Unknown heroes, no Lee Jung-hoo, no Ahn Woo-jin, 7 straight wins

Heroes you may not recognize.

It was before and after Lee’s injury that Kiwoom Heroes began to sink rapidly in the 2023 season. The team’s pillar Lee Jung-hoo’s ankle ligament surgery completely demoralized the Kium players, who had been playing with faint postseason hopes.

The club then traded Choi Won-tae to the LG Twins for Lee Joo-hyung, Kim Dong-gyu, and a 2024 first-round pick. This was a complete retooling. While the team acquired a lot of catchers in the 2023 draft, the team acquired a lot of pitchers in the 2024 draft, and at the end of the season, ace Ahn Woo-jin underwent Tommy John surgery.

The team prepared for the 2024 season with the latter half of its roster, so it was no surprise that it was labeled as the “No. 1 drug” by experts. Choi Joo-hwan in the second round of the draft was considered a mid-to-low-end free agent signing. However, there was no significant movement in the free agent market, and so the first full-time season without Lee Jung-hoo and Ahn Woo-jin arrived.

Moreover, Lee Joo-hyung missed the entire tournament with a thigh injury and was not ready for the opening match. Jang Jae-young also left due to a bad elbow. The foreign pitchers looked shaky from the start of the exhibition games and the Major League Baseball World Tour special match against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and their fears seemed to be realized as they lost their first four games in a row.

Things started to change in the first three games of the home opener against LG. A sweep was inevitable. The power gap with the defending champions was huge. The culprit was Ha Young-min, who started on the mound. Young-min Ha picked up his first win of the season by shutting down the LG bats, and the momentum was such that even Enmanuel de Jesus had a so-called scratch. The left-hander is a fastball thrower who can be tough to beat when he has command.

The left-hander is a fast pitcher, and when he gets his command, he is a tough pitcher to beat. That’s when Lee Joo-hyung returned unexpectedly and showed off his “crazy hitting” to completely reignite Kiwoom’s momentum. Four straight wins after four straight losses.

I really thought it was over. That’s because their opponent for the weekend’s three-game homestand was the hottest team of the season, the Hanwha Eagles. They even faced Ryu Hyun-jin in the first game. But Kiwoom tied the franchise record for consecutive hits with eight batters in the fifth inning, including Ryu, and handed Ryu a nine-run humiliation, the most in a 토토 single game in his 18-year professional career. From there, the series turned in favor of Kiwoom. Kiwoom swept both games of the weekend to complete a seven-game winning streak.

In fact, their batting stats are a bit deceiving. They’re sixth with a .271 team batting average and fifth with a .785 team OPS. On the mound, they’re sixth with a team ERA of 4.78. These are middle-of-the-pack numbers, yet the team is ranked third. There’s a reason for that. For starters, the starting staff isn’t as bad as you might expect. They’re fifth with a 4.31 team ERA. They are still weak in the 3-5 spots, and the 3-4 spots of Ha Young-min and Kim Sun-gi are still not strong. The 5th starter was Son Hyun-ki on the 9th against the Incheon SSG Landers. It’s hard to see him as a fixed fifth starter. Instead, Ariel Furado and Heisus have found stability.

The batting lineup has a surprising .365 team batting average, which is the highest in the league. This is partly a result of the top-of-the-order batting lineup, “MOLX,” that coach Hong Won-ki envisioned before the season. The 1-4 lineup of Kim Hye-sung-Ronnie Dawson-Lee Joo-hyung-Choi Joo-hwan was changed to Lee Joo-hyung-Dawson-Kim Hye-sung-Choi Joo-hwan. However, the left-handed lineup of 1-4 is unexpectedly destructive. They were even able to push Ryu Hyun-jin in the lineup. Lee Hyung-jong is back in the lineup, and Kim Hwi-jip has one. Kim Hye-sung has opened her eyes to the long ball. Even without Lee Jung-hoo, the batting lineup has some structure.

And then there’s the defense. This year, Seoul changed the grass and lights to major league style for the Seoul Metropolitan League. The grass has gotten longer and fluffier, and the infamous bat speed has slowed down, making it easier for infielders to play defense, according to Kiwoom players and manager Hong Won-ki. In fact, Kiwoom has only committed four errors this season. In recent years, they were 1-3 in errors, but this year they are #1 in fewest errors. The low number of errors means that they don’t give their opponents extra bases on defense. It reduces the probability of giving up runs. It’s a big boost for pitchers.

And so began Pajuk’s seven-game winning streak. Of course, Hong Won-ki’s expression and demeanor were the same before and after the seven-game winning streak began. He’s not fooling around. It is true that the actual objective power is still weak to aim for the mid-range or higher. Whether the current third place is a village X-marathon or a real talent will not be confirmed until the month of April. Inside the club, there is a sense of relief that they have avoided the worst possible start.

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