There is no change without reason.
The first choice for the KIA Tigers, who failed to achieve their goal of advancing to the semifinals for two years in a row, is to ‘replace the tweezers.’ They parted ways with coaches Seo Jae-eung and Kwak Jeong-cheol, who were in charge of the pitching department, and announced a contract with coaches Jeong Jae-hoon and Lee Dong-geol.도메인
After it was decided that KIA would fail to advance to the semifinals, it was expected that the range of changes that KIA would choose would be large. This is considering KIA’s performance, which had expectations of a top 5 performance not only before the season but also in the second half of the season. However, KIA struggled in the second half of the game and ultimately failed to advance to the semifinals. The main reason for the failure has been the injuries to starting fielders Na Seong-beom, Choi Hyeong-woo, Park Chan-ho, and Choi Won-jun.
However, injuries cannot be the entire cause of failure.
In the second half of the game, voices of disappointment over KIA’s pitching management continued. The starting lineup was expected to play the role of inning eater, but their limitations were clearly revealed amid the power leak. One of the ways to fill the gap was not only with strong pitching depth, but also with quick substitutions and utilization of futures (second team) training resources. In this respect, it is true that it is difficult to say that KIA was successful.
KIA ranked 4th out of 10 clubs overall with an average ERA of 3.81 in the first half of the year, outside the top 5. However, in the second half of the year, it rose significantly to 4.51. Although the batting lineup scored quite a few points, there were many things that were not smooth in terms of mound management.
The manager’s role is to make the best decision by gathering the opinions of the coaches who work together with the players. The capabilities of the coaches at that base cannot be ignored. The fact that there are voices of disappointment over the management of the bench after KIA’s failure in the semifinals proves that their responsibility is not light.
Behind the replacement, we can see not only the performance, but also a clear future orientation.
KIA has been operating a pitcher academy at Hampyeong Challengers Field since last year. Choi Ji-min, who was dispatched to Australian Professional Baseball (ABL) Geelong Korea, not only participated in the first team full-time this season but also won a gold medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games, and Hwang Dong-ha and Kim Geon-guk, who were useful as substitute starters in the second half of the season, are the fruits of such efforts. It is difficult to say that 100% perfect performance was achieved at the time of receiving the result of failure in the top 5, but at least Future Team’s goal of nurturing usable resources in the first team was achieved. This replacement can be seen as having the intention of accelerating this trend to some extent.
Coaches Jae-hoon Jeong and Dong-geol Lee are resources who also have experience in pitcher development during their time at Doosan and Hanwha. He gained experience and achieved results at Doosan, which is represented by ‘Hwasubun Baseball’, and Hanwha, which operated an integrated training system between foreign coaches from the big league and Futures domestic coaches over the past three seasons. If the capabilities they have learned provide a better direction for KIA’s pitcher development, the effect of recruiting them can be said to be significant.
After failing to advance to the semifinals, KIA general manager Shim Jae-hak closely observed not only this season but also last season’s trends and came to a conclusion. At a time when hard work is needed for a rebound next year, the direction and changes set by KIA are worth paying attention to.