Archive for July, 2020

Choi Jeong Now Number 2 in KBO Homeruns

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Choi Jeong slugged a solo shot for his 352nd homerun, putting him second on the KBO homerun list. He had been tied with Yang Joon-hyuk, but he is still more than 100 homeruns shy of Lee Seung-yeop, who sits at 467.

The homerun did not help the Wyverns beat the LG Twins, who won the game 11-6. After hitting six homeruns yesterday in the 24 run outburst, they slugged three homeruns, including one by Roberto Ramos, his 18th of the season.

In other KBO news, the Samsung Lions released Tyler Saladino, who went down with a back injury on July 15. Daniel Palka, a former teammate of Saladino was signed to replace him. The Lions have lost five games in a row and have dropped to 34-35. They hope Palka will provide some offense to the lineup.

LG Twins Erupt for 24 Runs; Russell Makes His Debut for Heroes

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

The balls are supposed to be less juiced. The scores of the games have been lower, beginning last year. Perhaps some of those juiced balls got mixed into the LG Twins 24-7 win over the SK Wyverns yesterday.

Ricardo Pinto was the victim of the 24 run outburst. He was the starting pitcher for the Wyverns working four innings and giving up six runs. The Twins racked up runs in every run derivation except for “5″, “8″ and “9″ and scored in seven of the nine innings. The DH Chae Eun-sung was the big bat for the Twins driving in 8 runs with three hits, including a grand slam in the six run 9th inning.

Six different players from the Twins went deep. Only three players in their starting lineup failed to hit a homerun. One of those was slugger Roberto Ramos, who has not been the same slugger after early season injuries. He has hit 17 homeruns but only one in his last 10 games. His batting average has dropped to .303.

The Wyverns got two homeruns from Yoon Suk-min. The two homeruns he hit in his two at bats came in a reserve capacity and doubled his season numbers. Tyler Wilson was the starting pitcher for the Twins. He survived five innings, giving up three runs. Normally when foreign pitchers are on the mound the runs are scarce. For this game, that was not the case.

Addison Russell also made his KBO debut in the Kiwoom Heroes 6-2 win over the defending champion Doosan Bears. Russell singled to extend a two run sixth inning, scoring one of those runs. He drove in two runs in the three run ninth with a single to secure the victory. Russell played shortstop in his debut, moving Kim Ha-seong to third.

The game saw two of the better foreign pitchers duel it out for four innings of shutout ball, before the Bears scrapped two runs off Eric Jokisch (9-3, 2.20) on a two run homerun by Kim-Jae-hwan, his 14th of the year. The Heroes bounced back for two off Sandy Alcantara (10-1, 2.80) in the sixth inning, one of those runs unearned. Neither pitcher survived long enough to pick up a decision in the Heroes win.

KBO to Welcome Back Fans

Friday, July 24th, 2020

The KBO will be allowed to open their stadiums to fans effective for Sunday games, as long as they do not exceed 10 percent of their capacity. KBO teams have been struggling financially with empty stadiums and the corporations who sponsor the teams have been footing the bill. The 10 percent stadium capacity will help ease those financial burdens. These last few days have been burdened by games that have been rained out so hopefully the weekend comes through with good weather.

Wang Number One Pick in the CPBL Draft

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

Former major leaguer Wang Wei-Chung was the first player selected in the China Professional Baseball League (CPBL) draft by the expansion team Wei Chuan Dragons. The 28 year old left handed pitcher got his major league opportunity as a Rule V pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013. He made his major league debut in 2014.

It took him another three years to return to the major leagues. After a second season with an ERA in double digits Wang signed a contract with the NC Dinos of the KBO for the 2018 season, becoming the first Taiwanese player to wear a KBO uniform. His KBO season was fairly successful, getting 25 starts, allowing him the opportunity to return to the major leagues for the 2019 season.

For 2020 Wang expressed his interest to be eligible for the CPBL draft. Wang pitched for the 2004 Taiwan Little League World Series team. He becomes the first left handed pitcher selected as the first pick in the draft.

Because the Dragons are not playing in the CPBL this year it is possible that they may trade Wang to an established team seeking a playoff run and obtain a number of prospects in return. Don’t know if there are any restrictions that prevent Wang from playing for a team in the 2020 season.

Mel Rojas Dominating in KBO

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

The last player to show such domination in the KBO was a first baseman by the name of Eric Thames. He played for the NC Dinos and won the MVP in 2015, winning the batting championship that year. In 2016 he won the homerun title. He played three years in the KBO, slugging 124 homeruns, but never won the Triple Crown. In 2017, at the age of 30 he took his tools back to the major leagues.

Mel Rojas Jr. is in his fourth season in the KBO. His KBO career began as Eric Thames returned to the major leagues. Mel hit 43 homeruns in 2018, four less than the 47 Thames hit in 2015. The ball was a bit more lively during the years Thames played.

This year Rojas is having a year Eric Thames would envy. If the season ended now he would win the triple crown of hitting, leading the KBO in batting average, homeruns and RBIs. Dae-Ho Lee was the last player to win the Triple Crown in the KBO back in 2010, according to Baseball Reference. As far as myworld has discovered no foreign player has ever won the award.

Rojas has a batting average of .395, leading another foreign player Jose Miguel Fernandez at .372. He also leads the KBO in RBIs with 63, three ahead of Aaron Altherr of the NC Dinos. In the homerun race Mel has a huge lead with 24, seven ahead of Altherr. Rojas has hit three homeruns in his last two games.

It will be interesting to see where Rojas spends his time for the 2021 season.

Top Ten Pitchers in KBO

Saturday, July 18th, 2020

Myworld does not profess to be an expert in Korean pitchers. We rely more on data since our ability to watch games is limited. We also tend to lean towards the younger pitchers since they have more opportunity for upside. So below are the pitchers myworld would place in the top ten pitchers to watch in the KBO.

1. Koo Chang-M0 LHP (NC Dinos) - It’s not like he has come out of nowhere to have success in the KBO. This is his fifth season. His first season he was used mostly in relief and his next two seasons he was used primarily as a starter with ERAs north of 5. Last year was considered a breakout season when he went 10-7, 3.20 with 114 whiffs in 107 innings. It was also a year when the KBO went to a less offensive ball. When you watch him pitch he will not dazzle you with an overpowering fastball. When he is in the low 90s is when he his sizzling. It is the slider that gets hitters out, and getting ahead of hitters. This year he has been phenomenal at 9-0, 1.35 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 80 innings. Because of his early start he could be a free agent in his mid-20s and available to major league teams. It will be interesting how his slider translates with major leaguers. Hitters in the KBO swing and miss at the pitch as much as major leaguers swing and miss at Yu Darvish pitches. This year clearly the best pitcher in the KBO and that includes foreign pitchers.

2. Lee Min-Ho RHP (LG Twins) - There are two Lee Min-Ho’s in the KBO. This is the younger version, at 18 years of age. Imagine a major leaguer at 18 years old. The fact that it took Koo three years to finally get hitters out in the KBO (or perhaps his slider is better with the newer ball) Lee does not seem to have any first year hiccups yet. In eight games, six of them starts he is 2-2, 1.80 with just 28 hits in 40 innings. His 29 whiffs indicates he has not established a swing and miss pitch. He has decent height at 6′2″ and his fastball sits in the low 90s. As he matures the fastball could increase in velocity. He also throws a splitter and slider. Drafted in the first round by the Twins last year, he is noted in high school for striking out the first nine hitters he faced.

3. Won Tae-in RHP (Samsung Lions) - Won made his debut last year as a 19 year old teenager. He started the season off strong but was hit pretty hard in the second half, elevating his ERA to 4.82. He lacked a swing and miss pitch (68 whiffs in 112 innings) and gave up more hits than innings pitched. Won hopes the 2020 season is different. He has started the year well (5-2, 3.12) but still lacks a swing and miss pitch. His command also appears to be lacking with 25 walks in just 66 innings. Regardless, he still gets wins, as his name would suggest and outs, as his ERA confirms. His fastball is not overpowering, moving in the high 80s to low 90s range. He also throws a change and slider. At 6′0″ and with a lack of command he needs to increase his velocity if he hopes to be a starter in the major leagues.

4. Choi Won-Tae RHP (Kiwoom Heroes) - After his 2017 season at 21 years of age he was considered one of the top pitchers in the KBO with 13 wins and a 3.95 ERA. He improved on those numbers last year with a 3.38 ERA, though his wins dropped down to 11. His hits to innings pitched sit at about a 1/1 ratio while his whiffs per innings pitched fall quite a bit below 1/1. As a pitcher in high school he threw a fastball consistently in the low 90s. A shoulder injury his first year made him go from a 4-seamer to a 2-seamer fastball, sacrificing velocity for command. This year he has been struggling, picking up the wins (4-3) but his ERA has elevated to 4.72. His other numbers seem fairly consistent so he should bounce back. In his last two starts he was roughed up for 11 runs in eight innings.

5. Bae Je-Seong RHP (KT Wiz) - Another young pitcher (23) that has been putting up good numbers. Last year was a breakout season for him (10-10, 3.76). This year he seems to be duplicating those numbers (5-2, 3.60). There is not a lot of swing and miss to his pitches and this year he has walked about .5 hitters per inning (30/43 walk to whiff). Normally you like to see major league pitchers at a one walk for every two whiffs. He also gives up about a hit per inning pitched. At 6′2 inches he has decent height that perhaps he can add some velocity to his pitches to get those whiff numbers up.

6. Lee Young-Ha RHP (Doosan Bears) - Last year, at 21 years of age Lee finished the season 17-4, 3.64. His first two years his ERA was north of 5 and he pitched mostly in relief. The 2019 season saw him become the ace of the Doosan Bears rotation as they won the KBO series for the sixth time. That ace mantle has disappeared in 2020 with his 3-5, 5.86 ERA. At 6′4″ he has good height for a pitcher, but he has yet to establish the velocity to get swings and misses. Last year he saw his homeruns numbers drop from 15 to 5. This year four balls have already carried over the park. In 2019 he only gave up 148 hits in 163 innings. This year those numbers have climbed to 87 hits in 66 innings. The season is still early so perhaps the effectiveness he had last year will return.

7. Lee Geon-Wook RHP (SK Wyverns) - At 25 years of age is this the breakout season for Lee. His first two years his ERAs were above 27 in only three appearances. This year he has started 9 games and made two relief appearances and his numbers are sterling (4-2, 3.08). His pitches get swings and misses and he does not give up a boat load of hits (37 whiffs and hits in 49.2 innings). In his last four appearances Lee has pitched at least six innings, winning three of them and getting a quality start. He did not complete six innings in his first five starts, so it appears his role is expanding.

8. Yang Hyun-jong LHP (Kia Tigers) - Don’t know what Matt Williams thinks of his ace pitcher. This is his first year with the Tigers and Yang has been far from himself (5-5, 6.31). Last year Yang was one of the better pitchers in the KBO (16-8, 2.29), winning the ERA title. In 2017 he was a rare 20 game winner in the KBO, winning the MVP award. He has four seasons of 15 or more wins. So Yang has a good resume. It could be that at 32 he has lost his stuff. This year he has given up a lot of hits per innings pitched, but he has had seasons where he has done that and still put up decent numbers. His strikeout numbers are on par with previous years. His past numbers have earned him a long string. He and now major leaguer Kim Kwang-Hyun won a gold medal for Korea in the 2006 junior baseball world cup. The Tigers posted him in 2014 but rejected the bids a couple major league teams posted for Yang. Yang pitched for Korea in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

9. Choi Chae-Heung LHP (Samsung Lions) - This appears to be the first year the Lions have entrusted Choi into the rotation. Last year he was a bit inconsistent (6-6, 4.81), giving up more hits than innings pitched. This year he has been more difficult to hit (6-2, 3.88), already equaling his win total from last year and limiting his hits to 56 in 60 innings. His first two years his walk to whiff ratio was 1/2 but this year he falls a bit short (25/46). Six of his 11 starts he has given up two or fewer runs. Three have been real clunkers where he has given up six or more runs. His fastball sits at 91 and he relies on a slider. At 25 years of age he has a bright future.

10. Seo Jun-Won RHP (Lotte Giants) - This is his second year in the KBO and he is still a teenager at 19 years old. Last year he was 4-11, 5.47 going back and forth between starting and relieving. This year he has found a little more consistency (4-3, 4.82). His last two starts has elevated his ERA giving up 12 runs, 9 earned in just seven innings of work. He does seem to be a little prone to giving up the homerun, equaling his total from last year (10) even though he has pitched 30 less innings. Keeping the ball in the park will lower that ERA.

Brothers Win First Half

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

In the China Professional Baseball League (CPBL) the Rakuten Monkeys appeared as if they were going to run away with the first half. They are the defending champions and have won three straight Taiwan series and five out of the last six. Despite the fast start the China Trust Brothers caught up to them and won the first half.

The Brothers and Monkeys were the two best hitting teams in the CPBL, with the Brothers averaging 6.93 runs per game while the Monkeys averaged 6.77. It was the pitching that won the first half for the Brothers with a league leading 4.36 ERA while the Monkeys were second but far behind at 5.80. In the win/loss department the Brothers were 36-23 while the Monkeys were three games behind at 33-25.

The Uni-President Lions were far behind in third (26-34) while the Fubon Guardians filled last place (22-34). The Brothers have punched their ticket to the playoffs. The second half will be played and the winner of the second half will qualify for the playoffs. If the Brothers win the second half then the two teams with the second and third best record will play a best of five series, with the winner playing the Brothers in a best of seven. If a team other than the Brothers wins the second half, then the team with the best record gets a bye and the other team plays the team with the best record that did not make the playoffs in a best of five.

Top Korean Hitters

Saturday, July 11th, 2020

Below is myworld’s top ten Korean hitters. We tried to restrict this list to prospects under 32, but we fell short and included a couple of ex major leaguers. The KBO tends to be a very veteran league, except when it comes to pitchers. There seems to be a wave of young pitchers under 25 who have entered the league. This wave has not come forth with the hitters.

1. Lee Jung-Hoo OF (Kiwoom Heroes) - He is the son of a KBO MVP Lee Jong-beom. He came up in 2017 as an 18 year old without seeing a day in the minors and hit .324. That got him voted Rookie of the year. His career average entering this season was .340. The only tool lacking in his game was power. Despite the high batting average his slugging percentage was below .500. This year the power seems to have arrived. He is hitting .360 with already a career high 9 homeruns, resulting in a slugging percentage of .610. He plays right field, but does not have an arm as strong as Ichiro Suzuki. Everything else is compatible. Myworld does not see him lasting long in Korea. He could be a starter for any of the 30 major league teams.

2. Kang Baek-Ho 1B (KT Wiz) - When he came out of high school he was compared to Shohei Ohtani because of his ability to pitch and hit. He was drafted a year after Lee and did not have to play in the minor leagues. He said he would focus on hitting his first year and did quite well, hitting .290 with 29 homeruns. That got him the 2018 Rookie of the Year award. In preseason games the next season the Wiz tried Kang on the mound, but his heart was not into it. He preferred to focus on hitting and the pitching experiment died. His numbers went down slightly the next year, possibly due to injuries that limited him to just 116 games. He hit .336 with just 13 homeruns, his slugging average dropping just a splinter below .500 (.495). He has already hit 12 homeruns this year, moving from the outfield to first base. This could impact his major league value as first baseman are expected to show power. Kang does not seem to have a problem showing that but will it appear once he arrives in the major leagues?

3. Na Sung-Bum RF (NC Dinos) - The third left handed bat in this mix, except Na throws lefthanded. Na was also a pitcher while in college and was drafted in the first round by the Dinos as a pitcher. He played his first season in the minors where he led the league in homeruns. That ended his pitching career. In his first season with the KBO in 2013 he hit .243 with 14 homeruns. His homerun numbers have been consistenly above 20 every year since except last year when he was limited to 23 games because of injury. The knee injury has limited the Dinos to playing him mostly as a DH this year. Na seems fine with that, slugging 15 homeruns early in the season and hitting .311. It would not surprise myworld if Na found himself in the major leagues next year.

4. Kim Ha-Seong SS (Kiwoom Heroes) - When Kang Jung-Ho left for the Pirates, taking his 40 homerun season with him, Kim was asked to take his place at shortstop. He had only hit .188 his first year as a teenager. The next year he hit .290 with 19 homeruns as a 19 year old. He may lack the power of Kang, but he is a better defensive shortstop. At the 2019 Premier 12 he was voted the best defensive shortstop. The speed is there to steal 30 bases and there is enough pop in his bat to go north of 20 homeruns. His batting average sits around .290. This year could be his last in the KBO as the Heroes have said they will post him for the major leagues. After a slow start to the season his average has climbed to .280 and he has slugged 11 homeruns. His career slugging average falls just short of .500 (.488). If he can play shortstop he will be valuable, but second base could be an alternative position.

5. Yang Eui-Ji C (NC Dinos) - He started his career with the Doosan Bears and was signed as a free agent in 2019 by the NC Dnos. He is considered the top catcher in the KBO, though at age 33 his reign maybe slipping. He has got himself a slew of gold glove awards, an MVP from 2016, rookie of the year in 2010 and a batting title last year when he hit .354. His rookie season in the KBO he hit for power slugging 20 homeruns, but he failed to reach double digits his next three years. The power came back in 2015 when he again hit 20 and he has hit in double digits for the next six years. He should make it seven in a row after this year, with a tally of 8 already, but his .293 average may not result in a repeat of the batting title.

6. Koo Ja-Wook LF (Samsung Lions) - Not too sure if I am sold on Koo. He is another left handed bat who throws righthanded. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 2015 with a .349 average and 11 homeruns. The next year he improved to .343 with 14 homeruns. While the next two years his power numbers got him into the 20 homerun neighborhood, his batting average dropped to .310 and .333. Last year he cratered to a .267 average with just 15 homeruns and a .775 OPS where in the previous years he had never fallen below .916. He seems to have gotten his MOJO back this year hitting .333, and after a slow start with the power numbers has been able to put six over the fence. His OPS is back in the .900 neighborhood where it was his first four seasons. Myworld believes he is short in power to make it as a corner outfielder in the major leagues, but at 27 he is hitting his prime and perhaps those power numbers will increase.

7. Park Byung-Ho 1B (Heroes) - Myworld does not think the Minnesota Twins showed enough patience with Park. He was the big time slugger in the KBO, bopping over 50 homeruns two seasons in a row before he was posted for the major leagues. There was a tendency to swing and miss in his game, with his strikeout numbers becoming abhorrent during those 50 homerun seasons. With the Twins he hit just .191 with 12 homeruns, struggling to make solid contact. He was sent down to the minors where he played all the following year, failing to live up to the power in the KBO. The Twins bought out his contract so he could return to the KBO. His return to the KBO in 2018 saw him hit 43 homeruns, with a .345 batting average. He slumped a bit last year dropping to .280 with just 33 homeruns. Perhaps it is the Twins name that does not appeal to Park. He was drafted by the LG Twins as a big time slugger in 2005. In his four seasons with the KBO Twins he failed to hit over .218. In 2011 they traded him to the Heroes. His batting average climbed to .254 with 13 homeruns. The next two years he was voted the MVP of the KBO, hitting over 30 homeruns and driving in more than 100 runs both years.

8. Kim Hyun-Soo LF (LG Twins) - Kim seemed a little intimidated when he reached the major leagues. In the KBO prior to the draft he was not noted for his power. In his last year before being posted he hit a career high 28 homeruns while driving in a career high 121 runs playing for the Doosan Bears. That was good timing to be a free agent. In the major leagues he became a corner outfielder who lacked power, hitting just 7 homeruns in his two year major league career. If he played a good defense perhaps he would have been more valuable, but he was lacking in that area as well. He returned to Korea in 2018, signing with the LG Twins where he hit a career high .362 with 20 homeruns. Perhaps the exposure to major league pitching gave him a new identity in the KBO. Kim did make the All World Baseball Classic team in 2009. He also has a gold medal to his credit after Korea upset Cuba in the 2008 Olympics.

9. Choi Jeong 3B (SK Wyverns) - At 33 years old the major leagues has probably passed him by. He has moderate power numbers his first 11 years with the Wyverns, hitting double digits in power numbers but nothing more than 28. In 2016 he exploded with back to back 40 homerun campaigns that made him one of the more feared hitters in the KBO. In 2018 his homerun numbers dropped to 35 and last year when they deadened the ball he slugged just 29. His OPS and slugging has remained over .900 and .500 for 11 seasons in a row. There is a little swing and miss to his game. Entering the 2020 season he had a career average of .289. His 346 career homeruns is third in the KBO and no hitter in the KBO has been hit more than his 260 hit by pitch. When in high school Choi was a pitcher who could throw in the mid-90s and played for the 2004 junior national team as a pitcher. He was also a pretty good hitter as well, which is what he chose once in the KBO, nwinning the MVP of the KBO in 2008.

10. Kang Jin-Sung 1B (NC Dinos) - Another pick we are not sold on. He stands just 5′11″ and hits righthanded. Those data points are ugly to major league scouts when looking at first baseman. They prefer lefthanded hitters and giants who stand at least 6′3″. Kang was a fourth round pick in 2012 and got three at bats the following year. The next four years were a blank slate, some of those due to military service. His next three years he played in less than 50 games. This year he has been one of the bats responsible for the NC Dinos fast start. He is hitting .343 with 9 homeruns and 40 RBIs. The homerun numbers are a little low but he is fifth in batting average. At 26 years of age this could be his breakout year.

RBI Machine Asamura Leads Rakuten

Friday, July 10th, 2020

The Rakuten Golden Eagles have gotten off to a torrid 13-5 start. They are led by the ridiculous RBI pace of Hideto Asamura, who has slugged 9 homeruns and driven in 28 in just 18 games. The closest person to him in the RBI race in the Pacific League is Orix Buffaloes Takahiro Okada, who has 18. In the Central League Munetaka Murakami leads the RBI race with 18.

It is the last week that Asamura has punched in a number of runs with RBIs in five consecutive games. He has driven in 10 RBIs during that time frame, hitting homeruns in four consecutive games in which the Eagles won four out of five. The home run streak ended when he failed to hit a homerun in his last game. On June 27th, in a game won by the Eagles 18-5 he drove in seven runs.

Asamura isn’t the only bat that is hitting for Rakuten. The Golden Eagles have five players with double digit RBI numbers in a season that has only completed 18 games. Jabari Blash (13), Stefan Romero (11), Hiroaki Shimauchi (16) and Daichi Suzuki (14) are four other players joining Asamura who have also reached double digit RBI figures. No other team in the Pacific League has more than three players with have double digit RBI figures.

It will be interesting to see if Rakuten can maintain their run scoring pace. Despite driving in 13 runs Blash has not seen his power game yet with only one homerun this year. Last year Blash powered 33. He should improve. Suzuki is a new addition signed as a free agent this year after playing eight years with the Chibba Lotte Marines.

The Eagles are so confident in their offense that they traded their big bat from the last five years, Zeolous Wheeler to the Yomiuri Giants on June 29th of this year.

Fans Return to NPB

Friday, July 10th, 2020

The Japanese professional league, the NPB is now allowing 5,000 fans to attend games. This despite an increase to 243 corona virus cases reported in Tokyo. At this point the United States would love to see a count of 243 cases in some of their largest cities in California, Florida or Texas. The league is hoping that by August 1 they can fill their stadiums to half capacity.

Prior to entering the stadium the fans were given temperature checks and encouraged to use hand sanitizers. They were required to wear masks and sat in seats spaced apart from each other, even if they came with their families. Exuberant cheering was also discouraged, which meant no high fives, singing or shouting. Clapping and air high fives were allowed.