Lots of scoring, lots of errors as KBO opens

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Lots of scoring, lots of errors as KBO opens

The Korea Baseball Organization kicked off the 2013 season with a record-high 54 runs during the four opening-day games on Saturday, raising hope that it would be an action-packed season.

To some people, however, the figure bodes ill for the future of Korean baseball, as many of the runs were made due to shaky pitching, errors and unsuccessful tactics, the same elements that combined to produce Korea’s worst performance in last month’s World Baseball Classic.

Including Sunday’s four games, ?pitchers from the eight KBO teams allowed 88 walks or hits by pitch, or 11 per game, over the first two days. Last year, the average was 7.9 per game. A total of 10 ?errors were made over the weekend.

What went wrong for ?Korean baseball?

Above all, many of the pitchers don’t have ?solid ball control. Three grand slam homers were ?hit in four Saturday games, another record-high figure for a KBO opening day, but that was also possible in part due to the pitchers’ lack ?of ball control.

Andruw Jones, a former major leaguer who is playing for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan, represented the Netherlands during the 2013 World Baseball Classic and faced off against Korea and Japan en route to the semifinals of the quadrennial event.

He said that the pitchers’ ball control was the biggest difference between Korean baseball and Japanese baseball. He said that the Team Japan pitchers ?had better overall control and could pitch balls low, but the Team Korea pitchers pitched high.

The bullpens are also shallow. The Eagles allowed 12 runs in two losses to the Giants over the weekend, and six of them were ?given up by their relievers. The Nexen Heroes’ bullpen surrendered eight of 14 runs in two games against the Kia Tigers?.

The Tigers, ?who are considered a favorite to win the 2013 Korean Series title, have relatively deep pitching, but they ?gave up15 runs to the Heroes, five of them by their bullpen pitchers.

Defense is another problem. The SK Wyverns, runners-up of the 2012 Korean Series, have one of the most solid defenses in ?the KBO?, but they lost ?to the LG Twins on Saturday after shortstop Choi Youn-suk missed what would have been an easy double play in the eighth inning.

Choi’s mistake allowed the bases to be loaded, and the Twins’ Park Yong-taik made it ?4-3 with a walk. The Twins’ cleanup hitter, Jeong Seong-hoon, then hit ?Lee Jae-young’s first pitch for a grand slam ??and a 7-4 lead.

The bleak picture is unlikely to change soon because there are few strong rookies to improve the league. The ?2008 Beijing Olympic gold medalists are still playing a central role in many of the nine KBO teams. For the past five consecutive years, the Rookie of the Year award was given to “old rookies,” who turned professional at least a year before making a full-time debut. For example, Seo Geon-chang, 23, an infielder for the Nexen Heroes who won the 2012 Rookie of the Year, made a brief KBO stint with the LG Twins in 2008?.

Managers also lack experience and skills. This year, five of the managers ?have three years of experience or less?.

“We can’t ignore experience for a manager,” said Kim In-sik, head of the KBO technical committee who led Korea to the semifinals or finals in two previous WBC editions. “And the current managers seem to be lacking experience.”

By Han Yong-sup, Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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