 5, lost 1.

One thing I can never understand is why managers have their favoured back-up picks even though the player in question contributes next to nothing, apart from a guaranteed out at bat. Ko Jang-hyeok is the Kia example. Ko, who changed his name from Yeong-woo to Jang-hyeok last winter, is the older brother of kt wizz starter Ko Yong-pyo, who has been a revelation this season.

Kia’s Ko remains a mystery. How does a guy, so horrendously average, keep his place in the dugout when the output is virtually non-existent? Is no one else available? At 27, Ko can’t be considered a prospect anymore. He usually fills in at shortstop when a game is either won or lost. He’s seen a pinch runner too, but has only stolen 12 bases since 2013. In 63 games last season, he swiped 3 bags. Because of all this, he has scored 48 runs in his career, but has just 10 rbis. A 0.125 average this season. In 2016, a 0.214 average was comfortably his best season to date. Maybe he’s a good fielder? But he pretty much matches RBIS for errors each year. It is just something I could never figure out; why does this guy get to jog out to second to place Na Ji-wan in the 8th inning instead of someone who can do the same thing but might be more of a presence with the bat?

Step forward Choi Won-Jun, who blasted a career first grand slam to beat Lotte in extra innings. Whenever Lee Beom-ho or Kim Ju-chan return, Ko should not figure much. Right?

Credit: Ko Jang-hyeok is a favorite of Kim Ki-tae but we don’t know why.

3. NC Dinos. Won 4, lost 2.

An inexplicable series defeat to the Eagles who looked very bad against Kia during the week. It had started promisingly after sweeping Nexen and then winning game 1 v Hanwha.

They inflicted a heavy amount of punishment on Nexen and a large part of that came from Xavier Scruggs who got the scoreboard ticking over with a 3 run bomb off Shin Jae-won in the first inning on Tuesday. Scruggs ended the game with 5 rbis but went one better on Thursday, smashing two homers including a grand slam in the 8th for 6 rbis.

Scruggs now has 50 hits for the season and a league best 39 rbis. His 14 home runs is good enough for joint second and his runs scored, OPS and WAR all good enough for top 10.

Credit: Xavier Scruggs

4. Lotte Giants: Won 4, lost 2.

It is difficult to work out exactly why Lotte traded Oh Tae-geun for kt pitcher Jang Si-hwan. Another experienced arm, sure, especially for a bullpen noted for being significantly less than stellar. But why Jang? Since making his debut in 2007 for The Unicorns, Jang’s career has seen some ups and many downs. He pitched 17 innings in his first 4 years and then 61 in 2012 going 0-6 with 1 save and an ERA of 5.02. Then, in 2015, he had something of a breakthrough season for the wiz winning 7 games and recording 12 saves for an ERA of under 4. Presumably this is the Jang Lotte hoped for.

Unfortunately 2016 was a bad season; a 3-12 record with 6 saves and a 6.33 era in 75 innings. This year Lotte have really trusted him out of the pen but the numbers don’t suggest why. 2-4 with a big ERA and a WAR of just 0.06. On Sunday in Gwangju he was asked to maintain the 4-4 tie in the 9th. He looked utterly consumed by fear, giving up 2 hits and walking 3 before Son Seung-rak came in to save the inning. The difference was like night and day. Son intentially walked Kim Sun-bin and then struck out the next two batters to close out the inning. Jang looked completely nervous for someone of his experience. Pulling him ended the torture.

Credit: Jang Si-hwan is trusted by the Lotte management but heven looks like he’s struggling for confidence.

5. kt wizz. Won 3, lost 3.

A competitive week and being involved in the week’s most bizarre game. On Wednesday, they were tied 4-4 with Samsung into the 10th. When Lee Hye-Chang hit a grand slam you could have been forgiven for thinking the game was up. Just to add salt to the wound, Oh Tae-geun hit a solo shot moments later and kt led 9-4. Game over? Well. You’d think so. 3 kt pitchers conceded 4 runs and with the tying run on second, Jo Dong-Chan struck out. Phew. Ey?

How long they’ll be able to keep hold of Kim Jae-Yoon remains to be seen. He has massive trade written all over him. Kim is now 1-0 in 17 games with 11 saves. No earned runs and no blown saves. His total of 9 strike outs is low for a closer but he doesn’t allow runs and that will attract some playoff teams eventually.

Credit: Kim Jae-Yoon is one of only two closers without a blown save in 2017. The other is Im Chang-min of NC.

6. Nexen Heroes. Won 2, lost 4.

Oh to be a Nexen fan last week. Whatever the over/under total runs are in a Nexen game, you might as well bet on over every time. Sometimes they’re so hot you genuinely fear for the team in the other dugout. But they also get caned a lot. Too often. It is why they seem to be permanently stuck in KBO midtable.

Tuesday: 15-4 loss. 17 hits and 7 walks for NC.

Thursday: 13-3 loss. 15 hits and 3 walks for NC.

Friday: 18-3 win. 20 hits and 11 walks against a rubbish Samsung pitching staff.

In total, NC managed 46 hits in 27 innings against Nexen’s pitchers, including starters Shin Jae-won, Jake Brigham and Jo Sang-woo. That doesn’t bode well for the remainder of the year.

However, they do have Seo Geun-chang, and his unorthodox batting stance. Is there a harder working player in the league?

7. SK Wyverns. Won 3, lost 3.

Swept and a sweep. Before their game with LG on Sunday, fans flooded their Facebook page with messages of support for the “home run team.” Their starting line up consisted of:

Choi Jeong, Han Dong-min, Jamie Romak, Kim Dong-yeop and Lee Heong-gu.

Sure enough, Romak (2) and Jeong hit 3 of SK’s 4 home runs that day in a 5-2 win. They knocked over 8 in total v LG in 3 days to add to the 7 they got v Lotte in midweek.

They have 82 home runs for the season. Doosan and Samsung are tied second with 48. The thing is, all those solo shots can only bring home a certain number of players and despite that surreal power, SK are dropping from the playoffs.

Credit: SK Wyverns, aka “the home run team.” Even less well known players like Na Ju-hwan and Jeong Jin-ki are smashing them into various outfield seats.

8. Hanwha Eagles. Won 2, lost 4.

I had this typed up before Sunday’s game:

One problem for struggling Hanwha is the Cha Il-mok sized hole in their line up card every game. Through a combination of injuries and plain bad luck, the former Tigers catcher is regularly playing for Eagles but he must be considered one of the league’s least effective players. His most notable contribution to the Tigers series was the rather sickening blow to the head he took from Choi Hyeong-woo. Just to rub it in, Choi then hit a two-run jack in the same at bat.

A look at Cha’s stats makes for some uneasy viewing. Bouncing between primary and back up catcher for two teams since 2003, Cha is a career .233 batter with 24 home runs, 244 RBIS and a OPS of .639 from just shy of 2,000 at bats. He’s not quick, and hasn’t stolen a base in 5 years. He has recorded just 2 triples in his entire career. This season, Cha has a WAR of -0.45 and 2RBIS from 45 at bats. Can he catch or throw? Nope, not at all. Thursday’s game hinged on an error-ridden 5th inning which included Cha cheaply allowing a runner to score after a strike out pitch flew past him. The very next at bat saw a double steal. There comes a point when you give youth a chance, surely?

Fast forward to Sunday: Cha goes 2/4, collecting 4 rbis and the game’s crucial hit, according to naver. Does the point still stand? Maybe. But good for him. Presumably he’s a good bloke trying his best but just not good enough.

9. Samsung Lions. Won 2, lost 4.

Lost both series last week but they are clinging on with 2 wins. Forgotten in Saturday’s narrow loss to Nexen was one example of Kim Sang-su’s brilliant fielding to pluck a shallow drive from over his head, at full reach. Ultimately, in vein. He’s one of the few experienced guys still left who won multiple championships for Samsung recently. A fine shortstop on his day, what are the chances of Kim following others and walking away as a FA this winter?

LG Twins. Won 0, lost 5.

A shocking week for the Twins. Im Chan-kyu and Cha Woo-chan both suffered losses but the previously tight bullpen really let them down. Especially Choi Dong-hwan – 6 earned runs for him alone this week. A lot of games got really ugly once the starters went off.


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