“2017 is incomparably better, but I think this is the best since then.”

The KIA Tigers are on a roll. Kia head coach Kim Jong-guk has a smile on his face.

The Tigers have won nine straight games, starting against the KT Wiz on March 24 and ending against the Doosan Bears on March 6. There were many ups and downs. First, foreign pitcher Mario Sanchez went down with partial ligament damage and impingement syndrome in his right elbow. Lee Yi-ri, who had been resting with shoulder inflammation, also struggled in his comeback game on the 3rd (4 runs in 3 innings).카지노사이트

The bats picked up the slack. As a team, they batted .336 (111-for-330) with 12 home runs and 78 runs scored, along with a .397 on-base percentage and .521 slugging percentage. The team ranks first in batting average, runs scored, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, while also ranking in the top 10 in home runs (third) and hits (third).

“Lately, our players have a lot of faith that they can win,” said Kim Jong-kook. The pitchers believe, ‘If I give them a little bit of a boost, the hitters can turn it around.’ The hitters also seem to have the mindset that ‘if the pitcher doesn’t give up any runs, we can win’.”

With so much momentum, comparisons to the Tigers’ past glory days are inevitable. The most common comparison is to 2017. Back then, KIA won the title with a team batting average of .302 (2nd all-time), 906 runs scored (3rd all-time), and an OPS (on-base percentage) of .840 (9th all-time).

How did this year’s lineup look in the eyes of manager Kim Jong-kook, who has watched the team’s history as a one-club man since his debut with the Hattae Tigers (KIA’s predecessor) in 1996? “The batting lineup was incomparably better. In 2017, our team batting average was 3%,” he laughs.

Instead, KIA has become more dynamic than it was in 2017. In 2017, KIA was led by senior players like Choi Hyung-woo, Lee Beom-ho (current KIA coach), Kim Joo-chan (current Doosan Bears coach), and Lee Myung-ki (current Hanwha Eagles). This year, table-setters Park Chan-ho (27 steals in 108 games) and Kim Do-young (15 steals in 48 games) will stir the pot, and veterans Na Sung-beom and Choi Hyung-woo will call on them. Coach Kim Jong-kook said, “We have younger players now. We’re not as good (offensively) as we were back then, but I think we’re the best we’ve been since 2017 because we’re more cohesive.”

“Actually, I don’t think it will be much different from 2017,” said batting spearhead Park Chan-ho. “If you look at the record, it was good then, but 2017 was a ride-or-die year. If you look at the adjusted performance, I think this year is comparable enough.”

Kia’s second-half batting performance has seen him hit .307 with an OPS of 0.832. The difference between their league average OPS in 2017 (0.791) and their league average OPS in the second half of the year (0.711) is huge. In Park’s words, KIA’s destructive power this year has been on par with, or even better than, that of 2017.

Like Kim Jong-kook, Chan-ho cites the team’s organization as a strength. “It’s hard to name one player who sparked the offense. Everyone does their job so well. From the top to the bottom, there’s no one who can’t hit,” he said, adding, “I think we’re able to keep playing well because everyone does their part.”

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