Sajik gets more pitcher friendly as Giants focus on small ball
Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan has been transformed into a pitcher-friendly ballpark over the offseason, with the Lotte Giants moving home plate back and raising the outfield walls to cut down on the number of home runs.
Over the last three months, home plate at Sajik has been moved back 2.884 meters (9 feet, 5.54 inches) to increase the distance to the outfield wall. As a result, the distance from the plate to the wall along the left and right sides of the field have increased from 95 meters to 95.8 meters and the distance to the center of the outfield has increased from 118 meters to 120.5 meters.
The height of the outfield wall has also been adjusted, raising from 4.8 meters to 6 meters.
To make room for the changes, the bullpens have been moved from the outfield to the infield, taking the spots behind first and third plate where the "Exciting Zone" seats used to be.
The new Sajik measurements still make it a significantly smaller ballpark than the league's biggest field: Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul, home of the Doosan Bears and LG Twins. Jamsil boasts 125 meters from home plate to center field and 100 meters down the line to both left and right.
Gocheok Sky Dome in western Seoul, Changwon NC Dinos Park in Changwon, South Gyeongsang and Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu all also boast far larger fields, at roughly 122 meters to center field.
But the changes should still move Sajik far closer to the league average. The Busan stadium has consistently seen more home runs per season than the league average, a problem for the Giants, who are not a big-hitting team.
Considering those numbers, making it harder to hit home runs at Sajik makes sense. Rather than attempting to reinvent the club's game, the Giants have instead opted to push any visiting teams toward their style of small ball baseball.
"There are not that many big hitters on the team," Giants General Manager Sung Min-kyu was quoted as saying by the JoongAng Ilbo. "Only one or two players are likely to hit more than 20 home runs. On the other hand, our pitchers, especially the bullpen, are good. We decided that creating a low-scoring environment would help our team."
Lotte's focus on small ball baseball is also evident in their offseason recruitment. The Giants brought in former major leaguer DJ Peters on a one-year deal worth up to $680,000. Rather than the older sluggers that often make their way from the majors to the KBO, Peters is a young, agile outfielder well fitted to the station-to-station baseball the Giants are looking for.
BY JIM BULLEY AND KIM HYO-KYUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]