Wednesday, April 1, 2009
2009 Season Primer: Hanwha Eagles
4. Hanwha Eagles
I really wish this team had more pitching than Ryu Hyeon-jin and Brad Thomas. If this team could find anyone else to throw the ball, they could compete with SK for the top spot in the league. Ryu is a legit ace and Australian national, Brad Thomas, is one of the top relievers in the KBO, but there isn't much after them. This team's pitching reminds me a lot of the Chinese National team. They were competent enough to keep things close and make the game competitive, but every so often they would bring in some zombie who would just get lit up. Hanhwa had last year's TSOKB Cy Yuck Award Winner, Mr. Yang Hoon. Yang worked 65 1/3 innings for Hanhwa last year. He allowed 81 hits and 34 walks. His ERA was 7.71 and his WHIP was 1.73.
Ryu Hyeon-jin is one of the guys worth knowing in the KBO. Ryu finished last year with a 14-7 record in 26 starts. He struck out 143 batters in 165 2/3 innings. He walked only 67 hitters last year. He posted a 3.31 ERA with a 1.27 WHIP. He's left-handed and he just celebrated his 22nd birthday. Last year was his 3rd KBO season, so only 6 more until free agency! The clock is ticking!
Brad Thomas finished 2nd in the league with 31 saves last season. He was the one reliever that manager Kim In-sik could always count on. He threw 63 1/3 innings in 59 games last year. In those 63 1/3 innings, he struck out exactly 63 batters. Hanwha has to be thrilled that he's returning for another season. Hanwha has a few okay relievers to bridge to Thomas, but the staff is fairly thin. Yoon Gyu-jin and Koo Dae-seong are a nice righty, lefty combo, but they're not exactly shut down relievers.
Hanwha spent most of the season looking for a #2 and #3 starter behind Ryu. They would have settled for a #4 or #5. They usually found pitching machines. Actually, scratch that. Pitching machines can be programmed to throw strikes. Ooooooohhh! Song Jin-woo and Yu Won-sang had moments of competence, but they were never reliable. Hanwha added Choi Sang-deok from SK, but his best days are very far behind him. The last time the 38-year old righty was KBO relevant was 2003. Kim Hui-kwon was signed from LG. He's only 23. At least he has some upside.
As lacking as Hanwha is in the pitching department, they try to make up for it by hitting baseballs really, really hard. WBC star Kim Tae-kyun lead the KBO in homers(31) and OPS(1.039). If Hanwha had qualified for the playoffs, the slugging first baseman would have been in the mix for the MVP award. Protecting Kim this year will be foreign ringer Victor Diaz. Diaz should man right field for the Eagles and bat behind Kim in the lineup. Diaz is really intriguing as a middle of the order prescence in the KBO. In just under 500 career MLB AB's, Diaz has 24 homers. He's coming off a 24 homer, 100 RBI season at AAA. I think he has a chance to out-produce Doug Clark and at the very least he'll fill the void created by Clark's departure. Third baseman Lee Beom-ho is a nice power/speed guy. He finished last year with double-digit homers and stolen bases with an .844 OPS in 434 AB's. DH Kim Tae-won also posted a solid season last year. He clubbed 23 homers with 73 RBI and a .850 OPS.
One guy to watch out for is Song Kwang-min. I'm not sure where he's going to play, but if he does he could be another thumper for this lineup. He posted an .805 OPS in 140 AB's with 7 homers. He's also had a nice exhibition season. He's leading all batters with 5 homers and 15 RBI. He still strikes out a ton. He struck out 44 times last year. He could be the KBO's answer to Pablo Sandoval.
Unless Ryu Hyeon-jin is starting, this team is going to play a lot of 10-8, 9-6, 11-7 ballgames. This is a lineup of thumpers. They'll live and die with the long ball. I think they can bash their way to a 4th place finish. If it weren't for a late season swoon, they probably would have edged out Samsung for the 4th playoff spot. They should be able to get there this season. Even if the KBO has to rig the league, NBA style. The KBO needs Kim Tae-gyun and Ryu Hyeon-jin in the playoffs.