Home Runs Over 30…Plummeting 48% from 5 Years Ago, Why Baseball’s Flower, the Home Run, Has Suddenly Declined
The Kia Tigers have been busy since the StubHub League ended. They took an early step by signing catcher Kim Tae-gun (34) to a multi-year contract just before the end of the season. The Tigers have a lot of work to do to solve the kinks that were revealed along the way to their sixth-place finish this season. There are a variety of challenges, from the departure of the foreign trio and the reorganization of the lineup to the development of new faces and existing prospects through the rookie draft.
Among them is the crackdown on ‘house rabbits’. ‘Eldest brother’ Choi Hyung-woo (40), ‘Captain’ Kim Sun-bin (34), and Ko Jong-wook (34) will soon be eligible for free agency.
Choi, who signed a three-year, 3.7 billion won contract with KIA in December 2020 after a four-year, 10 billion won deal was finalized, hit .325 (130-for-431) with 17 home runs, 81 RBIs and an OPS of 0.887 in 121 games this season. A combination of eye issues in his second year of free agency limited him to a 2-for-33 mark (87-for-373) with 12 homers, 55 RBIs and a .729 OPS, but he showed signs of rebounding in the second half of last year, eventually returning to a triple-digit batting average, 130 hits, and a more than four-figure slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
This is the second free agency for Kim, who signed a four-year, 4 billion won contract with KIA after the 2019 season. This season, he batted .320 (134-for-419) with 48 RBIs and an OPS of 0.739 without a home run. His career numbers in free agency are 3-for-8 (1728-for-533) with nine home runs, 213 RBIs, and a .757 OPS. In addition to being the full-time second baseman after Ahn Chi-hong’s departure, he also took on the role of captain last year under Kim Jong-kook.
Ko Jong-wook, who has been in a backup role with KIA, did not apply for free agency after last season, when he finished with a 2-for-8, 30 RBI (106 at-bats) and a 0.752 OPS in 62 games. His numbers are better this year. In 114 games, 먹튀검증토토사이트 he’s batting 2-for-9 (80-for-270) with three home runs, 39 RBIs, and a .722 OPS. He’s done his job at the plate and in the field.
All three players are young, but their contributions to the team are significant.
Choi Hyung-woo has done his job in the middle of the order, even though he’s in a down year. He was the go-to guy in big situations and led the team’s offense. According to baseball statistics site Statiz, Choi’s wRC+ (adjusted run support) of 153.8 was better than that of foreign hitter Socrates Brito (125.7). His WAR (wins above replacement) of 4.78 was 10th in the league and first on the team, according to Sports2eye, which tracks KBO records.
Kim, who is in his mid-30s, is also an “irreplaceable resource” in the KIA infield at this point. He’s been playing with an ankle injury for most of the season, playing 119 games, fewer than last year (140). However, he has been the team’s most consistent second baseman. In the batting order, he was not only the bottom of the lineup, but also the center fielder after Na Sung-beom and Choi Hyung-woo were ruled out for the season. Go Jong-wook also performed well as a left-handed pinch-hitter, helping the team compete for a top-five finish this season.
Even before the signing of Kim Tae-gun, KIA had been working on signing the three ‘house rabbits’. This was not only because of their talent, but also because they are veterans who have dedicated themselves to the team. The three players’ performances this season have shown that they can still play a role, which will be reflected to some extent on the contract table. However, Choi Hyung-woo’s recovery period from a season-ending collarbone fracture and the fact that he cannot guarantee a long service time in the future, while Kim Sun-bin is also at a point where he needs to be managed, could be a factor. Ko Jong-wook also faces a difficult time securing a spot amid the growth of other backup options such as Lee Woo-sung (29) and Lee Chang-jin (32).
This free agency is considered to be a difficult market to find a player who can be called a “big fish”. It’s also hard to find a perfect replacement for any of the three. At this point, it’s hard to lean toward change. However, it remains to be seen what the changing market conditions will bring.
KIA lost out on Park Dong-won after last season, when they were looking to sign him to a multi-year deal. While it’s true that there were some drama along the way, we can’t overlook the fact that Kia didn’t move quickly enough. What kind of answer will KIA come up with?