Lions five-in-a-row was worth the wait
The Lions confirmed their 2015 KBO League title on Saturday after beating Nexen Heroes 1-0 at Mokdong Baseball Stadium in Seoul, while No.2 NC Dinos lost to SK Wyverns 4-3 in Incheon on the same day.
The result on Saturday gave the Lions two games ahead of the Dinos in the league standings. Since both teams play their final game of the season on Monday, the Lions automatically clinched the top place in 190 days after the new season started.
The Lions have not been a dominating team this season as they had to go through a tight race to the end, but the team performed best when they were up against their closest competitors.
This season, the Lions were 11-5 against No. 2 Dinos and the No. 3 Doosan Bears, while going 9-7 against the No. 4 Nexen Heroes. The Lions’ winning percentage marks .646 against these top three clubs, which is even higher than the team’s winning percentage of .608 in the entire season.
Compared to their last four seasons, the Lions had the best head-to-head record against second to fourth place teams this year.
In 2011, the Lions had a .564 winning percentage against competitors, followed by a .500 winning percentage. In 2013, the team was worse than the year before, marking .479 with 23 wins, 24 losses and one draw against second to fourth place teams. Last year, the Lions were .563 against the other top three clubs.
The Lions haven’t signed free agent (FA) players from other clubs since 2005. Instead, they have focused on raising future talent from their own farm which saw young players perform their best and collaborate with veterans this season. In particular, rookie Koo Ja-wook went .349 batting average with 11 home runs and 57 RBIs in 116 games to rise as the top contender for the KBO Rookie of the Year award.
The Lions will now directly advance to the Korean Series, where they will be looking to set a new KBO record in most consecutive championship titles.
The Lions are currently tied with Haitai Tigers (now KIA Tigers) to win the most consecutive Korean Series titles at four.
The Tigers won the championship ring from 1986 to 1989. During that time, the Tigers won the regular season title in 1988.
The Lions have won the last four Korean Series titles in addition to their regular season titles. If they win this year’s championship series, it will be their eighth Korean Series title.
Meanwhile, the SK Wyverns have sealed fifth position in the league to join the post season as a wildcard.
The Wyverns finished the regular season at 69 wins, 73 losses and two draws, but their final standing was pending because of No. 6 KIA Tigers who needed to win all three of their remaining games to get the wildcard.
However, the Tigers on Sunday fell to the Bears 9-0 at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul and missed their chance to play in the post season. For the Bears, the victory secured third place and forced the Heroes to play against the Wyverns in the wildcard series.?
BY JOO KYUNG-DON [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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