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KBO Update, May 17 to May 23: Lion Tamers

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We check in on our adopted KBO team, the LG Twins.

Kiwoom Heroes v LG Twins
Eun-sung Chae
Photo by Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images

As regular From Complex to Queens listeners know, we’ve decided to start following a KBO team in the absence of Mets baseball for the foreseeable future. We picked a team and will post updates on how they’re doing over in Korea. Why the LG Twins?

  • Represent a major metropolitan area.
  • Share Seoul (and Jamsil Baseball Stadium) with a rival team and compete for fans.
  • Have been a team that, on paper, should compete but just have not been able to put things together over the last few years
  • Have a strong pitching staff in 2020.
  • Staff ace, Casey Kelly, has been denied numerous wins over the years due to anemic hitting and/or a leaky bullpen despite pitching quality starts.
  • LG Corporation spends money on the team but does not always allocate that money wisely.
  • Retired the number 41, worn by one of the best right-handed pitchers in team history.

Sounds like the Mets to me!

May 17 (6-4)

Kiwoom Heroes 9, LG Twins 4 (BOX)

When Woo-Cha Chan is on, he can be one of the better pitchers in the league. When he’s off, he’s eh, and this was an example. The southpaw got tagged for nine hits in four innings, allowing five Kiwoom batters to cross the plate. The Twins offense woke up at the end of the game, when they got a taste of the Heroes bullpen, but it would end up being too little, too late.

  • CF Chun-woong Lee: 0-2
  • LF Chang-gi Hong: 0-1, RBI
  • LF Hyun-soo Kim: 1-3, R
  • P Dong-hwan Choi: 0-0
  • PH Sung-woo Lee: 0-1, K
  • P Ryu Won-suk: 0-0
  • RF Eun-sung Chae: 1-4, R, K
  • 1B Roberto Ramos: 0-2
  • CF Yong-yi Kim: 1-2, RBI
  • DH-1B Keun-woo Jeong: 0-4, K
  • C Kang-nam Yoo: 0-1, BB
  • C Jae-wook Park: 1-2, RBI
  • 2B Ju-hyeon Jung: 1-4, R, K
  • SS Bon-hyeok Koo: 1-2
  • SS Ji-hwan Oh: 0-1, R, BB
  • 3B Seung-hyun Baek: 2-3, RBI, K
  • LHP Woo-chan Cha: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, HR
  • RHP Geon-wook Yeo: 2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2 HR
  • RHP Dong-hwan Choi: 2.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
  • RHP Won-suk Ryu: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

May 18 (6-4)

NO GAME (SCHEDULE)

May 19 (7-4)

LG Twins 10, Samsung Lions 6 (BOX)

The Twins jumped all over David Buchanan early, dominating him for ten runs, including a five-run first. The American import gave up three home runs, one to Roberto Ramos in the first, one to Ji-hwan Oh in the first, and one to Chun-woong Lee in the second. Chan-gyu Lim chugged along until the fourth, when he had a hiccup and allowed four runs, but 10-0 lead the Lions had built until that point gave the team plenty of wiggle room. Relievers Eun-beom Song and Sang-gyu Lee combined to give up two more runs after Lim was removed after six innings, making it closer than it had been a few innings earlier but still a very convincing Twins win.

  • CF Chun-woong Lee: 2-4, 3 R, HR (1), 2 RBI, BB
  • LF Hyun-soo Kim: 2-5
  • RF Eun-sung Chae: 2-5, 2 R, 2 RBI, K
  • RF Chang-gi Hong: 0-0
  • 1B Roberto Ramos: 2-3, R, HR (5), RBI, BB
  • 1B Yong-yi Kim: 0-1, K
  • 3B Min-sung Kim: 1-2, 2 RBI, BB
  • 3B Bon-hyeok Koo: 0-1, BB
  • DH Yong-taik Park: 0-5, 2 K
  • SS Ji-hwan Oh: 1-4, R, HR (1), RBI
  • C Sung-woo Lee: 2-4
  • 2B Ju-hyeon Jung: 0-3, R, BB
  • RHP Chan-gyu Lim: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, HR, W (2-0)
  • RHP Eun-beom Song: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
  • RHP Sang-gyu Lee: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

May 20 (8-5)

Samsung Lions 3, LG Twins 1 (BOX)

Tyler Wilson put in a quality start but was nickled-and-dimed and was handed a hard-luck loss thanks to the Twins’ inability to string hits together. The right-hander, who is one of the KBO’s highest-paid foreigners, spun seven solid innings, scattering four hits and allowing three runs, two of which were earned. The offense struggled against Lions starter Chae-heung Choi, with slugger Roberto Ramos being the only one able to get to him, smashing a solo homer in the sixth, his league-leading sixth of the year.

  • CF Chun-woong Lee: 1-4
  • LF Hyun-soo Kim: 0-4, K
  • RF Eun-sung Chae: 2-4
  • RF Yong-yi Kim: 0-0
  • 1B Roberto Ramos: 1-4, R, HR (6), RBI, BB, K
  • 3B Min-sung Kim: 0-4, K
  • 3B Bon-hyeok Koo: 0-0
  • DH Keun-woo Jeong: 0-3
  • DH Yong-taik Park: 0-1, K
  • SS Ji-hwan Oh: 2-3, BB, K
  • C Kang-nam Yoo: 0-3, K, HBP
  • 2B Ju-hyeon Jung: 0-2, BB, E (1)
  • PH Chang-gi Hong: 0-1
  • RHP Tyler Wilson: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, HR, L (0-2)
  • RHP Dae-hyun Kim: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

May 21 (9-5)

LG Twins 2, Samsung Lions 0 (BOX)

The Twins plated a pair of runs in the first and those runs would end up being the only runs in the entire game, as the Lions pitchers buckled down after, and the Twins staff tossed a combined shutout. The second batter of the game, Hyun-soo Kim, doubled into left and the next batter, Eun-sung Chae, drove him home with a 395-foot two-run homer over the left field wall of Daegu Park. Twins starter Min-ho Lee walked four, but only allowed one hit over his five-plus innings on the mound. The bullpen picked up where he left off and finished up the shutout, the Twins’ first of the season.

  • CF Chun-woong Lee: 0-4, 2 K
  • LF Hyun-soo Kim: 1-3, R, BB
  • RF Eun-sung Chae: 1-4, R, HR (2), 2 RBI, K
  • 1B Roberto Ramos: 2-4, K
  • 1B Yong-yi Kim: 0-0
  • 3B Min-sung Kim: 0-4, K
  • DH Yong-taik Park: 1-4
  • 2B Keun-woo Jeong: 0-3
  • 2B Bon-hyeok Koo: 0-1, K
  • C Kang-nam Yoo: 1-3, BB, K
  • SS Ji-hwan Oh: 0-3, K
  • RHP Min-ho Lee: 5.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 2 K
  • LHP Yun-sik Kim: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
  • RHP Woo-young Jung: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Sang-gyu Lee: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K

May 22 (10-5)

LG TWINS 6, KT WIZ 5 (BOX)

Casey Kelly has had a very up-and-down season so far in 2020. He got absolutely bombed in his first start, followed that up with six innings of shutout ball, and followed that up with another clunker. The Wiz- who are leading the KBO in batting average- plated four runs in the first, almost batting around and giving the Twins a very deep hole to dig out of early on. Dig out they would, though it would take them a while, as Cuban Odrisamer Despaigne allowed just two runs- one earned- over seven innings. With the KT Wiz up 5-2, the Twins plated two runs in the bottom of the eighth on a Eun-sung Chae homer off of reliever Kwon Ju. The Wiz went with closer Dae-eun Lee to close the game out in the ninth and things went poorly for him. After walking the lead-off batter, he allowed a double, putting men on the corners. After being given the order to intentionally walk the bases loaded, Jae-yoon Kim was brought in to try to wiggle out of the mess. He did not. After allowing a single to tie the game up, left fielder Hyun-soo Kim walked the game off with a single into right-center.

  • CF Chun-woong Lee: 1-4, R, BB, K
  • LF Hyun-soo Kim: 1-5, R, RBI
  • RF Eun-sung Chae: 2-4, R, HR (3), 2 RBI, K
  • 1B Roberto Ramos: 1-4, RBI, K
  • DH Yong-taik Park: 2-4, R
  • 2B Keun-woo Jeong: 1-3, BB
  • PR Shin Min-jae Shin: 0-0, R
  • SS Ji-hwan Oh: 0-3, 2 K
  • SS Bon-hyeok Koo: 0-0
  • PH Chang-gi Hong: 1-1
  • PR Ju-hyeon Jung: 0-0, R
  • C Kang-nam Yoo: 0-3, RBI, BB
  • 3B Seung-hyun Baek: 0-2
  • 3B Min-sung Kim: 1-2, RBI, E (1)
  • RHP Casey Kelly: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
  • LHP Hae-soo Jin: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, HBP
  • RHP Geon-wook Yeo: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, HBP
  • RHP Dong-hwan Choi: 0.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, HBP
  • RHP Dae-hyun Kim: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, W (1-0)

May 23 (10-6)

KT Wiz 6, LG Twins 2 (BOX)

Going for the three-in-a-row, the Twins weren’t able to keep their winning streak going, falling to the Wiz. Woo-Chan Cha wasn’t that great, allowing four runs over five innings, but he wasn’t particularly terrible. More problematic was the crummy luck the Twins offense was having. Though Wiz starter Min Kim allowed only one hit over five-plus innings, he walked an eye-popping 7. The Twins were able to cash in on his control problems only once, scoring two runs in the sixth on back-to-back Kang-nam Yoo/ Ji-hwan Oh RBI singles.

  • CF Chang-gi Hong: 0-1, 4 BB
  • LF Hyun-soo Kim: 3-4, BB
  • RF Eun-sung Chae: 0-5
  • 1B Roberto Ramos: 0-4, BB, K
  • DH Yong-taik Park: 0-4, K
  • 3B Min-sung Kim: 1-3, R, BB
  • 3B Seung-hyun Baek: 0-0
  • 2B Keun-woo Jeong: 1-4, R
  • C Kang-nam Yoo: 1-4, RBI
  • C Sung-woo Lee: 0-0
  • SS Ji-hwan Oh: 1-3, RBI, BB, K
  • LHP Woo-chan Cha: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, HR
  • RHP Eun-beom Song: 3.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, HR
  • LHP Yun-sik Kim: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

HITTER OF THE WEEK

Eun-sung Chae

8-30, 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 0 BB, 4 K, 0/0 SB

Born February 6, 1990 in Suncheon, Eun-sung Chae attended Suncheon Hyocheon High School, a somewhat obscure school in North Jeolla that claims only a handful of professionals. Initially signed as a training player in 2009, he did not see any action until 2014, when he completed his military service and changed positions from catcher to outfielder. He made his professional debut that year, at the age of 24, and hit .277/.385/.377 with 1 home run in 62 games. He got into more games in his sophomore season, appearing in 90, but results suffered slightly, as he hit .249/.318/.405 with 4 home runs. Realizing that he had been pressing, Chae went back to basics, focusing on hitting and staying healthy.

The results were night-and-day, and the right-fielder hit .313/.365/.444 in 128 games, slugging 9 homers. He followed that up with an underwhelming .267/.323/.339 in 2017, causing him to lose his starting role, but a 2018 resurgence that saw him hit .331/.379/.548 with a career-high 25 homers put him firmly back on the map. He did not see such heights in 2019, hitting .315/.358/.434 with 12 home runs in 128 games, but he remained one of the better hitters on the LG Twins and a pivotal piece of their squad.

Officially, Chae’s nickname is “Silver Star”, but among LG Twins fans, he has been nicknamed “President of Elementary School Students” due to his choice of eyewear. Few professionals wear glasses while playing, and most generally prefer sports goggles, but Eun-sung Chae wears Windsor-style frames when at the batter’s box and in the field. Also, much like Steven Matz, Chae is very good at spinning things:

PITCHER OF THE WEEK

Tyler Wilson

7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, HR

Born on September 25, 1989 in Lynchburg, Virginia, Tyler Wilson attended Midlothian High School in Midlothian, Virginia, eventually committing and attending the University of Virginia. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 35th round during the 2010 MLB Draft, but did not sign with them and elected to return to the University of Virginia for his senior season. He won the Senior CLASS Award, given to the most outstanding senior in NCAA Division I baseball, and was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 10th round of the 2011 MLB Draft soon after, signing with them for a $20,000 bonus. All in all, he posted a 2.85 ERA in 249.1 innings for the Cavaliers, allowing 190 hits, walking 77, and striking out 267.

Wilson slowly but steadily climbed up the Orioles’ minor league ladder. The numbers generally were solid-to-average at every stop, but because his stuff was generally underwhelming, he never generated any serious buzz and seemed destined to be a fringe major leaguer, not necessarily good enough to make it to the MLB on his own merits, but good enough that if a need arose, he might be able to fill it. A need did arise in early in the 2015, when Wilson was having a solid start to the year with the Norfolk Tides, and on May 20th, he made his major league debut. Over the next few years, he shuffled up and down the major and minor league roster, pitching as both a starter and reliever. He showed a strong groundball rate early on, but as he accrued more innings, MLB hitters became more and more proficient lifting the ball for home runs. In September 2017, he was designated for assignment by Baltimore, and two months later, elected free agency.

Rather than take his chances with an MLB club, Wilson opted to sign with the LG Twins for $800,000, far more than he would have likely been able to sign for with an MLB club. In addition, unless he proved unable to adapt, he would be given the ability to start. Not only did the 28-year-old adapt to the league, but he thrived, posting a 3.07 ERA in 170.0 innings, allowing 158 hits, walking 35, and striking out 149. The Twins brought him back for the 2019 season on a $1.5 million contract, and they once again got their money’s worth, as he posted a 2.92 ERA in 185.0 innings, allowing 171 hits, walking 44, and striking out 137.

HITTER OF THE WEEK

May 3 to May 9: Hyun-soo Kim (6-17, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 0/0 SB)

May 10 to May 16: Roberto Ramos (6-16, 1 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 7 K, 0/0 SB)

PITCHER OF THE WEEK

May 3 to May 9: Woo-chan Cha (6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, HR)

May 10 to May 16: Casey Kelly (6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K)