BUSAN, South Korea –If you look up and down the Lotte roster, you’ll see one of the more talented squads in the KBO. Lotte had three players win Golden Glove awards in 2010. Catcher Kang Min-ho was overlooked and outfielder Jeon Joon-woo was solid in his first season as a Lotte regular.
We’ve explored the Lotte power outage at great length and it is showing signs of ending, but the contrast between Yang’s old school, Asian-style of managing and Jerry Royster’s “Wait-For-The-Three-Run-Homer”-style has been stark. DH/left fielder Hong Seong-heun has looked lost all year trying to fit in to this club and Lotte has missed his production.
Pitching has been an issue, but the Lotte rotation has three pitchers in Song Seung-joon, Goh Won-joon and Jang Won-joon have the talent to be one or two starters on any KBO rotation. Ryan Sadowski has been one of the more reliable non-Korean starters in the KBO. The fifth starter spot has been a source of trouble for Lotte, but its a source of trouble for just about every team in the KBO.
The bullpen has been shored up by the use (or overuse?) of Brian Corey as the closer. He’s been by far the most reliable arm, but if his usage patterns(constant) keep up he won’t make it to August in one piece. It’s too bad Yang mis-read the situation from the beginning. It was clear that Goh Won-joon was better suited for starting and Brian Corey has thrown in relief for most of his career. It’s hard to understand why their roles were reversed at the beginning of the season.
Which brings us to the two spots that have held the Giants back this year. The middle relief is still a mess. Only lefty Lim Kyeong-wan has been better than predictably awful. The rest of the Lotte ‘pen has been a source of frustration for Yang and Lotte fans.
The Lotte defense has also been brutal without shortstop Park Ki-hyuk manning short. Park was one of the few plus gloves on the Giants roster. His presence has been missed in the field while he’s been finishing his military service. Both Moon Gyu-hyeon and Hwang Jae-gyun have been, well, bad at catching baseballs.
Outfield defense has also been an issue. Jeon Joon-woo is a mediocre center fielder by KBO standards. Son Ah-seop won’t be winning any defensive awards any time soon in right. Hong Seong-heun proved everyone right by showing that he needed to be moved back to DH after starting the year in left field. This group has missed a lot of line drives.
The week started with a 4-3 come from behind win against the Samsung Lions. amsung actually held a 3-1 lead in this game…until the Giants rallied for three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Lee Dae-ho hit three homers in the second game of the series, but with no one on base his great effort was only good enough for Samsung and Lotte to battle to a 3-3 tie.
The rubber match of the series was washed out thanks to some wet weather on the peninsula.
The weekend saw the Giants travel to Gwangju to battle the KIA Tigers. Lotte dropped the first game 11-3 thanks in part to starter Song Seung-joon getting battered for eight runs during his three and one third innings of work.
Lotte bounced back with a 9-0 win on Saturday. Starter Goh Won-joon was brilliant. Goh threw a complete game, four-hit shutout. Goh gave up five walks and struck out one. 15 of the outs Goh recorded came via the fly ball.
Lotte dropped the third game of the series, 7-5. Ryan Sadowksi didn’t get any help from his D while getting knocked around for seven runs on six hits and three walks in three and one third innings of work. KIA basically built up an early lead and sat on it until they recorded 27 outs. This game was a snooze for the Lotte fans that were able to stomach sitting through it.
The Lotte Giants get to spend a full week sleeping in their own beds. Lotte will open the week with a series against Nexen and play host to the LG Twins over the weekend. Jang Won-joon will start the first game of the series against the Nexen Heroes on Tuesday. Jang owns a 5-1 record in 10 starts this year. Jang also owns a 3.05 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 59 innings this year. He’s the right guy to start the series against the last place Heroes.
You can read Matthew's blog, True Stories of Korean Baseball, where he follows the entire KBO each week.