The Lotte Giants’ hard-earned ‘Topde’ has already collapsed. Now it’s a battle to secure a top-five ticket.
In the first half of the year, Lotte Baseball experienced both highs and lows. An eight-game winning streak for the first time in 13 years and a nine-game winning streak for the first time in 15 years brought joy and excitement as the team raced to the top of the standings. However, a dreadful slide in June left the team depressed, and the infighting, collapse of the five-win percentage, and fall to fifth place angered Lotte fans.바카라
Confident that this year would be different with “momentum” baseball, Lotte last touched the top spot on May 19 and slipped back down. The team was in a good mood when they formed a three-way tie with the LG Twins and SSG Landers, so they chose to take a leap of faith instead of making quick decisions even when their foreign players showed ups and downs. The team even looked a little further ahead than the immediate future, making a trade to bring in Shim Jae-min in exchange for Lee Ho-yeon to strengthen their bullpen depth in the second half of the season, and seemed to be preparing for fall baseball already.
However, in the end, they got drunk on the ‘momentum’ and popped the champagne too early. In particular, the faith in foreign players proved to be poisonous. Jack Rex, who was supposed to be the centerpiece of an anemic batting lineup that ranked dead last in the league (7.46 WAR, wRC+89.5), has been struggling with a knee injury. Even with a clear “injury” reason to replace him, Lotte hesitated to make the decision, and Rex eventually packed his bags after batting .246 with four homers, 30 RBIs and an OPS of .683 in 55 games with no rebound.
On the pitching side, Dan Straily and Charlie Barnes have been inconsistent. The up-and-down nature of their pitching made it hard to justify using them in the lineup. Unlike the Doosan Bears, Hanwha Eagles, and KIA Tigers, who were able to turn things around with quick pitching changes, Lotte ended the first half with a series of losing streaks that left them unable to even maintain their hard-won 5% winning percentage (38-39, .494 winning percentage).
It’s a little late in the game, but Lotte eventually pulled the knife. After releasing Rex and signing a new outfielder, Niko Goodrum, on Nov. 11, they brought in outfielder Aaron Wilkerson to replace Straylor a week later on Nov. 18.
Goodrum, an infield utility player, is expected to bring flexibility to Lotte’s batting order, as he can be used as a designated hitter or rest other players depending on the position he plays. He’s not the type of player you’d expect to hit a ton of home runs (35, tied for last with Kiwoom), which is currently Lotte’s weakest area, but with his vastly improved on-base percentage and above-average power, he should be able to contribute doubles and stolen bases.
Wilkerson played for the Hanshin Tigers of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) last year, so there are high hopes for his ability to adapt to Asian baseball. Wilkerson has a variety of pitches, including a cutter, slider, curveball, and changeup, and his changeup is his best pitch. With a career groundball-to-fly ball ratio of 0.71 in the minors and 0.74 in the majors, Wilkerson is a “fly ball” pitcher, which means he’ll be a good fit for Sajik Stadium’s 6-meter-high walls.
Lotte’s win-loss margin, which was once as high as +11, has shrunk to -1. They are now just one game behind sixth-place KIA. The momentum for the first Korean Series in 24 years is gone, and the “Topde” has long since collapsed. It will be interesting to see if Lotte, which has been prescribed a strong prescription for replacing foreigners, can protect its ticket to the fall baseball with the ‘momentum baseball’ it showed at the beginning of the season.