2023 Professional baseball enters the postseason. The fall festival opens with the Wild Card (WC) match starting on the 19th. In the regular season, 4th place NC and 5th place Doosan clash at NC’s home stadium, Changwon NC Park. These are two teams that have clashed four times in the fall stage over the past 10 years since the 2013 season when NC entered the KBO first team stage. NC is experiencing the postseason again three years after winning its first Korean Series in 2020. Doosan recovered from the shock of falling to 9th place last season and returned to fall baseball. Neither team has any intention of ending the season in the WC decider.안전놀이터
NC coach Kang In-kwon and Doosan coach Lee Seung-yeop are, so to speak, ‘beginner’ coaches. Coach Kang has experienced many hardships during his more than 10 years of coaching experience, starting with the Doosan 2nd team in 2007, but this year is his first time as a coach. Coach Lee had no experience as a leader until this year, other than briefly leading a team in a baseball entertainment show.
Both are evaluated as having achieved ‘half success’ in their first year as directors. The fact that he led a team that was evaluated as mid- to low-ranking before the season began and advanced to the semifinals gave him a passing grade in season management. However, the long-term race of 144 games and the short-term race are different areas. The primary concern is how capable the two new managers will be in their first short-term series as head coach.
Neither Coach Kang nor Coach Lee were able to use their best skills. NC’s irreplaceable ace Eric Peddy was hit by a bat while pitching against KIA on the 16th. Left-hander Koo Chang-mo, who was expected to be a starter in fall baseball, collapsed again shortly after returning in September. Doosan also finds it difficult to utilize foreign ace Raul Alcantara in the WC deciding match. He started against SSG on the 16th and threw 92 pitches. It is unclear how well the starting fielders, who struggled at the end of the season due to low stamina, will be able to recover and play in the first game on the 19th. As the hole in the team’s strength increased, the roles of both teams’ coaches also increased.
NC has consistently recruited players from Doosan since its founding. The situation is no different now. Park Geon-woo, the center of the batting lineup, and starting catcher Park Se-hyuk played for Doosan until recently. Closer Lee Yong-chan has played for Doosan for 12 years since his debut season, making 90 saves.
One of the variables that will determine the direction of the series is how well Park Gun-Woo performs in the first fall stage against his former team. Park Geon-woo is one of the best right-handed hitters in the KBO league, but he was particularly weak in the fall. He had a batting average of only 0.209 and OPS of 0.578 in 53 postseason games played in Doosan uniform from the semi-playoffs in 2015 to the 2021 Korean Series. This time, the first postseason after moving to NC, bad news struck before it even started. Due to a bad knee, he was left out of the first team lineup on the final day of the regular season. He urgently receives injection treatment and participates in the WC deciding match.
Doosan’s ‘Alpha and Omega’ Yang Eui-ji is also a player who wore the NC uniform until last year. From his debut in 2007, he led ‘Dynasty Doosan’ until 2018 before transferring to NC as a free agent in 2019. The following year, in 2020, he led the team as captain and played a major role in defeating Doosan in the Korean Series. This is Yang Eui-ji, who has worn the NC starting mask for the past four years. He knows NC pitchers better than anyone else. He also hit hard against NC opponents this season with a batting average of 0.349 and an OPS of 1.049. The performance of Park Jun-young, who came over from NC as a free agent compensation player for catcher Park Se-hyuk, is also of interest. Although he was promoted to the first team late last July, he played a significant role as a boost to the stagnant batting line.
Both teams advanced to the postseason with better-than-expected performance, but at the same time accepted a ranking that was ‘below expectations.’ The goal was 3rd place, but suffered a series of losses at the last minute. I lost my ticket to the semi-playoffs right before my eyes. NC, which was able to secure 3rd place on its own until the 16th, collapsed after losing both of the last two consecutive games in Gwangju. Doosan lost the last three games of the regular season, starting with LG on the 15th.
We ended up in a position where we had to start fall baseball earlier than planned. Both teams are far from the ‘best atmosphere’. WC is a short-term war. The success or failure of a series can be determined in one day at the earliest, or two days at the most. If the atmosphere is not resolved quickly, the entire season will end. Another variable in WC’s short-term match is who can quickly shake off the aftereffects of ending the season with consecutive losses.