“I think it’s a bit unfair to replace a pitcher who just finished a season.”
For a rookie manager, NC Dinos manager Kang Myung-hwa has a keen sense of urgency and determination in the postseason. In fact, in the wild-card deciding game against the Doosan Bears on the 19th, it was a little late to replace starter Tanner Tully. However, his late-game bullpen use has been largely successful.
The first game of the semi-playoffs against the SSG Landers on the 22nd. The introduction of pinch-hitter Kim Sung-wook in the top of the eighth inning, the final two-run blast, and the head-to-head battle with runners on first and second and third in the bottom of the eighth inning, which resulted in only one run, stood out. Even though baseball is strictly a game of results, Kang’s choice was spot-on.
In fact, the biggest question mark hanging over this postseason has been closer Lee Yong-chan. He’s been out of form. However, whenever the topic of Yong-chan comes up, Kang expresses his confidence in him and doesn’t even hint at replacing him.
While Yoo Yong-chan could jeopardize a game or even the entire series, Kang seems to be thinking big. He has faith in his pitchers to give them time to rebound, but he’s also looking to improve team chemistry and more.
Lee Yong-chan has been off-balance since the end of the regular season. He gave up runs in four of the final five games of the regular season. His record in October was 3-1 with a 10.80 ERA, and both his velocity and delivery were off. He’s a veteran closer with 157 career saves, but something was missing.
He gave up three runs on three hits and one walk in 1.1 innings in the wild-card deciding game and two runs on two hits (one homer) with one strikeout in 1.2 innings in Game 1 of the semifinals. He earned a save in both games, but it was with the help of his offense. The two games totaled 2.1 innings and five runs. His ERA was a whopping 19.29.
The answer is to replace a player who is not performing well in the short season. In the regular season, you can wait, but in the postseason, waiting is a losing proposition. It’s not like there are no alternatives. NC’s Kim Young-kyu and Ryu Jin-wook pitched well in the postseason. Ryu gave up only one run in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the semifinals with runners on second and third.
The NC bats have been clicking in the first two games of the postseason, but it’s unlikely they’ll continue to do so. Eventually, there will come a time when Lee will be called upon to close out a nail-biting one-run game. With his recent form, his chances of making the save are somewhat slim.
Nevertheless, Kang has faith. Instead, he has a solution. Ahead of the wild-card game, he said, “I got my pitches back. My pitches have gotten monotonous, so I feel like they’re being read by hitters. I want to utilize my slider and curveball more, which I threw at the beginning of the season.” If your fastball isn’t working, go with a changeup.
On the one hand, Kang’s trust is understandable. Of course, he has Plan B, such as Ryu Jin-wook, but if he shakes up a position that has been established for a whole season, and other pitchers are shaken up as well, the mound could become more dangerous. Just because the setup men are doing well now doesn’t mean they’ll do well when they’re called upon to close. Closing is a tough position. They may have decided that it’s better to wait for Yong-chan to recover.
Another is that Yong-chan is the best pitcher on the staff. Rather than shake up the position of the most 토토 senior member of the pitching staff, you can also expect the tangible and intangible chemistry effect in the dugout that can be achieved by trusting him. It’s not an easy equation for Lee Yong-chan or manager Kang Kwon-ho. It is true that it seems uneasy. If Yong-chan fails, we’ll have to wait and see how Kang handles it.