The KBO League’s top hitter, Lee Jeong-hoo (25, Kiwoom Heroes),’s performance at the beginning of the season is really strange.
In the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League regular season home game against the Samsung Lions held at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on the 19th, Lee Jung-hoo started as the third center fielder and recorded no hits in 6 at-bats. Kiwoom lost 5-9 after overtime due to Lee Jung-hoo being silent at every opportunity.
It is the second time since 메이저놀이터his debut that he has not even reached base while entering more than 6 at-bats, and it is the second year after his debut, and it is the second year, September 8, 2018, against the Gocheok KT Wiz, no hits in 6 at bats and 1 strikeout. At the same time, the batting average fell from 0.239 to 0.212, and the season performance was 13 games, 2 homers, 10 RBIs, 1 stolen base, on-base percentage of 0.339, slugging percentage of 0.365, and OPS (slugging percentage + on-base percentage) of 0.704.
Although the performance is at the average level of the entire league, the uneasy gaze is gradually increasing because Lee Jung-hoo won the MVP with 5 batting crowns (batting average, most hits, RBIs, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage) last year. The reasons for the sluggishness in the early stages are the poor conditioning due to participation in the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) and the changed batting form to increase long hits during the offseason. However, regarding his physical condition and poor physical condition, Lee Jung-hoo drew a line saying that he was definitely fine.
Naturally, the eyes of suspicion are focused on the changed batting form. Lee Jung-hoo, who declared his challenge for the major leagues after this season, was pointed out as a point of improvement for his long hitting power and his ability to cope with fast balls. He surpassed 20 home runs in one season for the first time in his career last year, and his potential for improvement was evaluated positively, but he needed to show a little more consistency.
Lee Jung-hoo has been swinging the bat while waiting for the ball with his back foot fixed. In this case, it is advantageous to produce hits because you can watch the change of the ball, but there is a disadvantage that you cannot respond quickly to fast balls. To overcome this, he changed his batting form, moving forward and then swinging quickly. If a quick pitch judgment is the basis, driving distance can be increased by using propulsion and rotational power.
So far, it seems to be having difficulty adapting. According to Stats, a Korean baseball statistics website, 10.2% of Lee Jung-hoo’s strikes this year were missed swings. It is the highest individual record, and it is in contrast to last year’s 4.9%, which was rarely missed. In particular, the timing is not right for the ball coming in low across the bottom of the strike zone.
However, this is also an intended result for rapid adaptation. Lee Jung-hoo, whom we met in the last match against Gocheok KIA, said, “I’m not nervous, but I’m putting out a lot of bats to balance the batting. (Intentionally) I put out a lot of bats, so I think I’ve been swinging more bad balls.”
In fact, he is having difficulty judging some types of pitches, but his composure and initiative not to hit a bad ball are still the same. Based on Sports 2 I, Jung-hoo Lee’s actual swing rate per pitch was 5.6%, which is not much different from the 3.4% recorded over the past six seasons.
The fact that he was generally a slow starter is the reason why Lee Jung-hoo’s early sluggishness is not too much of a concern. In 2021, when he won the first batting title in his career, he started with a batting average of 20%. That year, Lee Jung-hoo tried to make a change by challenging his first full-time position in center field, but in April, he had a batting average of 0.269 and an OPS of 0.717. However, after adapting, he started producing hits in earnest from May, and eventually finished the season with a batting average of 0.360.
Two years ago and this year, Hong Won-ki Kiwoom coach is not too worried about Lee Jung-hoo’s poor performance in the beginning. When watching on the field, it is evaluated that the batting speed, unique sincerity and desire to compete are still the same. The baseball world is paying attention to how Lee Jung-hoo, who has finished adapting, will finish this year.