In the KBO League, no team has succeeded in winning the Korean Series for the last two years in a row. After the Doosan Bears succeeded in winning the Korean Series for two consecutive years in 2015 and 2016, the winning team is changing every year. That shows how difficult it is to lose two consecutive games in the Korean Series.
After kt wiz achieved its first combined championship in 2021, prospects were raised that it would be able to challenge for a second consecutive victory in 2022. However, kt finished 4th in the regular season last year and was eliminated in the semi-playoffs by Kiwoom Heroes with 2 wins and 3 losses. This is because the performance of the main players was not as good as in 2021, the previous year, while injuries continued to appear.
One of kt’s key players who did not live up to expectations last year was third baseman Hwang Jae-gyun. Hwang Jae-kyun, who obtained his second FA qualification after the end of the 2021 season, signed a retention contract with kt for a total of 6 billion won over 4 years. Prior to the 2018 season, he made a U-turn in the major leagues and signed a large free agent contract with kt for a total of 8.8 billion won over 4 years and transferred. Hwang Jae-kyun and kt’s two free agent contracts combined reached a whopping 14.8 billion won. 스포츠토토
However, Hwang Jae-gyun was sluggish last year, the first season right after his second free agent contract. He had a batting average of 0.262, 10 home runs, and 64 RBIs with an OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) of 0.715. He couldn’t hide the low percentage indicator, and his batting average and OPS were the worst in all 5 seasons after moving to kt. WAR (Based on KABI Report), which indicates the contribution to victory compared to substitute players, was also 2.11, the lowest in the last 5 years.
Hwang Jae-gyun hit his 10th home run with a two-run home run in the top of the first inning against the LG Twins in Jamsil on October 11, the final game of the regular season, dramatically achieving a double-digit home run for eight consecutive years. However, his slugging percentage was 0.380, the lowest since 2014 when he was with the Lotte Giants. I couldn’t avoid pointing out that the advantage of the ‘Geopo 3rd baseman’, who recorded 201 homers in his career, had faded.
Last year, Hwang Jae-kyun succeeded in proving his consistency by staying in the first team entry all the way and participating in 141 of 144 games in the regular season. It is true that Hwang Jae-gyun, a veteran born in 1987 who played the 35-year-old season, is fortunate to digest full-time without injury. However, the dominant evaluation is that his performance compared to the size of his free agency contract did not meet expectations. Concerns are being raised that Hwang Jae-gyun has entered the ‘aging curve’. Moreover, Hwang Jae-kyun and kt’s free agent contract has three more years left, including this year.
KT, which has a solid basic power, is expected to be able to re-challenge for the presidency this year. However, there are many variables, so it is unclear what the final score will be. Coach Lee Kang-cheol took the helm of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) national team held in March, so kt’s spring camp could not be digested properly. KT’s greatest strength is its strong domestic starting lineup, but it is unknown whether Koh Young-pyo and So-jun So-jun, who have joined the WBC national team, will continue their performance in the regular season of the KBO League as in previous years.
Second baseman Park Kyung-soo’s aging curve and shortstop Shim Woo-jun’s enlistment as a managing director should also keep an eye on Keystone. Although external free agent Kim Sang-soo was recruited and internal free agency new original equipment remained, it is true that the weight is less compared to other teams’ keystones.
In order for kt, which has many variables, to return to the throne in two years, Hwang Jae-gyun’s rebound is desperately needed. Let’s pay attention to whether Hwang Jae-kyun will regain his reputation as a ‘big gun third baseman’ and win a second championship ring.