The “big three” of the LG Twins, SSG Landers, and Lotte Giants are now clear. The battle for the top three spots is fierce, but the gap between the third- and fourth-place teams is slowly widening.
The 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League is approaching the one-third mark of the regular season, with teams having played 42 to 48 games as of Sept. 29.
The “big three” of LG, SSG, and Lotte remained solid last week. LG and Lotte swept their two series with a 2-1 “winning series,” while SSG went 2-2 due to rain cancellations, but still remained in second place.
LG became the first of the 10 clubs to reach the 30-win plateau after taking a 2-1 lead in the race for first place over SSG and then going 2-1 in a three-game weekend series against the KIA Tigers.
Historically, teams that reach the 30-win mark in the KBO have a 55.6% (20 of 36) chance of winning the regular season, which is just over half the time. Given this, it’s hard to see the significance of a 30-win lead.
However, it’s encouraging to see that they’ve managed to hold onto the lead in a tight race with SSG and Lotte. Two weeks ago, the lead was changing hands on a daily basis, but last week LG held onto the top of the leaderboard for the entire week, including a share of the lead.
A 2-1 head-to-head advantage in the three-game series against SSG was crucial to maintaining their lead.
LG’s strength is its stable starting lineup, led by Casey Kelly and Adam Plutko. In the absence of Lee Min-ho, Im Chan-kyu has filled in nicely.
The bullpen is also stable with rookie Park Myung-geun, despite the loss of closer Ko Woo-seok and set-up man Lee Jung-yong. The outfield is also one of the thickest in the league.
SSG was unfortunate to go 1-2 against LG at home. However, the fact that they won their first game against the Doosan Bears in a blowout and then had a honeyed three-day break when the game was canceled due to rain could help them prepare for this week.
Lotte also continued its upward trend. They added four wins last week, taking two of three games against the NC Dinos and Kiwoom Heroes. The pitching duo of Dan Streeley and Charlie Barnes, who struggled at the beginning of the season, has been revitalized, and ‘April MVP’ Na Kyun-ahn is also healthy.
Most importantly, the offense has been impressive, as the team ranks last in the league in home runs (16), but has been able to score runs through aggressive team batting, sacrifice bunts, and focus at the plate.
However, last week’s finish was a bit disappointing. They had a chance to get a “sweep” against Kiwoom, a team with a slower batting pace, but they gave up five runs in the eighth inning in the final game of the three-game series and lost 5-7. The loss came as a result of closers Kim Won-joong and Goo Seung-min, who would have pitched the eighth inning, being kept on standby for the ninth, which is no small blow for a game they almost had.
With a three-game series against the top-ranked LG starting next week, Lotte will need to regroup and look to jump to the top of the standings.
Outside of the top three, the teams to watch are the two teams at the bottom of the leaderboard, the Hanwha Eagles and KT Wiz. Hanwha went 3-2 last week, and KT went 4-2, both of which were better than 5 percent.
Hanwha, which has been playing fairly steadily since changing managers, took a sweep of 6th-place KIA last week and then went 1-1 against 5th-place NC (game 1 was rained out). With their starting pitching and bullpen having stabilized, the team will be able to ‘make it count’ if the bats continue to perform well.메이저놀이터
Last-place KT is also starting to show signs of life. At one point last week, they were on a four-game winning streak. Wes Benjamin, who had been slumping, started to come back to life, and Go Young-pyo, Uhm Sang-baek, and exclusivity, KT’s biggest strengths, ‘starting baseball’, started to come back to life. Recently, injured players such as Joo Ju-kwon and Kim Min-soo have been returning one by one, so this is a team to keep an eye on in the future.
The rebound of the 9th and 10th place teams has made the 7th place Samsung Lions and 8th place Kiwoom nervous. With only 2.5 games separating them from last-place KT, the standings could flip at any moment.
Kiwoom’s batting hasn’t rebounded particularly well, and they’re facing tough games every week. They did pull off a dramatic comeback in the last game of their three-game series against Lotte, thanks to a walk-off hit by Lim Ji-yeol, but they’ll need their main bats – Lee Jung-hoo, Kim Hye-sung, and Edison Russell – to step up.