On the ‘Bus to Busan’, a 29-year regular-season championship kiss—LG’s ‘order in chaos’

It was a far cry from what we had been waiting for and imagining. The LG baseball team traveled to Busan on the afternoon of the third day without a game. They were traveling to play Lotte the next day. Normally, they would have been glued to their seats. They were almost at their hotel in Busan. “It was around 5:17 p.m.,” said a team official on the team bus. The team bus was shaken by the news: KT and NC, who had played that day, had both lost, and LG’s regular-season magic number 1, which had remained until the previous day, was gone. The regular season championship was confirmed.

It was the first regular season title in 29 years since the 1994 championship, when the team led the league with its new-fangled baseball. With a record of 82 wins, 2 ties, and 51 losses (0.617), LG secured the top spot in the regular season and a direct ticket to the Korean Series regardless of the outcome of the remaining nine games. It’s the first time in 21 years that LG has reached the Korean Series since 2002, when the team made a fall baseball splash by finishing fourth in the regular season.

In many ways, the season was different from what new LG manager Yoon Kyung-yeop envisioned, but the team’s engine was the “orderly” moves that created a winning formula in the midst of chaos.

LG hasn’t been able to settle on a starting lineup since the start of the season. With foreign ace Casey Kelly struggling from the start of the season into the summer, the Korean starting lineup of Kim Yoon-sik, Lee Min-ho, and Kang Hyo-jong all changed. LG’s starting rotation consists of Choi Won-tae, who was acquired in a late-season trade with Kiwoom, and Im Chan-kyu and Lee Jung-yong, who started the season in the bullpen and switched roles.

Despite the problems with the starting lineup, the team has been able to maintain a winning percentage of more than 6 percent thanks to the strength of the bullpen, which has made up for the lack of quality and quantity in the starting lineup, and the team’s bats, which have dominated the offense since the start of the season.

LG leads the league with a 3.12 bullpen ERA this season. The team has maintained a competitive bullpen that is far from the league average (4.31). Since the start of the season, the bullpen hasn’t been so smooth. Closer Ko Woo-seok, who participated in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March, was sidelined early in the season. But in the meantime, a new power grew up.

New names like Yoo Young-chan and Park Myung-geun emerged, as left-hander Ham Deok-ju, who was acquired in a trade from Doosan in 2021, held down the bullpen in all weathers, including the closer role, until a recent injury sidelined him again. In addition, 1985-born right-handed veteran Kim Jin-sung, who left NC for LG in 2022, provided a crucial boost to the bullpen with a 5-1 record, three saves and 20 holds with a 2.26 ERA in 77 appearances and 67.2 innings pitched. While the likes of Ko Woo-seok and Jeong Woo-young are coming into their own, the bullpen depth is the strongest it’s ever been.

In the middle of the game, the bullpen’s bats were often the difference in a one- or two-run game. LG led the league in various offensive metrics, including first place in team batting average (0.281) and first place in team OPS (0.761). Catcher Park Dong-won, who hit 20 home runs in an LG uniform as a free agent, provided a crucial boost to the team’s batting early in the season, while the top and bottom of the order were bolstered by the return of “run machine” Hong Chang-ki to the top of the order with a .448 on-base percentage.스포츠토토

Manager Yoon Kyung-yeop expressed his feelings through the club upon his arrival in Busan. “There were a lot of twists and turns, but it was thanks to the unity of the team, from captain Oh Ji-hwan and Kim Hyun-soo to pitchers like Kim Jin-sung and Lim Chan-kyu. I want to say thank you and congratulations to the players.” “During the year, I was angry and nagged a lot, but the coaching staff led the players well and guided them in the direction we wanted to go,” said Yeom.

Captain Oh Ji-hwan said, “I think winning the regular season was a result of our players, the front office, and the fans. It’s still a daunting moment, but we will not be satisfied and will do our best until the end to achieve the unified victory that everyone wants.”

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