KBO’s 2018 MVP emerges as favorite for Golden GloveThe reigning Korean baseball MVP Kim Jae-hwan is in pursuit of another major trophy to add to his mantelpiece.
Kim earned the MVP award in November after leading the KBO with 44 home runs and 133 RBIs in 139 games. It was the first MVP honors for the 30-year-old in his eighth season. Kim was also among the leaders in other categories, including on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits and batting average.
The left fielder won his first and only Golden Glove in 2016. Golden Gloves are always given to three outfielders, regardless of their positions.
Votes - cast by baseball writers, broadcasters and analysts - will be accepted from 10 a.m. Monday to 5 p.m. Friday, and the winners will be announced during the awards ceremony in Seoul at 5:30 p.m. on the following Monday.
A total of 97 players have been nominated for this year’s Golden Glove Award.
Despite the name’s connotation, Golden Gloves have been usually presented to players who put up the best offensive and pitching numbers, instead of the best defensive players. In addition to the nine fielding positions, the KBO also hands out Golden Gloves to designated hitters. League leaders in major offensive and pitching categories all earned automatic nominations.
In 2017, the KBO started adding defensive innings played to the qualifying criteria, expanding the pool of nominees and somewhat bringing defensive contributions into consideration.
Position players must have either led the league in at least one offensive category or have appeared in their fielding position for at least 720 innings.
Pitchers must have met the minimum number of innings to qualify for the ERA title, 144, or, in relief pitchers’ case, must have recorded at least 10 wins, 30 saves or 30 holds.
For the designated hitter (DH) category, all players who appeared as DH in at least two-thirds of the minimum 297 at-bats qualify for the batting title and were automatically nominated.
Right-hander Josh Lindblom, Kim’s teammate on the Bears who finished second in the MVP voting, will try to win his first career Golden Glove: he topped the league this season in ERA, at 2.88 and finished tied for second in wins, at 15.
Since the KBO opened the doors for foreign players in 1998, five import pitchers have won the Golden Glove.
Nexen Heroes’ first baseman Park Byung-ho, third in the MVP race, will go for his fourth Golden Glove and his first since 2014.
Park won three Golden Gloves in a row, from 2012 to 2014. He spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons with the Minnesota Twins.
After rejoining the Heroes in 2018, Park, the 2012 and 2013 regular season MVP, didn’t miss a beat: he led the league in on-base, at .457, and slugging percentage, at .718, and finished just one home run behind Kim Jae-hwan with 43 despite playing in just 113 due to injuries.
Free agent catcher Yang Eui-ji, an All-Star for the Bears, is a favorite to win his fourth Golden Glove. Considered the KBO’s most complete backstop, Yang enjoyed his most productive offensive season - he was second in both batting average, at .358, and on-base percentage, at .427 - while playing his usually stout defense behind the plate. Yang led the KBO by throwing out 37.8 percent of would-be base stealers and committed just three errors.
By having the best season of his career, Yang is expected to become the KBO’s highest paid catcher.
The Bears and the Kia Tigers have nominees in all 10 positions. The Bears and the LG Twins tied for the most number of nominees with 13 apiece.