In the 2023 KBO League, the KIA Tigers, who went to fall baseball last year in 5th place, are tossing and turning at the bottom. KIA won 6-2 against Samsung Lions in Gwangju on the 22nd to achieve the first consecutive win of the season, but the ranking is still ninth. With a 6-10 win rate of 0.375, the win rate is only in the 30% range, and the win-loss margin based on a 50% win rate is -4.
KIA’s sluggish team performance is a well-predicted result. Last winter, main catcher Park Dong-won obtained FA status and moved to the LG Twins under a 4-year contract worth 6.5 billion won. With the transfer of Park Dong-won, KIA has weakened both offense and defense.
Na Seong-beom, who leads the team’s batting line, was unable to join the opening roster due to a calf injury. Kim Do-young, a second-year professional who had high expectations that he would settle down as a starter, had to leave due to a toe fracture in the second game of the opening game. Compared to last year, the power of KIA’s other lines has dropped significantly.
The silence of Park Chan-ho, who was in charge of the attacking spearhead as the first hitter last year, is also painful. Park Chan-ho recorded a batting average of 0.272, 4 homers, 45 RBIs, and an OPS (on-base percentage 온라인카지노+ slugging percentage) of 0.685 in 2022. His batting average and OPS are the highest since his 2014 pro debut, a testament to his growth. The WAR (based on the Kaby Report), which represents the contribution to victory compared to the substitute player, was 2.6, which was also a career high.
The concentration of the infield defense, which was pointed out as a weakness, was also praised for improving. Park Chan-ho settled down as the starting shortstop and resolved the regret that the KIA had not been able to develop a starting infielder on its own after Kim Sun-bin and An Chi-hong (transferred to Lotte Giants as a free agent after the end of the 2019 season). There was even a rosy prospect that this year, Park Chan-ho will spend the best season, surpassing last year, and challenge for the Golden Glove for the first time in the shortstop category.
This season, Park Chan-ho has an extremely low batting average of 0.186, one RBI, and an OPS of 0.424 without a home run. He fell to the bottom of the table, 60th out of 64 hitters in the league who met the regulation at bat. Last year, he recorded 22 doubles, but this year, he has no long hits, including doubles. WAR is negative at -0.37.
Park Chan-ho’s batting, which seemed to have awakened last year, has rather regressed this year. Since the bat is sluggish, his batting order has no choice but to sit down. In the opening game, he played the leadoff role, but his batting order gradually went down, and he has recently been fixed as the ninth hitter.
The reason for Chan-Ho Park’s poor hitting has a lot to do with the so-called ‘bolsambi’, or the drop in walks versus strikeouts. Last year, Park Chan-ho had 67 strikeouts and 57 walks with a ‘ball sambi’ of 0.85, the best since his professional debut. His walks were also the most picked out since his pro debut. However, this season, with 11 strikeouts and 4 walks, ‘Bolsambi’ fell to 0.36, less than half of last year.
If Do-Young Kim hadn’t been injured, there was a way to take the shortstop instead of Chan-Ho Park. However, due to the departure of Kim Do-young, Park Chan-ho’s replacement is not visible in the team. For the KIA, which has no fielding ability to recover from injury for the time being, there is no sharp option other than to expect Park Chan-ho to recover from sluggishness and revive.
KIA played 16 games and played a little over 10% of the regular season, so there is still a lot of season left. Attention is focusing on whether Park Chan-ho will lead the KIA’s rebound by proving that he is a slow starter.