Matt and Simon are back to dot the exclamation point that was the 2011 KBO season. The Korean press will make their announcements this week and announce the Golden Gloves some time in December.
2011 Lee Man-su Award (MVP) -
M: The Korean press seems to really want to give this award to either KIA ace Yoon Seok-min or Samsung closer Oh Seung-hwan. I can't give the MVP to a pitcher, especially a reliever, unless he does something truly, truly amazing. Yoon and Oh had above average seasons, but they really aren't MVPs. Samsung slugger Choi Hyeong-woo posted a slash line of .340/.427/.617. That's elite. Choi lead the league in homers(30) and RBIs(118). He won't thrill anyone with his glove and he spent most of the year at DH. His presence was the difference in the Samsung offense this year and I've got to make him my choice for MVP.
S: I agree and many others agree that it is very difficult to give an MVP award to a pitcher in baseball. The "truly amazing" something you're describing means something like winning every game you start and other pitchers on your team losing every game they start. Yoon Suk-min didn't do this and Oh Seung-hwan only pitched an inning a game. Choi Hyeong-woo and Lee Dae-ho were neck and neck all season as the league's premier hitters. But I would also give this award to Choi because of his team's KBO championship. Choi was not a huge factor in Samsung's win (5 hits and 1 home run in the series), but his efforts helped take Samsung to the Korean Series to easily beat an exhausted SK team.
2011 Sun Dong-ryeol Award (Best Pitcher) -
M: KIA ace Yoon Seok-min won the pitcher's triple crown this year by leading the league in ERA(2.45), wins(17) and strikeouts(178). He also posted a 1.05 WHIP and a 4.05 K/BB ratio. For those unfamiliar with K/BB, anything over a 2.50 is excellent and anything above a 3.00 is elite of the elite. He's the pick and second place isn't close.
S: I would also give Yoon Seok-min this award. If 2010 was the year of Ryu Hyun-jin, this season was the year of Yoon Seok-min. With Kim Gwang-hyun out, and Ryu not as dominant, Yoon ruled the headlines with his numbers seen above and all talk was about him jumping ship to the Major Leagues. I would disagree about second place not being close, however. Dustin Nippert (15-6, 2.55), teammate Kim Sun-woo (15-6, 3.13), Jang Won-joon (15-6, 3.14), and others brought pitching to the forefront to a league that was known more for batting in recent years.
2011 Park Ki-hyuk Award (LVP) -
M: Tough choice. Nexen's Kang Byeong-sik posted a .174/.249/.269 slash line with 53 K's in 167 PA's. He probably would have won the award if Nexen gave him more at bats. My winner is Samsung second baseman Shin Myeong-cheol. Shin posted a .208/.294/.272 slash line in 382 at bats. Shin had a career year in 2009 with 20 homers and 61 RBIs, but his production dropped to nine homers and 57 RBIs in 2010. Well his numbers were off the map in 2011. Shin managed two homers and 39 RBIs with 68 K's in 2011.
S: There will never be another Park Ki-hyuk and there is no clear winner for this award this season. A lot of players play poorly, but not so bad that the spotlight is on them. I am going with Doosan 3rd baseman Lee Won-suk for this one this year. The Bears are arguably a more high stakes team, with their consecutive post season appearances and their ownership of one half of Seoul's baseball audience. But Mr. Lee's .216 BA after 264 plate appearances and 35 runs batted in helped his team the least in falling from perennial post season appearances to being lumped with Hanhwa and Nexen.
2011 Kim Hyeok-min Award (Cy Yuck) -
M: This is an easy one. KIA 23-year old lefty Yang Hyeon-jong enjoyed a breakout season in 2010 with 1 16-8 record and 145 K's in 168 innings. The 2010 workload must have taken a toll on Yang because he was awful for all of 2011. Yang threw 106 innings in 2011 and most KIA fans probably wish he hadn't. Yang walked almost as many(69) as he struck out(74). Yang owned a 6.18 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP. It was really painful watching Yang take the ball every fifth day.
S: Does any pitcher have a worse win/loss than Nexen starter Sim Soo-chang's 2-13? He didn't win a game since 2009 coming into this season with LG and I can't imagine how he must have felt when he was traded from LG to Nexen mid-season. LG was still a respectable team at this time and Nexen is a perennial bottom level team. He can't blame his Nexen teammates for his performance at all, as his 2011 ERA of 5.01 is almost equal to his lifetime ERA of 4.94, 7.5/8 of which were with LG. Sim's the winner of this award for this year.
2011 Rookie of the Year Award -
M: LG reliever Lim Chang-gyu and Samsung outfielder Bae Yeong-seop were the only two rookies to qualify for the award this year. Lim posted a 9-6 record with seven saves in 65 appeareances for LG. Lim had a 4.46 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 82 2/3 innings. Lim walked 61 and struck out 62. Bae posted a .294/.363/.356 slash line in 384 PA's. He blasted two homers and stole 33 bases. I think Bae probably did as much as anyone else to earn it.
S: Again, I am going with Bae because of Samsung's Korean Series win. Despite this rookie's age (25), it was only his second season in the Korean Show and he moved like a pro within Samsung's championship roster. His numbers listed above equal 5th in hits, 11th in RBI's, 5th in given plate appearances, 5th in doubles, and his 47 strike outs don't hurt or help his position within the team. Though largely invisible in the post season, you won't see anyone but him up Samsung's center field in 2012.
2011 Danny Rios Award (Best non-Korean) -
M: This is another easy one. Doosan's Dustin Nippert lead a mediocre Bears team with a 2.55 ERA and 15-6 record. Nippert struck out 150 in 187 innings while walking only 64. He was one of the few highlights in an awful season for Bears fans.
S: Nippert was definitely one of the major stories of this season. Although I felt he was "over qualified" for his pitching role, coming off an AL championship with Texas the year before, his numbers in his first year in the league is definitely notable. Nippert and Kim Sun-woo were probably the 1-2 to beat in the KBO this season.
2011 Rick Bauer Award (Worst non-Korean) -
M: I've got to go with Nippert's teammate, Fernando Nieve. Nieve was basically a gas can in any role he was put in this year. He was bad as a starter, bad as a reliever and bad as a closer. His 6.09 ERA and 1.74 WHIP were pretty horrific, but he only threw 78 1/3 innings. Nieve went 3-6 and somehow managed to get six saves. I can't imagine we'll be seeing him again in the KBO.
S: I would have to give this one to Ken Kadokura. With pretty much the best defense in the league behind him, he still went a very mediocre 5-6, 4.07. In comparison, the other foreigners on this year's championship Samsung team Justin Germano and Doug Mathis went 5-1, 2.78 and 5-2, 2.52 respectively. If Kadokura had pitched better, he would have pitched and probably won the Korean Series two years in a row with two different teams. At 38, 2011 was probably Ken's swan song.