No. 3 in 23 years of selection, and 24 years of assignments are harmonized

Lotte Giants’ mound was sluggish in its worst form, with the team’s ERA at the bottom twice in the past five years and tied for 8th once.

However, Lotte’s mound was transformed into third place (3.83 ERA) last year. When looking into detailed records, the team showed excellent performance.

Lotte also ranked second in the league with 769 innings in the 23-year team selection innings category. With 66 quality starts (more than six innings and less than three earned runs), the second-largest number in the league, Lotte has fulfilled its starting duties properly.

Of course, it is true that Lotte’s starting lineup last year was comparable to Doosan, which recorded the best team ERA of 3.64 in the league, or KT, which had the most number of QS+ (less than three earned runs in seven innings) with 38 innings.

However, foreign ace Charlie Barnes took the center stage with 11 wins, 10 losses and 3.28 ERA, and Aaron Wilkerson, who joined during the season, showed a good performance with 7 wins, 2 losses and 2.26 ERA, showing the possibility of becoming the strongest in the league.

In addition, Park Se-woong (9-7, 3.45 ERA) and Na Kyun-an (6-8, 3.80), the starting right-hander duo, also played their part in variables such as Asian Games and injuries, respectively. There were many variables throughout the season, with the two players leaving the starting rotation due to AG transfer and injury. Nevertheless, the starting lineup, which has been the team’s weakness for years, has clearly shown a clear possibility through improved performance.

In fact, the Lotte mound has been very sluggish in the past five years, ranking the lowest in the team’s ERA twice and tying for 8th once. It ranked 10th in 2019 (4.83), 6th in 2020 (4.64), 10th in 2021 (5.37) and tied for 8th in 2022 (4.45), except for one time, all of which were only the lowest in the league. Considering that Lotte’s team’s ERA (5.37) was only eighth in the league in 2018, the team’s mound’s sluggishness was very long.

Of course, there were times when Lotte’s mound was good. In 2017, Lotte ranked third in the league with a team ERA of 4.56, which was a tremendous season for both pitchers. The LG Twins, which ranked first in the league, posted an ERA of 4.30, and the Doosan Bears, ranking second, posted an ERA of 4.38, while the five teams, or half of the teams in the league, had a ERA of around five. Considering that, the recent season when Lotte had the best pitching staff was worth evaluating as 2017 before 2023.

Even earlier than that, Lotte ranked seventh with 5.63 in 2016 and eighth with 5.07 in 2015, and its mound power was close to dark ages.

Of course, there were times when mounding was a strength before that. In 2014, Lotte ranked fourth with a 5.19 ERA, which was not bad compared to the intense pitching and pitching season.

Prior to that, the mound was a solid strength in 2012 and 2013. At that time, Lotte had a 3.48 and 3.93 ERA, respectively, building the team’s mound strength that ranks second in the league. Along with the Samsung Lions (3.39) in 2012 and the LG Twins (3.72) in 2013, the mound was considered the most solid team in the league.

Lotte’s winning percentage was higher than 50 percent in 2012 by ranking fourth (0.512) in the team’s winning percentage and fifth (0.532) in 2013. Of course, Lotte failed to show as much performance as it wanted at the time, as both pitching and hitting were offbeat.

In fact, in 2012, Lotte showed a very good performance, with the team’s ERA of only 3.48, and the starting and relief teams’ ERAs were second, respectively, and the starting and bullpen’s capabilities were also in perfect balance. However, it remained in the middle of the league as it ended up with the worst scoring ability, with the team scoring 509 points tied for the lowest in the league.

The situation is the same in 2013. Lotte was one of the strongest teams in the league, recording second place in ERA, but its OPS was 0.705, ranking eighth in the league. Pitchers have displayed good performance for two consecutive years, but no batters have definitely displayed good performance at bat except for Son Ah-seop (batting average 0.345/OPS 0.895) at the time in 2013. The team lacked slugging capability, with Son Ah-seop and Kang Min-ho tying for first in homers with 11, and Jeon Joon-woo and Hwang Jae-gyun failed to play the role of troubleshooter as well.

It is all the more regrettable considering that in 2010 and 2011, when the team’s mound was not very solid at the mid- to low-ranking level of the league, Lotte showed off its strongest attack in the league thanks to Lee Dae-ho’s heyday, and finished fourth and third, respectively. If Lotte’s performance in 2012 and 2013 was only at the upper-middle level of the league, we can fully expect that Lotte’s performance would have been better at that time.

Since the Lotte mound in 2012 and 2013, when the team’s performance was relatively unremarkable, Lotte showed the greatest mound power in 2023 last year, with the starters at the center.

Expectations are even higher in 2024. Under the new coach Kim Tae-hyung, who is nicknamed “winning coach,” the team’s starting lineup, which was strong last year, will be able to play a full season without any variables such as running for an international competition or injury.

Earlier, Lotte had some ups and downs, but re-signed with the foreign one-two punch duo of Barnes and Wilkerson. In addition, Park Se-woong and Na Kyun-an will be able to play a full-time season without any variables before or during the season, such as transferring to the WBC or Asian Games. If these four starters can get a full start and shake off the regret of their sluggish starting rotation in April last year, Lotte’s victory could be even greater.

In addition, if the search for 5th to 6th starters, which will be the homework for coach Kim Tae-hyung and coaching staff at a time that will lead to spring camps and exhibition games, is carried out properly, it is obvious that Lotte’s expectations for the starting lineup for 24 seasons are greater than last year.

As a result, the key to Lotte’s mound in 2024 will be whether the bullpen, which had been disappointing in terms of the entire season last year, will be able to show as much stability as the starting pitcher. Lotte’s bullpen in the 23rd season ranked eighth in the league with 4.63 ERA, while Blon Save also recorded 21, the third-most (joint) in the league.

However, it was not that the team had a chance. As there were many injured players in the first half of last year and the starting lineup did not start well, the team had a low ERA of 5.37, the lowest in the league. However, the Lotte bullpen showed good performance in the second half of this year, posting 9 wins, 14 losses, 14 saves and an ERA of 3.76, the third-ranked team in the league.

Depending on the performance of Koo Seung-min and Kim Won-joong, a bullpen must-win duo who will become an FA after the end of this season, and what Choi Joon-yong, who suffered from injury, will show, there is a good chance that he will form a perfect balance with the starters who were good last season.

In addition, the key point is what kind of position Shim Jae-min (6 wins, 12 losses, 3 holds, 5.45 ERA), who showed the possibility of starting in the second half of the season after the trade, or Han Hyun-hee (6 wins, 12 losses, 3 holds), who both showed regret as starters and relievers, will be able to perform well. Another factor that can be expected is whether rookie Lee Do-ryu, former Mir, will settle down as a pitcher, and whether rookies such as Chung Hyun-soo will play a surprise role on the mound.


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