▲ Oh Seung-hwan, whose past intimidation has disappeared ⓒ Samsung Lions
In the 2023 KBO League, the Samsung Lions suffered from disappointment due to poor bullpen performance. Looking back on the regular season, Samsung’s final ranking of 8th place cannot be explained except for the poor performance of the bullpen.
In the starting lineup, foreign ace Buchanan and national team member Won Tae-in held on, and Koo Ja-wook rebounded to lead the batting lineup. The center line defense, led by young players such as Lee Jae-hyun, Kim Ji-chan, and Kim Hyun-jun, was also solid.
In the end, the conclusion is drawn that the relief ERA was 5.16 (10th), and the team did not perform as well as they could due to the bullpen, which is the weakest in the league. In fact, this season, there were many cases where Samsung was ahead in the early and mid-game, but lost the game because the bullpen collapsed after the starting pitcher was replaced. Because of this, during the season, Manager Park Jin-man went as far as to use starting pitchers such as Buchanan and Won Tae-in on an unreasonable schedule.
In other words, if Samsung strengthens its bullpen, it can aim for mid-level or higher in the upcoming 2024 season. Given the situation of Samsung’s bullpen, it is inevitable that first of all attention will be paid to the bullpen pitchers who have appeared in the free agent market.
※ FA Kim Jae-yoon’s major pitching records for the past four seasons
▲ Kim Jae-yoon’s major pitching records for the past four seasons (Source: Baseball Record Room KBReport.com) ⓒ KB Report
The bullpen pitcher receiving the most attention in this free agency market is Kim Jae-yoon, who was the closer for the second-place team, KT Wiz. Kim Jae-yoon, whose strength lies in his mature fastball command, became the fourth player in history to achieve more than 30 saves in three consecutive seasons, standing tall as a top finisher.
SSG Landers’ Seo Jin-yong ranked first in saves (42) this season, but when looking at detailed records such as on-base allowed per inning, strikeout/walk ratio, and home run rate, the most stable finisher was Kim Jae-yoon, second in saves (32).
In fact, Samsung has been focused on finding Oh Seung-hwan’s successor all season. They looked for a finishing card to replace Oh Seung-hwan, whose pitching status had declined compared to previous years, and left-hander Lee Seung-hyun, a three-year professional, was hired, but all came to nothing. In the end, it was Oh Seung-hwan who maintained Samsung’s finishing position until the end.
▲ Kim Jae-yoon is known to be likely to sign a free agent contract with Samsung. ⓒ KT Wiz
If Samsung succeeds in recruiting Kim Jae-yoon (worth up to 5 billion won over 4 years), it will be able to resolve its finishing concerns and build a solid winning team. Considering that the performance of the remaining bullpen pitchers is affected depending on whether the solid closer is holding up, the recruitment of Kim Jae-yoon, the best current closer, could have a great effect on Samsung.
Although Seung-hwan Oh and Jae-yoon Kim, who recorded 30 saves in the season, performed poorly in the first half due to a decline in pitching status, showed signs of recovery in the second half, a synergy effect is expected through friendly competition if Oh Seung-hwan and Kim Jae-yoon form a double stopper system. It is generally expected that there will be a natural replacement from Oh Seung-hwan to Kim Jae-yoon during the season.
Samsung, which is aiming for a leap forward in the 2024 season, replaced its general manager after the season. Attention is being paid to whether Samsung, which chose to make changes ahead of the offseason, will be able to regain its status as a strong team by successfully reinforcing its power, including recruiting free agent Kim Jae-yoon.
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[기록 참조: 야구기록실 케이비리포트(KBReport.com), KBO기록실]
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