The Twins, who have now won seven of their last nine contests, pulled within two games of the reeling Dinos, who’ve lost four of their last five.
Miss some of the action from last night? Click on the links below to watch!
Lotte Giants: 3, Kiwoom Heroes: 4
Samsung Lions: 6, Doosan Bears: 3
Let’s take a look at the top performers from the day, brought to you by Scott Chu and Alex Fast.
Bae Jeong-dae (CF, KT Wiz): 3-6, RBI, SB. It has been a fantastic start to the season for the 25-year-old. This is his first season seeing full-time at bats since being drafted as the third overall pick back in 2014, and he has a hit in 32 of his 35 appearances. He doesn’t have home run power, but his contact ability and speed are key assets and he actually leads the Wiz in doubles (which surprised me, as he’s on the same team as Mel Rojas Jr.), triples, and stolen bases. Bae is an ideal lead off hitter in the KBO and should continue to find success at the top of the lineup.
Choi Jeong (3B, SK Wyverns): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB. It has been a slower start to the season for the Wyvern slugger, who had at least 29 home runs in each of the last four seasons, though it appears he may be finally turning it around. The long ball was his third this week after hitting just two over the entire season prior to this week. While he has significantly improved his plate discipline, it hasn’t translated into batting average or power for him, though today’s stat line suggests that he’s far from washed up. The Wyverns aren’t going to compete for a playoff spot this season, but to remain respectable to their fan base, they could really use a few more nights like this from Choi
Kim Hyun-soo (LF, LG Twins): 2-5, 2B, 2 RBI. With Roberto Ramos still ailing, Kim is now the key threat in the Twins lineup, and that means the Twins are in capable hands. Kim actually leads LG in hits, doubles, and runs scored and is in the top five in each of those categories for the entire KBO. He’s most well known in the states for his mildly successful MLB stint, though he’s had far more impact in Korea. With the Twins continuing to pile up wins even without breakout star Ramos, they should be considered a legitimate threat to the Dinos at the top fo the regular season standings.
Lee Jung-hoo (RF, Kiwoom Heroes): 4-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI, BB. You can’t say enough about what this 21-year-old is doing so far in 2020. He’s currently in the top five in OPS (and is several years younger than anyone else in the top 20) and has more walks than strikeouts. While he was quite good in 2019, he’s taken several steps forward this season and already has as many home runs through 37 games this year as he did in 140 games last year. He’s without a doubt one of the most exciting young hitters in the KBO.
Park Chan-ho (SS, Kia Tigers): 2-2, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB, SB. There isn’t a ton of firepower in Park’s bat and it’s been especially limp so far in 2020, but surprising performances like this are exactly how the Tigers have taken two in a row from the Dinos.
Tyler Saladino (DH, Samsung Lions): 2-3, HR, 2 BB. He’s averaging about an RBI per game over his last 15 games, and while he hasn’t quite recaptured the magic of his five game multi-hit streak from two weeks ago, he did hit his third extra base hit in five games. While most of the MLB imports to the KBO hit for a ton of power (like Ramos and Rojas Jr.), Saladino hasn’t really shown that type of skill set in Korea, with just 12 extra base hits (five home runs, seven doubles) so far this season. On the plus side, he’s hitting almost .400 with runners in scoring position, so it’s not as though the Lions can be too disappointed in Saladino. Power wasn’t much of his game in the Majors, either (19 home runs in 1064 plate appearances), but he should be able to go for double digit home runs and steals in the KBO, especially if he continues to walk more than 10% of the time.
Choi Joo-hwan (2B, Doosan Bears): 2-4, HR, 2B, 2 R, RBI. Choi had an incredible breakout back in 2018 when he hit 26 home runs and drove in 108 runners with a .985 OPS, but hasn’t quite been able to return to anything near those levels since. He had a majorly disappointing 2019 as he struggled to stay healthy and in the lineup, leading to a paltry .709 OPS in 87 games. So far in 2020, he’s been a bit in between those two outcomes, making him a bit of an average hitter by KBO standards. Thigns could be looking up for Choi, though, as he has hits in six of his last seven with five extra base hits in that stretch. Doosan currently finds itself in the middle of a tightly-packed group all vying for a spot in the Korean Series. To set themselves apart, they’ll need even more hitting contributions due to their poor pitching. If Choi can become at least an above-average hitter along with teammates Jose Miguel Fernandez, Oh Jae-il, Park Kun-woo, and Kim Jaeho, the Bears could put themselves firmly in the third or fourth place conversation.
Lim Chan-gyu (LG Twins): 6 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 8 K: Let’s take a look at the velocity on today’s K leaders strikeouts: 88, 67, 66, 76, 67, 65, 67, 88. If you’re wondering what a strikeout looks like on a 66 mph pitch, look no further:
Check out this strikeout from Lim Chan-gyu coming in at 107*!!!!!!!
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) June 17, 2020
The 27-year old righty tied his season high K total by effectively mixing speeds and working out of jams despite not really having his best stuff. Lim hit three batters, two of which came in the 2nd inning wherein he loaded the bases with just one out before a mound visit helped right the ship; he recorded back-to-back strikeouts to get out of the inning. Lim Chang-gyu has now strung together back-to-back quality starts for the first time this season.
Choi Won-tae (Kiwoom Heroes) 6.2 IP, 3 ER, 9 H, 1 BB, 5 K: After giving up 6 ER and 3 HR over 5 IP against the Samsung Lions, Choi Won-tae bounced back against a hot Giants team with a quality start. The 23-year old righty struggled with his first time through the order and got burned by a HR to the Giants #3 hitter Jeon Jun woo in his second AB. After that however, it was smooth sailing as Choi was able to escape jams via double play or crucial strikeouts. As has been the case all season, Choi attacked batters with a sinker/change-up combination that was able to induce a fair amount of groundouts. While the sinker has given up a fair amount of hits (.272 BAA), when it’s working, it can be a really devastating pitch.
Such a nice sinker from Choi Won-tae of the Kiwoom Heroes pic.twitter.com/6PG4Ubhq9Y
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) June 17, 2020
Kim Dae-woo (Samsung Lions) 6 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 K: Every once in a while I write about starts that would raise a few eyebrows in the MLB but are great starts by KBO one standards. Kim Dae-woo’s most recent is a perfect example of this. We see the 1 K and thing HAISTFMFWT but the veteran righty has actually never been a strikeout guy, instead making a career focusing on eliciting soft contact. Through five starts, the converted reliever has 7 Ks and 7 BBs with a 3.60 ERA. Four of those strikeouts came in one start while four of his walks came in another start. You’d think with his ability to induce weak contact he’d be a sinker/splitter guy but the 31-year old actually focuses on a four-seam (81 mph, 50% of the time) and a slider (74 mph, 40% of the time) with the former having a .196 BAA. God, I love the KBO.
Wednesday’s Key Matchup
Koo Chang-mo (NC Dinos) vs Drew Gagnon (Kia Tigers): WAKE UP, IT’S KOO CHANG-MO DAY! Any time this guy takes the mound it is must-watch television. He’ll look to keep his ERA below one. Read that again. He has a 0.75 ERA. Through 48 IP. Drew Gagnon is no schlub himself as the 29 year old is having a successful KBO campaign so far with a 3.57 ERA. He’s also coming off of back-to-back quality starts. Also, I should mention, Dan Straily is pitching against the Kiwoom Heroes tomorrow it what will also be a must-watch start.
-graphic by Justin Paradis