KIA, which is still in sixth place and has yet to regain its five-win percentage, reversed its slide with a 6-4 record in the second half of the season. Securing the winner-take-all series against Samsung in a three-game series in Pohang from January 1-3 was a welcome respite.
With Na Sung-beom and Kim Do-young both back from injury, the batting lineup is nearing full strength. One of the best hitting teams in the league last year, KIA returned to form in the second half of the season, posting a team batting average of .292 and a team OPS of .818 in the final 10 games. It was a positive sign that the team’s confidence was growing as they realized that even if they were losing, they could always turn it around. This was the case on the 3rd against Pohang Samsung Electronics. The batting lineup, which scored 12 runs, is certainly encouraging.
However, there is also a cause for concern. The bullpen is showing signs of exhaustion. The KIA bullpen, which boasted of having stronger ‘depth’ with the addition of promising resources before the season, certainly did its job in the first half. It’s even more positive when you consider that key bullpen arms like Jeong Hae-young, Jeon Sang-hyun, and Kim Ki-hoon were sent down to the second team to adjust their performances and stayed there for quite some time.
In total, the KIA bullpen threw 289 innings in 76 games in the first half, posting a 3.27 ERA. That was a league-leading performance, much better than the league average bullpen ERA (4.11) during that time, and it wasn’t just a fluke. The bullpen’s .238 first-half batting average was also second in the league.
With the departure of Jung Hae-young and the struggles of their trusted relievers, the team could have fallen apart, but Im Ki-young and Choi Ji-min stood out. Im Ki-young pitched a whopping 51 innings in 33 games, posting a 2.65 ERA, while Choi Ji-min also pitched 42⅓ innings in 33 games, posting a 1.70 ERA.
However, there were concerns that the team was relying heavily on certain players and rotating them in and out of situations without clearly defined roles for the closer and chaser. In fact, while Lim Ki-young pitched 51 innings and Choi Ji-min 42⅓ innings, all other players pitched less than 30 innings. Only Jeon Sang-hyun (27⅔ innings) pitched more than 25 innings. Stamina management has been a variable, and it’s showing in the second half. Clearly, the KIA bullpen is getting tired.
Through three days, the KIA bullpen has a 5.23 ERA in 10 games in the second half. In terms of ERA alone, the best bullpen in the first half has fallen to sixth in the league and is performing below average (4.49). While we don’t have a large enough sample size for the second half, Choi Ji-min’s performance has dropped significantly, and Lee Joon-young and Jang Hyun-sik, who were once frequently called upon in the first half, are not immune to the decline. Jung Hae-young, who has been reassigned to the closer role, is also reluctant to show any signs of anxiety.
With a roadmap to get back to 5 wins and a return to the top five, KIA has little time to spare compared to the top teams. It’s an all-out battle to win every game. With more close games, bullpen pitchers are being used more than in the first half. KIA is using 5.3 pitchers per game in the second half, second only to Samsung (5.75). This is because of the shortened innings.
Lim Ki-young, who has been the most reliable player, has appeared in seven of the team’s 10 games in the second half, while Jeon Sang-hyun has also appeared in seven games. Jung Hae-young, Choi Ji-min, and Lee Jun-young have also appeared in more than half of the team’s matches with six appearances. Conversely, Kim Ki-hoon played one game and Jang Hyun-sik played three. In this case, it’s inevitable that certain players will continue to get tired.스포츠토토
When they get tired, their pitches drop, and when their pitches drop, they can’t stabilize their innings, so they have to change pitchers again to win games, and when the bullpen pitchers are traveling more frequently, they get tired again, creating a vicious cycle. With so many games canceled due to rain in the first half of the season, we have the most KIAs in the league. The potential for a tired bullpen to be a big factor in the end of the season continues to grow.
To save your bullpen, you need your starters to pitch well and your offense to get on base early, and KIA has both of those things in place. The starters aren’t pitching that many innings, and the bats are hitting well. So the bullpen jitters are not unusual right now. If the vicious cycle isn’t broken soon, the stamina issues will snowball and come back to haunt KIA. Here’s what the KIA coaching staff thinks is the answer.