Unlike the evaluation, ‘2022 Lotte’, which was evaluated as mid-low in terms of objective power, performed well on the leaderboard until the middle of the season. On May 15th, Lotte’s ranking was 3rd, and since July, it was selected as a representative team pursuing KIA, which had been holding the 5th place.
However, it did not make it to the top 5 in the end. It’s because you couldn’t get past the hurdle. I should have been on the flow with a long winning streak, but when I tried, I often collapsed with clumsy play. In the end, Lotte, which was far from 5th place, lost motivation and finished the season in 8th place. The win rate was rather worse than in 2021.
Lotte Baseball has a view that “it’s scary once you get on the momentum.” This is not only the perspective of baseball fans, but also the evaluation of the rest of the clubs who face Lotte directly on the field. However, there is also a critical view that “the flow cannot be continued for a long time”. The appearance of plays that baffled fans and disrupted the flow was revealed last year as well.
In fact, Lotte had an important factor to drag the fight for 5th place longer, and actually fought for 5th place until the middle of the season. It was a team with veteran hitters holding weight relatively well, and young players sporadically showed their talents. Above all, the most important mound in long-term races was on the side of strength. However, there was a strong tendency that the defense could not support this. He was also weak in detailed plays such as misses on base run.안전놀이터
In fact, Lotte’s team ERA last year was 4.47, which was 6th in the league. Looking at it this far, it doesn’t seem like a very strong team. However, the defense-independent ERA (FIP), which mainly measures the pitcher’s unique ability, was 3.61, which was second in the league following kt (3.54). The fact that the gap between ERA and FIP was so large was clearly an indicator that water was leaking in other parts.
In the first questionable defense, Lotte was at the bottom of the league. There were many mistakes, especially at the crucial moment. In a situation where veteran players are deployed all over the batting order, there was not much to expect from running base, which is the basis of the strategy. Byeongsalta was the most common in the league, and in the end, it was common to reduce expected points by relying on sacrifice bunts.
In that respect, the investment this offseason seems quite meaningful. Basically, in order to lead the team mound for a long time, a non-FA multi-year contract was signed with local ace Park Se-woong for a total of 9 billion won for 5 years. And the center line, which was a chronic disease of the team, was also reinforced. Yoo Kang-nam (4 years, 8 billion won) and Noh Jin-hyeok (4 years, 5 billion won) were part of the effort to make up for this. I could feel the will to strengthen the defense as well as the hitting reinforcement. The direction itself of Lotte, which endured and persevered for a long time, was right.
However, the recruitment of two players cannot solve everything. Both Yoo Kang-nam and Noh Jin-hyuk are not in a situation where they can give 100% confidence in defense, and even if that is the case, the defense is not done with only two players. The team can function only when there is a ‘plus alpha’, such as third base and corner outfield guarded by Han Dong-hee, and second base by Ahn Chi-hong, who is a year older.
Lotte, who has been in the lower ranks for a long time and has gathered promising players well. Lotte’s prospects clearly showed a sparkling appearance in the attack. However, there are a lot of question marks left in defense. Again, tangible results are required so that the team can draw a long-term picture. On the other hand, attention is also focused on the color of the team that coach Sutton, who is in his third year with the first team, will draw. The puzzle pieces are quite large now. Now, Lotte, which will be a failure if it is not ranked above 5th, is expected to be a major factor in shaking the KBO League game in 2023.