It has been a busy few days so no time for a proper rankings piece, unfortunately.
Here are three observations from the past week.
1. What do SK Wyverns’ home run stats really tell us?
As part of our podcast series, the topic of SK’s ability to hit home runs has regularly featured off and on air. The theory is that they’re much more dangerous at home, in Munhak, than on the road.
But is this necessarily true? Last week, admittedly against two of the weakest teams in Korea, the Wyverns clobbered 16 home runs, all on the road. The previous week, they hit 15, with 7 of those in Sajik, Busan.
All in all, the Wyverns had the best offense and defense last week but in Sunday’s narrow win over Hanwha Eagles in Daejeon, they scored 7 runs despite firing 6 homers over the fences. The back-to-back-to-back game changing home runs had only occured 26 times in KBO history before the weekend.
Can they sustain a playoff challenge if they’re relying so heavily on solo bombs? Either way, a line up of Choi Jeong, Han Dong-min, Kim Dong-yeop, Jamie Romak and Lee Heong-gu must be feared.
2. Chae Tae-in finds his groove again.
After being asset stripped by two Major League clubs in recent seasons – Park Byeong-ho and Kang Jeong-ho – the Seoul based Nexen Heroes responded by adding the decorated first baseman Chae Tae-in from Samsung Lions to their roster.
Chae, a talented player if somewhat unliked by many opposition fans, looked like he was being gently squeezed out of Samsung with Lee Seung-yeop still performing well and the emergence of Ku Ja-uk. He moved to Seoul but 2016 wasn’t a particularly strong season for him.
He batted 0.286 in 124 games, the first time in 3 years he was shy of a .300 average. He only managed 7 home runs which was similar to his injury affected 2011 and 2012 seasons. Moreover, his OPS and WAR were also considerably down on his latter Samsung years.
But 2017 has seen some strong performances again. He has already equaled the number of home runs he managed in 2016 and boasts an OPS of just under 1.000. Keeping Chae fit is vital if Nexen want to maintain a playoff push this season.
3. Why don’t Kia Tigers play Seo Dong-uk more?
Brett Pill’s departure from the Kia Tigers has arguably left a bigger hole than many would have expected. His place in the batting line up has been taken by Mr. OPS Choi Hyeong-woo and his status as a foreign field player by the increasingly influential Roger Bernadina.
But what about first base? Kim Ju-chan’s anticipated switch from left field hasn’t been a success. The captain was struggling so much after preseason surgery on his leg that he looked a terribly poor imitation of the brilliant clutch batter the Tigers had relied on so much. When he was eventually sat down after weeks of confidence sapping performances batting 3rd in the line up and hitting in to double plays, he was hovering around 0.170 with 2 home runs and a shocking OPS.
So why isn’t Seo Dong-uk getting more game time? At 33, it can’t be his age. Maybe he’s carrying an injury or his conditioning isn’t up to scratch? On Sunday, the former LG Twins and Nexen Heroes lefty demonstrated his importance in Kia’s 13-3 win over Samsung. He hit 2 doubles and a triple and finished the game with 2 rbis and 2 runs scored. He has 2 less double base hits for the season than Choi Hyeong-woo, who leads the league with 19, even though he has 80 fewer plate appearances.
Seo is also batting a nice .410 with men in scoring position, and a respectable OPS of .800. Defensively, he has 1 error against his name in 2017. No one is saying he’s a world beater, but it seems a little strange that Kia won’t make him their everyday first baseman now.