Based on the regulation at-bats, the player who boasted the highest offensive productivity in Lotte last year was Lee Dae-ho (41), who was paradoxically the team’s best and retired season. He struggled with his bat, which was a waste of retirement, and kept his last pride as ‘Joseon’s No. 4 hitter’.
Lee Dae-ho appeared in 143 games last year and recorded a batting average of 0.331, 23 homers, 101 RBIs, and an OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) of 0.881. The scoring production, which is 46% higher than the league average, was enough to erase the limits of the position and mobility of the designated hitter. Now, Lotte has to design a season without Lee Dae-ho and the future ahead.
Lotte’s offensive ability was puzzling and had many ups and downs. As a result, it leads to the limitation of the player base that players with ‘self-hitting’ and ‘self-number’ were lacking. In fact, among Lotte players who filled the required at-bats last year, only four players, including Lee Dae-ho, Han Dong-hee, Jeon Jun-woo, and Ahn Chi-hong, exceeded the league average score production. It was a line with a clear limit on mobility, so the stuffiness when it didn’t explode was worse.
With Lee Dae-ho absent, Lotte must clear his vacancy on offense. Lotte has painstakingly recruited resources that can help both in attack and defense. Catcher Yoo Gang-nam, who gave 8 billion won over 4 years, and Noh Jin-hyuk, infielder who invested 5 billion won over 4 years, are the main characters. With the retirement of Lee Dae-ho, who received 15 billion won for 4 years, Lotte, which was able to start calculating the team payroll, invested up to 13 billion won for 4 years.
Lotte’s weakness is the center line, which has been a problem for a long time and is no longer a secret. Both offense and defense revealed problems at catcher and shortstop. The focus is on defense, but perhaps more serious is offense. According to Statistics, a website specializing in statistics, Lotte catchers and shortstops last year were overwhelmingly last in terms of scoring production. Catchers’ adjusted point production (wRC+) was 41.4 and shortstops 46.4. Even if the defense is an important position, it was too severe.
Yoo Kang-nam has a good weapon called framing, and in terms of blocking, he has a better corner than Lotte’s main catchers. Last year, the base stealing rate dropped slightly, but in the case of the base stealing rate, the difference between seasons was rather large. Kangnam Yoo’s offensive production last year was much better than that of Lotte’s catcher. The same goes for Noh Jin-hyeok. There are some question marks about his sustainability as a shortstop, but he was an infielder who produced about 25 percent better offense than league average. It definitely helps.
However, some point out that it will not be easy to cover all of Lee Dae-ho’s gaps with two players. It was proven last year that someone has to fill Lee Dae-ho’s designated hitter spot, and it’s not easy to find hitters like him in Lotte. In the end, while Jack Rex, a foreign player who showed great potential after joining the team in the middle of last year, is desperately in need of hard work, the balance can be adjusted only when a new face emerges from the outfield. In terms of Lotte’s player composition, this is almost the same as meaning that prospects need to grow.
Ko Seung-min, who showed clear talent in the attack last year, is the biggest hope. Although he was far from regulation at bats, he posted a batting average of .316, five homers, 30 RBIs and an OPS of .834 in 262 at bats in 92 games. His knack for hitting the ball and his talent for powering the ball are now undoubtedly evaluated as outstanding. If he gains more experience against lefties and produces results, he can move ahead in the starting game.
In addition, we look forward to new faces such as Hwang Seong-bin, who provided what Lotte lacked with his toughness and mobility, and Jo Se-jin, who is also highly regarded for his batting talent. Considering that Jeon Jun-woo and Ahn Chi-hong’s portion of designated hitters will increase, potential names should continue to appear in the infield.
Lotte has polished off its clear potential over the past three years, but as a result, it has been far from advancing to the postseason for three years. If it was 3 years instead of 1 year, this was an obvious failure in the environment of the KBO League. Such Lotte made a large investment this offseason and has now become a ‘win-now’ team. Failure to make it to the postseason this year is a failure in itself, and failure to create a team to challenge the premiership within a short period of time is also a failure. 안전놀이터
In order to continue the ‘win-now’ cycle, investment must be successful, but it can lead to a sustainable challenge only when players who will succeed Jeon Jun-woo, Jung-hoon Jung, and Ahn Chi-hong continue to emerge. Otherwise, you will have no choice but to repeat the sparkling achievements of the past. In 2023, Lotte’s life and death is carrying not only FA players but also ‘Plus Alpha’ quite heavily.