New faces on track for top stats in KBOThe race is heating up for individual titles in Korea’s pro-baseball league, such as this year’s home-run or strike-out king. And with only one month of the regular season left, newcomers are posing a serious threat to familiar faces.
Each of the eight clubs within the one-league Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) have already played over 100 games, and they have about 20 to go until the start of the postseason.
But things have not exactly been going according to the script. Seoul Doosan Bears and Incheon SK Wyverns, the two favorites for this season’s title, are practically out of the running. Similarly, the top contenders for the individual titles are no longer the defending holders, many of whom have been underperforming.
If the race for the individual accolades had ended on Monday, 10 of the 14 titles would already be in new hands.
Busan Lotte Giants’ first baseman Lee Dae-ho, 29, claimed seven of the eight offensive titles last season but is now on track for only three: RBIs (94), most hits (148) and batting average (.349). And he could be forced to surrender the latter in only two bad games as Kia Tigers outfielder Lee Yong-kyu is snapping at his heels and is only .005 behind.
In other offensive categories, new faces are eyeing the various crowns. In terms of home runs and slugging percentages, Daegu Samsung Lions outfielder Choi Hyung-woo has surpassed Lee Dae-ho, while Lee’s teammate Jeon Jun-woo holds the lead in runs. The Tigers’ Lee Bum-ho has taken charge of the on-base percentage.
For stolen bases, Bears’ infielder Oh Jae-won is set to beat four-year defending champion Lee Dae-hyung of Seoul LG Twins. As of Monday, he was leading Lee by eight.
In pitching, Tigers’ starter Yoon Suk-min is aiming for a triple crown. The 25-year-old right-hander is currently leading in wins (15), ERA (2.33) and strikeouts (156). If Yoon maintains his lead, he will become the first triple crown winner since Hanwha Eagles’ left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin in 2006.
For saves, Lions’ closer Oh Seung-hwan has almost sealed the deal. The 29-year-old became the youngest and fastest pitcher to collect 200 saves in the history of the KBO last month. As of Monday, Oh had 38 saves - 22 more than second-placed Song Shin-young.
But for holds, the Lions’ Jung Hyun-wook and Lee Sang-yul of the Twins are neck-and-neck at 18 apiece.
By Kim Dong-hwan [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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