If we hadn’t invested $15.2 billion last winter, we could have had another disastrous season. Of course, this is not to say that the situation is good. At this rate, the team’s 5 percent winning percentage could collapse at any moment.
Doosan has done a good job of rebuilding its lineup ahead of this season. It started with the signing of free agent catcher Max Er Yang-ji to a 4+2 year, 15.2 billion won deal, the most expensive in history. Yang played for the NC Dinos from 2019 to last year, where he was a consistent No. 4 hitter who hit .305 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs each year. While Yang’s individual stats are a plus for Doosan, the team also had high hopes for the synergy between the existing center fielders Kim Jae-hwan and Yang Suk-hwan.
Starting with the appointment of Lee Seung-yeop, the “national hitter,” as the head coach, the team also brought in Hansu Kim and Koji Goto as hitting coaches. Kim built the Samsung Lions’ batting lineup during the dynasty, and Goto was the batting coach for the 2018 season, Doosan’s golden era, so he had a lot of trust with the players. During the final camp in October last year, Lee Jung-hoon, the manager of the second team, was also present to help develop the hitting prospects. It was clear that the team would not be able to escape the nightmare of last year’s ninth-place finish unless new faces appeared to revitalize the existing batting lineup.
A little over two months into the season. The situation with the Doosan batting lineup is even worse than expected. That’s not surprising, since Yang is the only one who is making a living. Yang is batting .321 (60-for-187) on the season, which ranks fifth in the league. He’s the only hitter on the team in the top 30.
Doosan is the only one of the 10 teams with a team hitter in the top 30. Even Samsung and Hanwha, which currently have lower team batting averages than Doosan, have four and two batters in the top 30, respectively. If Doosan hadn’t acquired Yang Ji Hyun for 15.2 billion won before the season, the top 30 might have been wiped out.
The main hitters who are supposed to share Yang’s burden have not stepped up at all. Kim Jae-hwan is the No. 4 hitter who received a four-year, $15.5 billion contract from Doosan ahead of the 2022 season, but since May, he’s been batting anywhere from No. 5 to No. 8 because he’s not hitting well enough. He’s batting .261 (49-for-188) on the season, last among the team’s five regulars. He’s batted second in the last two games for a change of pace, and it’s served its purpose, going 4-for-8, but it’s hard to keep him there. As Yang enters his late 30s, it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to continue to play both catcher and bat fourth, so Jae-hwan will have to share the load.
Yang was on a roll through April, blasting six home runs, but he cooled off in May. In June, he had just four RBIs in 15 games. His batting average has dropped to .200 in his last 10 games. Jung Soo-bin (.276) and Heo Kyung-min (.270) are usually more defensive players, but Heo’s batting average has dropped to the low teens in his last 10 games, which is troubling.
The biggest problem is foreign hitter Jose Rojas, who isn’t even in the first team right now. After batting .205 (32-for-156) with 10 home runs and 안전놀이터 26 RBIs in 49 games, he’s spending some time in the second team rebuilding. He has the power to clear the fence once he gets going, which is why he cost $1 million, but his ability to make contact is so poor that he needs to make adjustments. If Rojas doesn’t make a difference when he finishes his secondary rebuild, things get a little grimmer.
Almost as bad as the lack of production from the leadoff hitters is the disappearance of pollinator baseball. Let’s face it, it’s hard to carry a full season with a lineup that’s now in their mid-to-late 30s, and they need younger players in their 20s to lift the team’s spirits with crazy performances to ease the physical strain.
The opportunity itself has gone to a myriad of players. Lee used the word “infinite competition” to call on the youngsters to step up. Lee Yoo-chan (55 games), Kang Seung-ho (45 games), Park Kye-beom (31 games), Ahn Jae-seok (20 games), and Kim Min-hyuk (16 games) were called up to the infield, while Cho Su-hyun (52 games), Yang Chan-yeol (33 games), Song Seung-hwan (29 games), Kim Dae-dae (15 games), and Hong Seong-ho (8 games) were called up to the outfield. While there are some players who have shown flashes of brilliance, no one has really earned the title of starter here. Ahn Jae-seok and outfielder Kim In-tae haven’t even been able to play to their full potential due to injuries.
Lee Yoo-chan, who has gotten the most starts, has had some fitness issues in his first full season and is often shaky in the air. It’s encouraging to see that Park Kye-beom and Kang Seung-ho, both of whom have full-time experience, have found their pace recently, but it’s hard to say if they will continue to shine until the end of the season.
Given the state of the batting lineup, the team has been playing the player with the best batting average at each position lately, unless they’re sick, and it’s troubling that they’re getting away from the defense whenever they do.
In the golden era, there was a solid lineup of Heo Kyung-min, Kim Jae-ho, Jae-won, and Jae-il in the infield and Kim Jae-hwan, Jung Soo-bin, and Park Geon-woo in the outfield. But not anymore. Last year and this year, the shortstop is Mu Joo-gong-san, and the second baseman and right fielder are still without a master. With a lineup that changes every now and then, defensive stability is hard to come by, and one mistake can lead to a chain of mistakes. We can’t force a starter, and we don’t have the players to do so. That’s why Doosan has 30 wins, 30 losses, and one draw, a 5 percent winning percentage and a fifth-place finish, but every game is uneasy. The 5 percent chance of winning is also a good thing.