Ahead of the 2023 KBO League, active reinforcement of lower-tier teams in the Stove League became a hot topic. In recent years, the KBO League has had an aspect where the rankings of the top and bottom teams were fixed. However, due to the recruitment of external free agents by lower-ranking teams, expectations have increased that this year will lead to leveling of the league and fierce competition for rankings.
The Lotte Giants, who failed to advance to the postseason for five consecutive years from 2018 to last year, brought in outside free agents Kangnam Yoo (4 years total of 8 billion won), Noh Jin-hyuk (4 years total of 5 billion won), and Han Hyun-hee (4 years total of 4 billion won). He showed a strong will to jump up the rankings by filling all three outside FA recruitment limits.
After the end of the 2023 season, Lotte signed a multi-year contract with ‘Glasses Ace’ Park Se-woong, who was scheduled to acquire FA qualification스포츠토토, for a total of 9 billion won over 5 years. After the end of last year’s season, he canceled his enlistment for Sangmu, which he promoted, and continued to play for Lotte this year. It is no exaggeration to say that Lotte’s year 2023 has been decided as a ‘Win Now’ that produces immediate results. Some experts put forward optimism that Lotte has the power to look at fall baseball within the top 5 and that it will be possible to challenge for the top ranks.
As of the 13th, Lotte is in 6th place with a win rate of 4 wins and 5 losses, 0.444. While the effect of recruiting an external free agent is not noticeable, Park Se-woong’s early grades are also sluggish. Park Se-woong has appeared in two games since the opening and has not won 1 loss with an ERA of 4.66 and an OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) of 0.866.
He has yet to record a quality start with less than 3 earned runs over 6 innings and he has not had a game in which he has pitched more than 5.1 innings. Park Se-woong’s ability to digest innings is deteriorating, and the already anxious Lotte bullpen is under increasing pressure.
Park Se-woong’s fastball average velocity rose slightly from 146.5 km/h last year to 146.7 km/h this year, and is still competitive. However, his average walks per 9 innings has increased significantly from 1.89 last year to 4.66 this year, so his pitches fluctuate greatly. It is interpreted that the number of pitches increased due to the increased walks, and the ability to digest innings decreased.
Some view Park Se-woong’s sluggishness as an aftereffect of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) held in March. Park Se-woong pitched in two games in the WBC and pitched a total of six innings, pitching well with an ERA of 0.00, one win and no loss.
On March 10, in order to avoid the humiliation of losing a cold game against Japan, he made a relief mound and pitched 1.1 innings. After taking a day off, he started against the Czech Republic on the 12th and pitched 4.2 innings. As the national team mound collapsed, Park Se-woong suffered abuse that is difficult to find in the KBO league recently. As a result, the national team was eliminated in the first round, making it difficult to find meaning in Park Se-woong’s abuse. At this time, analysis is being raised as to whether the aftermath of the overwork continued into the regular season.
Lotte is in deep trouble as foreign pitchers Strayley and Barnes also had a poor start at the beginning of the season. Contrary to the forecasts of experts, if Lotte moves around the lower ranks, other teams will classify Lotte as a target that must be caught, and a more difficult move may follow. This is why Lotte needs to rebound at an early point. Attention is focusing on whether Park Se-woong, who succeeded in signing a large-scale contract last winter, will take the lead in restoring Lotte’s pride.