Tuesday, March 31, 2009
2009 KBO Season Primer: Lotte Giants
2. Lotte Giants
In 2007, the Giants were essentially a laughingstock. They had talent on the roster, but the team lacked direction and wandered to a 7th place finish. That winter, they replaced their manager with the first foreign manager in the KBO, Jerry Royster. Things changed right away. The Giants started winning. Royster managed to instill a positive attitude in this talented roster and it paid off. The Giants finished 3rd last year, but sputtered in the opening round of the playoffs against an over-achieving Samsung Lions team.
This team probably has the best 1-2-3 starters in the KBO. 34-year old ace, Son Min-han started with Lotte in 1997. He finished last year with a 12-4 record in 26 starts. He worked 179 innings with a 2.97 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. Son struck out 80 and walked 40. #2 starter Song Seung-jun finished 12-7 over 26 starts. Song threw 153 1/3 innings with a 3.76 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. He struck out a team best 114 and walked 70. #3 Jang Won-jun finished 12-10 over 26 starts. In Jang's 155 2/3 innings, he posted a career best 3.53 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. He struck out 102 and walked 54. Lotte has added American Jon Adkins to shore up a bullpen that struggled all year. Not a single Lotte reliever recorded double-digit saves last year. 37-year old Choi Hyang-nam posted 9 and he was last seen in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league camp. Kang Yeong-sik was one of the more reliable bullpen arms last year. Kang lead the Giants with 16 holds, but he had problems with keeping the ball in the park. He surrendered 6 homers in only 56 innings.
Last year, Lotte finished second in the league with 93 homers. Mexican national, Karim Garcia lead the team with 30. He also lead the team in RBI(111) and OPS (.894). He was a legitimate MVP candidate last season. Garcia was everything Lotte needed. His outgoing personality and strong hitting endeared him to the fan base. At most Lotte home games Mexican flags would be waived alongside Korean flags. Garcia's bat was a big reason for the Lotte turnaround. Infielder, Cho Seong-hwan also posted a career year last season. Cho lead the team in batting average by posting a .327 BA in 423 AB's. He led the team in doubles(27) and runs scored(81). He also came in 4th on the team in OPS with an .845 mark. Cho was also successful in 31 of 34 stolen base attempts. Lee Dae-ho had a monster season hitting next to Garcia. The large third baseman clubbed 18 homers, drove in 94 RBI and posted a .879 OPS. Catcher Kang Min-ho also came into his own last season. Kang finished 2nd on the team with 19 homers and 3rd with 82 RBI. This team was an offensive juggernaut.
In the off season, the Lotte Giants made the only real splash in the free agent market. They added Doosan catcher, Hong Seong-heun. Hong posted a .331 batting average and .812 OPS over 423 AB's last year. He figures to see more time at DH with the Giants. The Giants should post an everyday line up of 1. Cho, 2. Kang, 3. Lee, 4. Garcia, 5. Hong. That's probably the best 1-5 in the KBO.
This year, I think with more consistent effort out of the back end of the Lotte bullpen and EVEN MORE offense, this team could slug its way to a 2nd place finish.