Tuesday, March 31, 2009

2009 KBO Season Primer: SK Wyverns

With the 2009 season literally right around the corner and tens of new readers descending upon my little blog, the time has come for a KBO season preview.

I personally detest power rankings and lazy writers that pass them off as an actual column, but four our purposes, power rankings are the best way to structure this post.

1. SK Wyverns

The two-time defending champs should pick up where they left off last season. The team has stayed together and they're still relatively young.

On the mound, this team is lead by KBO MVP and team ace, Kim Kwang-hyun. Kim finished last year with a 16-4 record, a 2.39 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP and 150 K's in 162 innings. He only allowed 9 homers all season and his K:BB was 3.00. He was the best pitcher in the KBO last season. Chae Byeong-yong was the "Jack of All Trades" last year. He spent most of the season as a starter, but he helped to shore up the bullpen in the playoffs. Chae finished the season with a 10-2 record in 27 games. He posted a 2.70 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in 136 2/3 innings. He struck out 81 and walked 43. Chae will probably be SK's #2 or #3 starter behind Kim. Righty Jeong Woo-ram and lefty Jeong Dae-hyeon were a devastating 1-2 punch for the Wyverns out of the bullpen last year. Woo-ram would usually throw the 7 or 8th, while Dae-hyeon would lock down the 9th inning. Dae-hyeon missed most of August with an injury and Woo-ram struggled in the closer's role. 8 different Wyverns pitchers recorded saves last year. Jeong Dae-hyeon finished with 20 saves, a 2.67 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and a K:BB of over 2:1. Woo-ram picked up 5 saves and 25 holds last year. He also posted a 9-2 record in 85(!) appearances

They've swapped out last years foreign pitchers for newer, possibly better models. Mike Johnson and CJ Nitkowski have replaced Kenny Rayborn and Esteban Yan. Both figure to start the season in the rotation. The only other new pitcher worth mentioning is Lee Sung-ho. Lee was signed from LG after a disastrous 2008 campaign. He does have a double-digit win season under his belt(He won 11 games in 2003), but he allowed 62 base runners in 24 1/3 innings last season. He could stick as a long reliever or be selling insurance in May.

At the plate, the Wyverns are as smart and disciplined as any team in the world. SK lead the league with a .361 team OBA. Also, 6 different Wyverns with over 100 AB's posted batting averages over .300. Third baseman, Choi Jeong, lead the way with a .328 average. Choi also posted an OPS of .890 in only his 3rd full KBO season. Center fielder, Park Jae-hong lead the team with 19 homers and posted an OPS of .958(!). Shortstop Jeong Geun-woo lead the team in stolen bases with 40, but he also lead the team in CS with 20. Jeong came in 2nd on the team with 72 runs scored. He also posted a .797 OPS.

The Wyverns really didn't make any significant additions in the off season on offense.

The SK Wyverns are an excellent example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. They didn't really have anyone put up ridiculous offensive totals, but they were capable of scoring enough runs to win. This team simply wore pitchers down and always seemed to deliver with runners in scoring position. Last year's SK Wyverns might have been the best team in Asia last year and there's no reason to believe that won't continue. This team was a buzz saw last year. They could make a run at 90 wins this season.


Anonymous said...

My hometown is Incheon (miss that place greatly), and I do like the SK's (way their franchise is running and their companies support for the team is unbelievable compare to others).

However, for the good of the KBO's popularity, I don't want them to win for this year. Like many sports writers predict, SK is on top of the rank and for possible winner for this year as well, but With attendance and the popularity of KBO is on the rise I just hope the teams from the south (Tigers and Giants) would have better result than SK. Imagine the attendance if the Tigers and Giants are on the final... not to mention the profit from their marketing...

but then again... just an opinion, not a prediction.

(hope SK's new marketing on bringing more fan works though.)

Good luck~ I say to my hometown team~!

Aaron said...

I just caught this. Nicely played.

Shaun said...

I disagree. I think Lotte's addition of Hong Seung Hoon from Doosan as an extra bat makes them the favorites. I am not saying the man is an all-star (he was.. but not anymore) but his leadership and the pop he still has means Lotte moves from cellar dwellers 2 years ago.. to competitors last year.. to champs this year.

(PS: Did you see the Doosan Promo videos. They were playing Kia but ALL the conversation was "anti SK".

S? NO! D? YES!

Anonymous said...

In addition of Hong seung Hoon leaving the Bears to the Giants, the Bears got a Watson for this year, and I think he has the power to bring-in some RBIs for Doosan...(and his first game vs. Kia wasn't so bad)

than again, seems like now a days all the foreign player in KBO has trouble getting used to the Korean (like Watson on the second game vs. kia.)baseball at their first seasons.

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