Will LG be able to open the dynasty era after 29 years
LG beat KT Wiz with 4 wins and 1 loss in the 2023 KBO Korean Series, which ended on the 13th, and stood tall at the top of professional baseball for the first time in 29 years since 1994. At the championship ceremony, LG manager Yeom Kyung-yeop said, "We are just beginning. I will try to win the championship next year as well," he said. Captain Oh Ji-hwan, who won the MVP of the Korean Series, said, "The people here now have won their first championship in 29 years. I want to win again as this member is," he said.
LG was the strongest team in this year's professional baseball league. In the regular season, he recorded 86 wins, two draws and 56 losses, beating second-place KT Wiz by 6.5 games to rank first. He then faced a crisis of losing Game 1 first in the Korean Series against KT, but he won four consecutive games from Game 2 and lifted the trophy.
Currently, LG is stable in both pitching and hitting. It is enough to have expectations that he will continue to stay on top after this season. In particular, the bat does not seem to have much to worry about next season. This is because I finally got the puzzle piece that I lacked. It was foreign hitter and second baseman.
LG has not enjoyed the game as a foreign hitter. At least Roberto Ramos, who hit 38 home runs in 2020, was a success case. However, even Ramos left the team early in 2021, suffering from an injury. Since then, Justin Bour, Rio Ruiz, and Lovell Garcia have come, but all have been sluggish.
However, LG stopped the "foreign hitter brutal death" through Austin Dean this season. Austin appeared in 139 games this season, batting .313 with 23 home runs and 95 RBIs. He blew away all the worries about long hitters and right-handed hitters that LG lacked. He even solved the first baseman's gap.
LG naturally plans to renew the contract with Austin. LG general manager Cha Myung-seok and manager Yeom Kyung-yeop have already publicly announced their intention to renew their contracts. Born in 1993, he is entering his prime as a baseball player, so there seems to be no need to worry about Austin.
Shin Min-jae filled the second base worries. LG was always worried about second baseman. He has never had a clear second baseman since his grandson, who played from 2013 to 2017. Jung Joo-hyun, Jung Geun-woo, and Seo Geon-chang took over as second basemen, but they did not meet expectations. Last year, foreign hitters were recruited as second basemen, but the results were not good. However, Shin Min-jae, who has been mainly a pinch runner under criticism for his poor defense, washed away his long-standing concerns as he perfectly took the second base position.
LG's batting lineup, which ranked first in this year's team batting average (.279), does not seem to have much worries for the time being. The team's key hitters, including Kim Hyun-soo, Park Hae-min, Oh Ji-hwan, Park Dong-won, and Hong Chang-ki, are in good shape. Young hitters such as Moon Bo-kyung and Moon Sung-joo are also gaining experience. Young prospects such as Kim Bum-seok are also growing rapidly.
The variable is pitching power. LG boasts the strongest bullpen in the league. Both quality and quantity are by far the best. However, there is an element of weakening power. Lee Jung-yong, who has been active in the starting and bullpen this season, will join the military.
Lee Jung-yong has been a starter since the middle of this season and played the role of Altoran. In the Korean Series, he transformed into a bullpen again and took responsibility for a dangerous moment. LG might have been difficult to win without Lee Jung-yong's finishing in place of Ko Woo-suk, who was shaken in Game 3. How to fill Lee Jung-yong's vacancy is expected to be an important task that will determine LG's next season.
Selecting foreign pitchers well is also a must for LG to build a dynasty. Casey Kelly, who played 100% of his role in the Korean Series, is expected to be seen at Jamsil Stadium next season.
The problem is the pitcher who will replace Adam Plutko. Flutko has played a significant role as LG's first starter with 26 wins over the past two seasons. However, it did not help the team at all in the fall baseball. This season, he left for the U.S. before playing fall baseball, complaining of a pelvic injury.
Still, Plutko's presence in the regular season was huge. LG may not be easy next season unless it finds a foreign pitcher as big as Flutko.
Native players also need to be reinforced. Choi Won-tae, Lim Chan-kyu, and Kim Yoon-sik played a role as starters, but they can't help but completely erase their anxiety. Considering only native starters, it is hard to say that LG overwhelms other teams. The big task is to cultivate young prospects such as Son Joo-young, Lee Ji-gang, Cho Won-tae, Kang Hyo-jong, and Lee Sang-young as reliable starters.
Although it has been a long time since winning the Korean Series, LG has been a strong team that has steadily advanced to fall baseball since 2019. This means that the current team management and player development are going smoothly. If the current system and team atmosphere are maintained well, there is a good chance that he will steadily become a favorite.