Among the teams in the KBO, very few teams have had as tragic a history in as short of a time as the Suwon kt Wiz. Following joining the league as an expansion team in the 2015 season the wiz have finished last out of ten teams for two seasons in a row, and if their current form continues they look likely to suffer their worst season yet.
|Team: kt wiz|
kt wiz season records for 2015, 2016, and 2017 so far.
There are many reasons for kt’s poor record in the KBO that extend beyond the go-to reason that there isn’t enough depth in the league to support a tenth team. Due to poor performance or injury, kt has released five foreign players mid-season over three years including Andrew Sisco and Phillip Irwin in 2015, Sugar Ray Marimón and Yohan Pino in 2016, and most recently Johnny Monell on May 18, 2017. Furthermore the wiz have only renewed contracts for two foreign players out of 14 since joining the league in 2015: These are Ryan Feierabend (2016-2017), and the late Andy Marte (2015-2016) who tragically passed away in a car crash in the Dominican on January 22, 2017.
This high turnover of foreign talent, and the lack of consistency through the batting order has necessitated a number of short-sighted trades. Following one such trade early in the 2015 season that saw two young prospects, Lee SeongMin (이성민) and Park SeWoong (박세웅) go to the Lotte Giants as part of a 4-for-5 deal in effort to pad kt’s sub-par offense, the wiz have gone on to engage in a number subsequent trades with Lotte, NC, and Nexen where they have parted with young talent to acquire more established players.
After the acquisition of third baseman Yoon SukMin (윤석민) from the Nexen Heroes in a recent 1-for-2 trade that saw Jeong DaeHyeon (정대현) and prospect Seo EuiTae (서의태) go to the dome, kt wiz club president Im JongTaek (임종택) declared in a press release that he was open to further trades and was determined to bring the kt wiz out of the bottom spot.
These ambitions were dealt a huge blow on Sunday August 6, 2017 however, when kt’s lead-off, Lee DaeHyung (이대형) left the game in the bottom of the first inning against the SK Wyverns in Suwon kt wiz Park. While swiping second Lee’s footing appeared to get stuck during a pop-up slide following the tag from SK shortstop Lee DaeSu (이대수). DaeHyung’s momentum carried him through the remainder of the slide, but his left knee buckled under him. Lee was in clear discomfort and limped off of the field shortly after.
Early reports from his examination indicate that Lee DaeHyung has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and is set to undergo surgery within the next 4 weeks. Following his surgery, he is expected to be out of action for at least 8 months. The timing of this injury presents a serious dilemma to the kt wiz as the 34 year-old’s contract expires at the end of the season.
Lee DaeHyung’s Slide vs SK Wyverns on August 6, 2017. Original broadcast by SBS Sports.
Lee DaeHyung began his KBO career with the LG Twins as a second round draft pick from Gwangju-Jaeil High School. This school is famous for producing numerous MLB players including former Diamondbacks and Red Sox Kim ByungHyun (김병현), the first Korean position player in the MLB, Choi Hee-Seop (최희섭), and Pittsburgh Pirates’ Kang JungHo (강정호).
Following a poor start as a pinch hitter, LG coaches Seo YongBin (서용빈) and Kim MuGwan (김무관) attempted to fix Lee DaeHyung’s unusual batting stance by using rubber bands to restrict his arms in an effort to compact his swing. This proved unsuccessful however and DaeHyung saw little use as anything other other than a pinch runner for the start of his career.
In 2007 Lee had his breakout season. Under the tutelage of hitting coach Kim YongDal (김용달), Lee learned how to compact his swing, and control the strike zone more effectively and finished the season with a 0.308 average. He also set a team record for the LG Twins with 53 stolen bases. This was recognized in the 2007 Golden Glove Awards when he received a golden glove for his performance in the outfield.
Between 2008-2010 he earned the nickname, Supersonic by continually besting his own records at LG with 63, 64, and 66 steals across the three seasons. Near the end of the 2011 season, an injury and disagreements with the LG coaching staff saw his form decline and across the 2012 and 2013 seasons his batting average dropped to 0.178, and 0.237. There were instances where LG fans verbally abused him, and went as far as throwing items onto the field at him.
In 2014 he rejoined his old hitting coach at the KIA Tigers where he enjoyed an immediate resurgence in form batting 0.323, stealing 22 bases, and hitting nine triples through the season. When the kt wiz joined the KBO as an expansion team, Lee DaeHyung was one of the first players they chose. Over the next three years in Suwon, Lee became a talisman for fans of the kt wiz and has been a source of inspiration even when the rest of the team seems to falter. In the 2016 season he played all bar one of the 144 games and ranked first in number of at-bats across the league (600), and third in number of hits with 192. Over his time at the wiz he has stolen 103 bases and brought his career tally to 505. Until his injury on Sunday, he looked set to beat KIA Tigers legend and KBO single season stolen bases record holder (84) Lee JongBeom (이종범) for second place in lifetime steals, and next season possibly challenge former Lotte Giant and Hyundai Unicorn, Jeon JunHo’s (전준호) 550 stolen bases KBO career record.
Lifetime Stolen Bases: 1. Jeon JunHo (550), 2. Lee JeongBeom (510), 3. Lee DaeHyung (505)
Should KBO’s biggest underdogs re-sign Supersonic to one or two additional years, they will be investing in the hope that Lee DaeHyung can continue where he left off and provide the anchor for Im JongTaek’s vision for kt’s future. Should kt make that choice, then history awaits just 46 stolen bases away.
Title picture from SBS Sports Broadcast: Lee DaeHyung clutches his knee after rupturing his ACL.