Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Official 1st Round Playoff Preview

First things first. I received the following comment from a reader named "Eu Jin," "Are you going to keep doing this? It's getting a bit late to visit all the ballparks this season."

I know. I've got a few stadium reviews started, but I wanted to spend some more time on them before I posted them. I made it to 5 of the 7 stadiums this year. Incheon was by far my favorite. I missed out on seeing The Heroes and Hanhwa Eagles this year. There's always next year...well, for the Eagles at least.

On to the preview...

The Korea Times and Joongang Daily both cover this one from all angles and Aaron at the EWC has pretty, pretty pictures, so I'm going to skip the position by position breakdowns. I wish the KT and JD would have mentioned some of the younger players on the Lions roster. I guarantee Park Seok-min will have more of an impact on this series than Yang Joon-hyeok will. Sorry.

The best of 5 series between the Samsung Lions(yay!) and Lotte Giants(boo!) kicks off tonight in Busan's lovely Sajik Stadium. Song Seung-jun gets the start for the Giants, while Bae Yong-su gets the nod for the Lions. Song finished the regular season 12-7 with a 3.76 ERA and strangely high 1.46 WHIP. He struck out 114 in 153 1/3 innings. Bae was essentially the best of the worst this year. The Samsung starting rotation is absolutely dreadful. Bae ended the year with a 9-8 record with a 4.55 ERA and a surprisingly low 1.44 WHIP. He struck out 71 in 114 2/3 innings this year.

How Samsung can win...

Well, does "getting lucky" count as a reason? Samsung's pitching does not match up well with Lotte's offense. The Lions don't really have an ace to lean on, but if they can get a lead in the late innings, they should be able to hold it. The Samsung bullpen has been quality most of the year. The key for Samsung is to avoid the big inning. If they can keep Lotte to 1 or 2-run rallies, they should be able to keep the games close. If Lotte is busting out with 4 or 5-run rallies, Samsung is sunk.

How Lotte can win...

By showing up and hitting the baseball. The Giants lineup should have little trouble with Samsung's starting pitching. It's important for Lotte to have a lead in the late innings because Samsung's bullpen is as strong as their starting staff is weak. They also need quality starts from their top 3 starters(ace Son Min-han, Song and Jang Won-joon). This is a team that's gained a reputation for lapses in the field. If ever there was a time to find focus, it's now. Another key for Lotte is their homefield advantage. Their fans are the most rabid in Korea(understatement) and I have no doubt they will show up in force to cheer on their beloved Giants. Lotte should be, essentially, unbeatable at home during the playoffs.

Series Prediction:

Lotte in 4. I think Lotte takes the first two games at home, drops the 3rd and clinches in Daegu.

Back tomorrow with the roundup...health permitting...

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