The withdrawal from the Hangzhou Asian Games may have a bigger impact than you think. With key players missing, what are the ‘favorite’ coaches planning?
It’s the start of the second half of the season. After the All-Star break, the KBO’s 10 clubs will have time to regroup and begin the second half of the season on April 21. We’re already past the pennant race turnaround point. The second half of the season is the point where every manager has to pick up the pace.안전놀이터
The race for the title is a two-way battle between LG Twins and SSG Landers. SSG has faltered a bit recently, and while the Doosan Bears’ nine-game winning streak has moved them up to third place, the gap has narrowed somewhat, but it’s still not a gap that can be closed in the short term. As of the first half of the season, LG is in first place with a 2.5-game lead over second-place SSG, and SSG has a four-game lead over third-place Doosan. While there are no guarantees, the overwhelming prediction is that these two teams will fight for the title all the way to the end.
The biggest factor in the race is the Asian Games. The Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, kicked off on September 23 and will conclude on October 8. The baseball team, led by Ryu Jung-il, will also convene in mid-September, just before the games begin. Luckily, the team will be in the middle of their season, so they won’t have to worry about match fitness, and they’ll be able to get into the swing of things after training.
However, there is a lot of worry for the teams. The KBO will not be taking a break during the Asian Games. This is an extraordinary measure as the league’s competitiveness in international competitions is under scrutiny. However, the absence of key players means that teams will have to fight for positions at the end of the regular season. This is especially true for the two teams that are expected to contend for the title this year. While the Asian Games rostered younger players in their 20s, the two teams are missing key players.
For LG, pitchers Ko Woo-seok and Jung Woo-young and infielder Moon Bo-kyung were selected. SSG selected infielder Park Sung-sung and outfielder Choi Ji-hoon. LG will be missing two of their best bullpen arms and their main third baseman, who has been a stellar performer in the batting order. SSG will be without their starting shortstop and starting center fielder, who are the core of their offense.
Both teams started preparing for the vacancies early. LG coach Yeom Kyung-yeop said, “It’s each other’s luck. It’s about who is more prepared and who is better prepared. It’s not just us who are missing key players, but other teams as well. We have been preparing for the absence of players.”
SSG coach Kim Won-hyung also said, “We’ve been thinking about substitutes for some time. Our main players are missing, but so are our opponents. I think the remaining players can do a good enough job.”
For LG, the bullpen resources are so solid, including Park Myung-geun, that if the four or five starting spots become clearer, the pressure on the bullpen can be reduced, and the infield can be minimized by entrusting roles to multiple players. SSG’s infield backups, including veteran Kim Sung-hyun, have settled in better than expected, and the outfield is expected to be able to fill in some of the gaps with veterans like Kim Kang-min and Choo Shin-soo sharing the load and holding down the middle.
It was early October when SSG clinched the regular season title last year. Despite their relative dominance, they only clinched the title at the end. This year’s race is expected to be even tighter, so the Asian Games withdrawal will have a huge impact. Now it’s time for the real fight. Let’s see how both teams’ Asian Games preparations will play out. It could be the climax of the pennant race.