Korean slugger needs time to prove himself in JapanCharlie Brown hit his first home run on August 6, 1993. I haven’t seen him hit another one since then, but maybe I just missed it. Lee Seung-yeob hit a home run on Tuesday, but it came after a stint in the Japanese minors, and there is no telling when he will succeed in hitting his next one.
Actually, hitting home runs isn’t his biggest problem. Just putting the ball into play has become a priority for Lee. A batting average that hovers around .200 has left many fans in his home country baffled.
Korean fans are notorious for having a short fuse. Internet polls and surveys (not that they are trustworthy) indicate a public that has grown increasingly frustrated; they have already started to accuse Lee of damaging the national pride.
PLEASE. This has to stop. Nobody said that playing in Japan would be a picnic. As I have pointed out before, so far only one Korean player has had any success in Japan. Seon Dong-yeol is about the only Korean player to leave a mark. He became the Junichi Dragons’ closer in 1996, retiring in 1999 with 95 saves in his last three years with the Dragons. But even he had a rough first year.
People! This is baseball we are talking about. The pitcher has all the advantages and seven guys behind him; the batter is always fighting an uphill battle.
Simple factoid (but seldom recognized): If a pitcher allows a batter three hits in 10 at-bats, the batter gets a pat on his shoulder because that is a .300 batting average, which is pretty good. Add to this fact that Lee is playing in a foreign league well known for its tendency to squeeze foreign players. He deserves at least a year before being judged.
I still believe Lee got a fair offer from the Dodgers and talking to Mr. Ahn, the Dodgers’ scout supervisor in Korea, I am even more convinced and feel deep regret that Lee didn’t take the deal.
But what is done is done. Lee had nothing left to prove here, but he still wanted to play in the majors so he opted for the next best choice. Can anyone blame him? I think not. He took a risk, and he is now learning how the game is played in Japan.
Lee did a decent job in his three weeks stint in the Japanese minor leagues. A .300 batting average, three home runs and 12 RBIs in 40 at-bats proved that he is not far from the next level.
Now, as for his possible move to the outfield, I would not be too worried had it not been for his own admission that he does not feel comfortable with the position. He doesn’t have the legs to cover a lot of ground in the outfield, not to mention that he played the position only briefly in 1996.
A couple of defensive mistakes chipping away at his confidence would influence his batting even more. For a batter that loves to concentrate on the battle with the pitcher, and feast on them by working the count in his favor, that’s bad news.
But with the Chiba Lotte Marines’ situation, it may be the only way to get into the lineup and get some regular playing time. For now, patience is needed. Everyone needs to remember that the Japanese baseball league has a couple more decades of history behind it compared to the Korean league.
by Brian Lee
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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