Here’s the scoop on the Korean SeriesUnlike their parent company, which is entangled in a bribery scandal, the SK Wyverns are gaining accolades. Here is a team that plays with heart, looking for its first Korean Series title since being formed in 2000. SK is facing the No. 1 regular-season team, the Hyundai Unicorns, who have gotten plenty of rest since their last game on Sept. 29 as they awaited an opponent for the championship.
Just looking at the stats, the big bad boy in this year’s Korean Series is Hyundai, headed by skipper Kim Jae-bak. The “fox” has three postseason appearances under his belt and a knack for calling the right plays when it counts. SK’s skipper Cho Beom-hyun is a greenhorn, not only in postseason but as the team chief. Despite this, he has guided the crew surprisingly well through the postseason ― when a coach’s decisions matter most ― and his competency cannot be questioned.
Here is a list of players to watch and other assorted observations you might want to keep in mind when tuning in to the Korean Series:
Kim Dong-su, 35, Hyundai Unicorns (.308 batting average, 16 HR, 68 RBI): This is a guy who has been shipped from team to team, four trades in three years. Many thought he was done, but Kim succeeded in turning around his career. He is pumped up to play the team that gave him the boot last season.
Park Gyeong-wan, 31, (.250 batting average, 15 HR, 60 RBI): Played last year for Hyundai, became a free agent after the season and signed a three-year 1.9 billion won ($1.6 million) contract with SK.
Chung Min-tae, 32, Hyundai Unicorns: Chung is having the best year of his career, with a 17-2 record. After failing to settle down in Japan for two years, Chung disproved his doubters this year. He is not done yet.
Shane Bowers, 32, Hyundai Unicorns: With Chung, provides the Unicorns’ one-two punch, with a 13-4 record and 3.01 ERA.
Cho Woong-cheon, 24, Hyundai (1.97 ERA): Had the most saves, 28, last year as a rookie and showed similar success during this season with 26 saves.
Cho Yong-jun, 32, SK (3.52 ERA): A blue-collar type pitcher who started with the Taepyeongyang practice squad (now the Bingrae Eagles) in 1990. Also played for Hyundai from ‘96 to ‘00. At 30 saves, he leads the category this season.
1. Eighty percent of teams that have won the first game of the Korean Series ended up with the crown.
2. Since the current playoff system went into place, over 12 seasons the team that finished first in the regular season has clinched the Korean Series.
Prediction: In a four-out-of-seven series, SK will try a committee approach with their pitching staff, which has only one double-digit winner, Chae Chun-mo (10-6). The Wyverns have a chance to ride the momentum of a five-game winning streak in the postseason if they manage to take an early lead. Nonetheless, in the regular season, Hyundai holds the edge with an 11-1-7 record, so I just think Hyundai’s pitching, and a team batting average of .283 versus .260, will overpower SK. Unicorns will take the series in six.
by Brian Lee