The KIA Tigers are feeling the loss of their captain Kim Sun-bin. Even Kim Kyu-sung, who was touted as a possible replacement for Kim, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury, was eventually dropped from the first team after a string of defensive errors. It will be interesting to see if infielder Byun Woo-hyuk will return to the first team while the team looks for other second base alternatives.
On August 14, KIA designated infielder Kim Gyu-sung for assignment from the first team roster.
Since his inclusion on the opening day roster, Kim has served in a backup infield role without a single first-team waiver. Kim recently took over at second base in place of Kim Sun-bin, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury, but his shaky play at key defensive spots caused concern.
The biggest one was a defensive error against the Sajik Lotte Giants on the 13th. Kim Gyu-sung gave up the go-ahead run in the bottom of the third inning when he missed Lee Jung-hoon’s hard-hit line drive with runners on first and second. The KIA bench immediately replaced Kim with Choi Jeong-yong. It was practically a no-hitter.
Kia starting pitcher Mario Sanchez was shaken up badly after Kim’s error. Eventually, Sanchez, who was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, gave up five runs on seven hits in five innings with seven strikeouts. Only one of the five runs was earned.
KIA was unable to recover from a five-run big inning in the bottom of the third. With the 1-6 loss, KIA slips back to 45 wins, 2 ties and 46 losses on the season, and trails the seventh-place Lotte Giants by 1.5 games.
Kim had high hopes heading into the season after joining Geelong Korea in Australia last winter and showing signs of improvement. However, Kim hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, batting .219 with 21 doubles, one home run, eight RBI, four stolen bases, a .279 on-base percentage, and a .302 slugging percentage in 69 games this season. On top of that, he recently shot himself in the foot with a series of defensive errors when he had a chance to make the jump to second base.
Without infield stabilization, KIA’s top-five challenge difficult, defensive woes continue at 1-2B
No matter how impressive a player’s hitting ability is, if he makes a fielding error like the one in Game 13, he’s not going to make it to the first team. The KIA bench will also have to contend with the second and first base spots, which are relatively open compared to the third and shortstop positions.
Kim Sun-bin is still a week away from returning. In the meantime, they need to stabilize their defense at first base as well as second base. While Hong Jong-pyo and Choi Jeong-yong are likely to get some playing time at second base for the time being, it will be interesting to see if Byun Woo-hyuk, who has gained some game experience in the Futures League, can step into Kim’s absence.
Byun Woo-hyuk, who was recently sidelined from the first team roster due to COVID-19 and focused on his recovery, made his return on August 11 against Sangsung and went 1-for-4. Against Sangsung on August 12, Byun continued his hitting streak for the second consecutive game, going 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored.
Byun Woo-hyuk’s return to the first team and his defense at first base will help stabilize the infield. And the eventual return of Kim Sun-bin to the lineup will also help stabilize the defense at first and second base.안전놀이터
Most importantly, KIA will face the 10th-ranked Kiwoom Heroes and the 9th-ranked Samsung Lions back-to-back this week. With the need to rack up as many wins as possible against the lower-ranked teams, they can’t afford to let a defensive lapse cost them the game. It will be interesting to see what the KIA bench decides to do with their first-team roster.