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Recapping Day 32 of the KBO

All you need to know from Day 32 of KBO action.

Wednesday’s KBO games saw a rainout between the SK Wyverns and LG Twins, as well as a plethora of blowouts, with only one game decided by fewer than eight runs. The 2nd place Doosan Bears took down the 1st place NC Dinos making way for what will be a must-watch rubber match tomorrow. The Kia Tigers scored 10 runs on only seven hits in just five innings as they shut out the KT Wiz, extending the Wiz’ losing streak. Not to be outdone in the most ridiculous losing-streak, the Hanwha Eagles’ lost big to the Lotte Giants, pushing the Eagles’ losing streak close to reaching an absurd three weeks in length. The Samsung Lions won the only relatively close game, topping the Kiwoom Heroes by a score of 4-1.

Miss some of the action from last night? Click on the links below to watch!

Lotte Giants: 12, Hanwha Eagles: 2

Kia Tigers: 10, KT Wiz: 0 (rain shortened game)

Doosan Bears: 8, NC Dinos: 1

Kiwoom Heroes: 1, Samsung Lions: 4

SK Wyverns v LG Twins: Cancelled

Let’s take a look at the top performers from the day, brought to you by Nick Bucher and Alex Fast.

 

Best Hitters

Son Ah-seop (Lotte Giants) 3-5, 2 R, HR, 5 RBI: Son Ah-seop joins Lee Dae-ho as being one of the better offensive players for the Giants and that was certainly on display today. After a strikeout in his first AB, the DH whacked a 395 foot blast to RCF before recording a few singles. The leadoff hitter is currently slashing .327/.433/.418 with a 133 wRC+ and a .394 wOBA. Don’t let Son’s position fool you either: he still has some speed. While he’s only recorded one stolen base so far this year, he’s still one of the faster players on the Giants. While his stolen base numbers have dropped year after year (42, 25, 20, 13), his SPD score – a Bill James metric that rates players on their speed and baserunning ability – is still around league average (albeit it poor by MLB standards). While I wouldn’t expect many HR in the coming weeks – this was just Son’s 2nd – the average isn’t going anywhere: he’s hitting over .300 on curveballs, changeups, splitters and sinkers.

Kim Jae-ho (Doosan Bears) 3-4 2 R, HR, 2 RBI: The Bears’ offensive performance Wednesday against the Dinos was impressive, and Kim helped lead the charge. Dinos’ starter Drew Rucinski was impressive, allowing only two solo home runs through his six frames before the Dinos tacked on some insurance runs late. Kim’s fifth-inning solo homer came in a 1-0 game that his team badly needed to win after losing the night before to the league-leading Dinos. The shortstop’s dinger is even more worth celebration when you realize that this was his first homer of the season, and that he entered Wednesday with only five total extra-base hits. For the year Kim is hitting well over .350 after his three knocks, so if he begins adding power to his game, he may need to be moved out of the bottom-third of the lineup.

Dixon Machado (Lotte Giants) 3-5, 3 R, 3B, 2B, RBI, SB: The former MLB shortstop was impressive in the Giants’ 12-2 thumping of the Hanwha Eagles, finishing just a homer short of the cycle. Machado was active on the basepaths as well, picking up a stolen base in the fifth inning, which allowed him to score on a two-out base hit for one of his three runs. Machado was a delight early in the season with a hot start to the campaign and some impressive bat flips but had fallen into a bit of a slump more recently. However, after Wednesday’s performance, the 28-year-old is suddenly heating back up and riding a three-game hitting streak, recording multiple hits in all three games as well.

Special shoutout to Jeon Jun-woo (Lotte Giants; 3-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI) who had arguably my favorite bat flip of the season.

Nick Bucher

 

Best Pitchers

Baek Jung-hyun (Samsung Lions) 6 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 4 K: Watching KBO pitchers is a perpetual adjustment for me. I’ve found myself watching performances and grading them by MLB standards and that’s not fair as the KBO is a totally different brand of baseball. Baek Jung-hyun’s performance today is a great example of this. Baek lived around the plate a lot today, and sometimes he lived directly over the heart of the plate. The southpaw got away with a good amount of pitches that MLB hitters would’ve punished but, once again, it’s a different game. KBO hitters weren’t able to square up Baek’s change-ups or fastballs and when they struck out, it was largely in part because they were caught off guard as opposed to being forced to swing at something they could never hit. As is the case with many great KBO performances that lack in the K department, soft contact is the name of the game which makes relying on Baek a bit scary as when an overt reliance on contact can go wrong, it can REALLY go wrong as is evident by the 32-year olds last start where he went 4 IP, 14 H and 8 ER.

Noh Kyung-eun (Lotte Giants) 7 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 5 K: WE GOT A KNUCKLEBALLER. While Noh Kyung-eun doesn’t throw it all too often – the pitch made its first appearance in his 4th start of the season – it can be an effective pitch for him, if only to help throw off hitters.

It isn’t the best knuckleball I’ve ever seen as its movement profile reads more curveball but when this is paired with an 88 mph FB, it can really throw hitters for a loop. It’s also important to reiterate that this is just a pitch in his backpocket, he’s not like Steven Wright or R.A. Dickey who threw it 95% of the time. Apart from the knuckler and four-seam, Noh has a slider, curve, change and sinker. So when one pitch isn’t working – today it was his CB which he still threw quite frequently for some reason – he can do to his slider or fastball to get whiffs.

Aaron Brooks (Kia Tigers) 5 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 3 K: This is the kind of start that left fantasy owners either furious or elated: the rain shortened complete game shutout. It’s a shame the rain wasn’t able to hold off either as Brooks was looking absolutely dominant through five frames.

Brooks didn’t allow a baserunner until the fourth inning and even that was a slow roller that the catcher wasn’t able to catch up to. At one point, the Twins righty recorded six consecutive groundouts. While the rain put an end to Brooks’ four consecutive quality start streak, he did see his ERA sink below three.

 

Tuesday’s Key Matchup

Mike Wright (NC Dinos) vs Lee Young-Ha (Doosan Bears): The rubber match between the 1st and 2nd place team is shaping up to be a good one. Led by José Miguel Fernandéz and Oh Jae-Il, the Doosan Bears have arguably the best offense in the KBO. They’ll face a tough test however in Mike Wright (2.65 ERA) and his changeup which has a .125 BAA so far this year. It should also be noted that, while he’s only thrown the pitch 7% of the time, his CB has yet to give up a hit so far this year.

Alex Fast

An FSWA award winner for Research Article of the Year, Alex is the co-host of On The Corner and host of the weekend edition of First Pitch. He received his masters in interactive telecommunications from NYU's ITP. All opinions are Alex's and Alex's alone. A die-hard Orioles fan, Alex is well versed in futility and broken pitching prospects.

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