Recapping Day 44 of the KBO

All you need to know from Day 44 of KBO action.

Doosan and Kiwoom both take big victories to continue their streaks, LG falls behind Kiwoom in the standings after their loss, and NC ekes out a win over the Wiz to keep the top spot safe. Samsung continues to claw their way into the middle tier with a blowout over the Eagles, as Lotte gains on Kia in the standings with a come-from-behind walk-off win.

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

 

Samsung Lions: 3, Hanwha Eagles: 2

 

Let’s take a look at the top performers from the day, brought to you by Scott Chu and Alex Fast:

 

Best Hitters

 

Choi Jin-haeng (C, Hanwha Eagles): 4-4, HR. Choi essentially was the entire offense for Hanwa, piling up four of the team’s seven hits and the games only home run. The home run should come as a bit of a surprise to Eagles fans, as Choi only hit one in all of 2018 and just three in 2019. While he is devoid of power, he did break out a bit last year in terms of  getting on base, posting a .290 batting average and .402 OBP last season. While it’s been a disappointing year so far for Choi (coming into today, he was slashing just .231/.316/.317), he’s gotten on base in 14 of his last 16 appearances, which gives Hanwa at least some semblance of positive news, because they need all they can get. They’ll take a bat flip of the day at this point, and hey, at least they got that, right?

Kim Tae-kyun (1B, Hanwa Eagles): 1-2, 2B, RBI, 2 BB. Like Choi (and really the rest of the team), it’s been a rough go of things in 2020 for Kim. On the bright side, his double today gives him an extra base hit in nine of his last 12 outings for the 38-year-old who at one point in his career routinely posted an OPS north of 1.000. Age is catching up to him quite a bit in the power department, which has steadily declined since 2017, but this little resurgence for now might help the Eagles get through this very trying season.

Park Hae-min (CF, Samsung Lions): 1-3, 2 R, 2 BB. As we mentioned yesterday, it’s been a down year for Park, especially when it comes to getting on base. Things are looking up, though, as he followed up his big performance yesterday with a solid (if less exciting) outing, getting on base three times and scoring twice. With three straight strong games, it’s probably safe to say that Park is over the mini slump he ran into over the last week or so. As the Lions continue to fight as part of the middle of the pack, they’ll need Park, arguably their biggest stolen base threat, to keep getting on base.

Koo Ja-wook (LF, Samsung Lions): 4-5, RBI, SB. Since returning from injury on June 9, Koo is hitting an for an impressive .340 average (18-53). Not only that, he leads the Lions in batting average, slugging, and OPS. While he’s not a star slugger like Mel Rojas Jr. or Roberto Ramos, the 27-year-old Koo is more than capable of being the #3 hitter for a KBO team with the right support around him thanks to his .319/.391/.518 career line.

Lee Hak-ju (SS, Samsung Lions): 2-5, RBI. Lee was the hero for the Lions in this one, slapping a two-out single to right field with the bases loaded to drive in the previously mentioned Park Hae-min. The 29-year-old was actually the 2nd overall pick of the 2019 KBO draft and is showing improvements across the board in his sophomore season. How was a 29-year-old in the KBO draft, you ask? Because Lee actually spent time in the US in the minor leagues with the Cubs, Rays, and Giants. While he showed plenty of speed, he couldn’t put enough hits together to break into any major league club. He isn’t stealing many bases in 2020 (just two so far after 15 in 2019), but with noticeable gains in walk rate and power, he should be a mainstay somewhere near the middle of the Lions order for the foreseeable future.

— Scott Chu

 

Best Pitchers

Jang Shi-hwan (Hanwha Eagles) 5 IP, 1 ER, 7 H, 9 K, 2 BB: It was a big day for the 32-year old righty as he set a career high for strikeouts. Jang started pitching in the KBO in 2007 as a reliever for the Hyundai Unicorns. While he made a few starts in 2016 for the KT Wiz, Jang didn’t become a starter in earnest until the 2019 season where he had a 4.95 ERA over 125.1 IP with an above average, albeit skewed, 7.8 K/9; Jang had an IPS of about 5. Today however, a lot clicked for the veteran as he was able to use his curve to both freeze guys and get a lot of silly swings. When things click command wise for the righty, there’s a lot of K upside, but, sadly, it doesn’t click all that often.

 

Thursday’s Key Matchup

Keeping Tim’s key matchup from yesterday as it will occur tomorrow with today’s rainout.

Dan Straily (Lotte Giants) vs. Lee Min-woo (Kia Tigers). If you’ve followed the KBO at all this year you know of the success Dan Straily has achieved so far. He has the league’s third-lowest ERA at 2.10 and WHIP of 1.01 (behind only Koo Chang-mo of NC and Eric Jokisch of Kiwoom in each category.) His 62 strikeouts best everyone. On the other hand, Lee Min-woo comes into the game with one of the best ERAs of his career, but it still sits above five. He also has less than half as many whiffs as Straily, with just 30 in 45.2 innings so far.

Straily’s Giants are in sixth place while Lee’s Tigers are two games ahead in fifth. The middle of the KBO standings have been tight all year. A typical performance from each starter tomorrow could make for even more attrition. If the baseball gods flip the script for giggles, we’ll see a weird game that widens the gap.

Tim Jackson

-graphic by Justin Paradis

Alex Fast

Alex Fast is the Vice President at Pitcher List. 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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