Park Chan-ho’s gap is so big, KIA exposes loopholes while playing both offense and defense

 KIA Tigers showed lethargic performance and fell into a quagmire of 4 consecutive losses. Coincidentally, they have not achieved a single win since the departure of starting infielder Park Chan-ho.안전놀이터

KIA lost 3-8 in the 14th game of the season against the Doosan Bears of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League held at Gwangju-KIA Champions Field on the 17th. The season record was 60 wins, 2 draws, and 56 losses (0.517), and the team ranking went down one level from 4th to 5th.

KIA is in the process of forming its infield without Park Chan-ho starting against the Gwangju Lotte Giants on the 13th. Chan-Ho Park suffered a finger ligament injury while sliding headfirst to first base in the game against the Samsung Lions in Daegu on the 12th, making it difficult for him to hit normally. He was not left out of the entry, but there is no situation in which he can be utilized unless he appears as a pinch runner late in the game.

This season, Park Chan-ho appeared in 115 games and recorded 125 hits in 414 at-bats, a batting average of 0.302, 3 home runs, 48 ​​RBIs, and 29 stolen bases. Until his injury, he seemed capable of playing in all games. However, it was all in vain due to injury, and both the team and myself are frustrated with the current situation.

Before the Doosan game on the 17th, KIA coach Kim Jong-guk expressed regret over the narrowed scope of use, saying, “It seems like Park Chan-ho is protesting in front of him (to be sent out to the game), but the situation is not favorable.” Everyone knows that Park Chan-ho is a player the team needs, but since his physical condition is not perfect, it is realistically difficult to force him to participate in the game.

In the end, the club, which had to find an alternative as third baseman Kim Do-young moved to shortstop, gave Choi Jeong-yong a chance after his injury, but entrusted Byun Woo-hyuk with the hot corner in the game against Doosan on the 17th. Byun Woo-hyuk, who started as the 8th batter and third baseman, did his best in batting with 2 hits in 4 at-bats, but showed uncertainty in defense. In the top of the 3rd inning, with 2 outs and runners on first base, he failed to catch Kim Jae-ho’s ordinary grounder and made a catching error, and follow-up hitter Yang Seok-hwan’s timely 1-run hit ultimately resulted in a run.

Kim Do-young, whose batting order was adjusted to number 1 along with the position change, felt more pressure. Manager Kim said, “Although he lacks experience, I hope he just fights well with the pitcher without worrying about the batting order,” and expected Kim Do-young’s efforts. However, Kim Do-young had performed poorly in the previous two games with a total of no hits in seven at-bats, and remained silent on this day with no hits in five at-bats. In five at-bats, he had two scoring opportunities, which resulted in double plays and strikeouts, respectively. 

In particular, Kim Do-young ended the inning by hitting a double play with one out and runners on first and second base in the bottom of the second inning when the game was tied 1-1, pouring cold water on the team’s atmosphere. In the top of the sixth inning, with two outs, he missed Park Jun-young’s ground ball and was unable to end the inning. As a result, KIA’s left infield was bound to become looser than when Park Chan-ho was there, and there were bound to be frequent scenes where quick-footed players such as Jo Soo-haeng and Su-bin Jeong shook their opponents with bunts or infield ground balls. In the game on the 15th, fielders were often seen struggling.

The team’s situation is too urgent to just wait for Park Chan-ho’s recovery. If this continues, it is difficult to guarantee not only a return to 4th place, but even maintaining 5th place. It remains to be seen whether KIA, which has taken on the task of Park Chan-ho’s absence, will find a breakthrough.

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