- Substitute Wilkerson earns first career start
- Barnes secures second straight 10-win season
- National duo Park Se-woong and Na Kyun-an are also strong
- Han Hyun-hee and Lee In-bok need to revive next year
The Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) have done a good job with their starting lineup this season. Their set starting rotation worked well without any major disruptions, and their ERA was good enough to rank third in the league. However, there was a gap of five starters who were unable to find a protagonist throughout the season, which will be an urgent task ahead of next season.
This year, Lotte’s starting pitching staff ranked among the top in various metrics. Their ERA of 3.83 is third, behind Doosan (3.64) and NC (3.76). They’ve also done well in innings pitched (769 – 2nd), runs allowed (327 – 4th), and wins (42 – 6th). However, his strikeout (279 – 3rd best) and walk (51 – 1st best) rates are high, so he needs to work on his command.
In terms of performance, the most notable addition to the rotation was late-season acquisition Aaron Wilkerson. In 13 games, Wilkerson went 7-2 with a 2.26 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in 13 starts as a replacement for former No. 1 starter Dan Straily. Notably, all but two of his starts were quality starts. He also spearheaded Lotte’s third team no-hitter in KBO history. Some have suggested that the team would have fared better if they had replaced Stratley with Wilkerson earlier, as he has struggled this season with a 3-5 record and a 4.37 ERA.
Another foreign pitcher, Charlie Barnes, was healthy for the second straight season, winning 10 or more games. Barnes had a shaky first half of the year, with a “fountain of youth” pitching style. However, he rebounded perfectly in the second half with a 2.05 ERA, raising the possibility that he could stick around.
Among the homegrown starters, Na Gyun-an and Park Se-woong did their jobs well, and it’s especially encouraging to see that Na Gyun-an, who played the role of a ‘cog’ between the bullpen and the starting rotation last year, has settled in perfectly as the fourth starter. In the month of April, when all of the starters were struggling, Na made five starts, going 4-0 with a 1.34 ERA. Afterward, he had a brief lull as his pitching patterns were read, but he was granted military service through the Hangzhou Asian Games, raising hopes for a breakout season next year.
Park Se-woong, the “Glasses Ace,” fell short of 10 wins for the third straight season with nine. However, he did manage to post the lowest ERA of his career. In 27 starts this year, Park posted a 3.45 ERA, the lowest since his debut. However, his strikeouts (59) have nearly doubled from last year (32), so he will need to work on his command.안전놀이터
The biggest hole in Lotte’s starting rotation is the fifth spot, which was originally held by Han Hyun-hee. After signing a 3+1 year deal worth up to 4 billion won (300 million in signing bonus, 1.5 billion in guaranteed salary, and 2.2 billion in options), Han went 4-10 with a 5.11 ERA in 18 starts.
If Han doesn’t rebound next year, the fifth starter spot will likely go to Shim Jae-min. Shim, who joined Lotte via trade midseason, was primarily used in the bullpen, but showed promise in six starts, going 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA.
Kim Jin-wook, who had a “sparkling” start to the season, and Lee In-bok, the fourth starter who returned from injury, could also be in the running for the fifth spot if they can rebound.