There is not a single hitter in the .300 range this year
– FA’s 5 billion Won Noh Jin-hyuk falls short of expectations
– Han Dong-hee’s sluggish performance and
Ko Seung-min’s injuries – Consolation of finding backups
Park Seung-wook and Bae Young-bin – Homework of finding a first baseman to replace veteran Jeong-hoon 스포츠토토

The infield of the Lotte Giants in this year’s professional baseball is, in a word, ‘light’. It was a ‘good dog apricot’. The starting lineup was completed with the signing of Noh Jin-hyuk as a free agent, but in the end, Ahn Chi-hong was the only player who played his part until the end of the season. The position of first baseman, where fierce competition was expected due to the abundance of candidates, could not be found as a suitable candidate, leaving another unsolved problem.

Although none of Lotte’s infielders hit .300, they ranked mid-ranking in various indicators. OPS (slugging percentage + on-base percentage) was 0.702, ranking 4th among 10 teams in the KBO League. Batting average (0.259), wRC+ (adjusted hitting production, 96.1), and WAR (contributed wins over replacement players, 9.28) all ranked 5th.

Considering that Lotte made extensive reinforcements of players ahead of this season, the results are not satisfactory. To strengthen the ‘center line’, Lotte brought in Noh Jin-hyuk for a large sum of 5 billion won over 4 years and created an opening match lineup consisting of Han Dong-hee, Noh Jin-hyuk, Ahn Chi-hong and Ko Seung-min. Last season, Han Dong-hee and Ko Seung-min recorded ‘career highs’, and Ahn Chi-hong is still in good health, so the addition of Noh Jin-hyuk seemed to create a ‘historical’ infield.

However, when I opened the lid, there was no player other than Ahn Chi-hong who did his job. Ahn Chi-hong had a wRC+ of 119.1, with an average value of 100. On the other hand, Han Dong-hee, who received a lot of attention as a ‘post-Lee Dae-ho’, suffered from poor batting throughout the season and finished the season with a batting average of 0.223, 5 home runs, and 32 RBI. He wasn’t even good enough in third base defense to rank second on the team with 12 errors.

Ko Seung-min, who had high expectations for his league-leading performance at the end of last season, also performed poorly this year with a batting average of 0.224, 2 home runs, and 24 RBIs. In particular, Ko Seung-min made a surprising transformation from an outfielder to a first baseman and played good defense until the first half of the season, but failed to recover his skills after a finger injury.

Existing first baseman Jeong Hoon’s poor performance at the beginning of the season was also disappointing. Jeong Hoon, who is quite young at 36 years old, was pushed out of the competition for the starting role due to his poor batting cycle at the beginning of the season. Fortunately, he improved his batting skills at the end and recorded a batting average of 0.279, 6 home runs, and 31 RBI in 80 games.

The recruitment of new foreign hitter Nico Goodrum was ultimately a failure. Goodrum is an infield utility player and was expected to perform well in both offense and defense. However, he failed to hit a single home run, and committed 13 defensive errors, the most in the team.

The performance of the backup infielders was outstanding. Park Seung-wook is a representative example. Park Seung-wook mainly played as a second baseman and shortstop, posting a batting average of 0.286 and 30 RBIs. The discovery of shortstop Bae Young-bin, who joined this season as a developing player and recorded a batting average of 0.313 in 18 games, was also a harvest.

Lotte has postponed the task of finding a first baseman to replace Jeong Hoon until next year. It appears that the gap will need to be filled by finding suitable candidates through next year’s spring camp or recruiting free agents.

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