The second half of the Samsung Lions’ 2023 season has begun. Samsung is still in last place. A rebound is desperately needed.
Samsung’s two-hitting struggles in the 안전놀이터 first half were severe. The batting lineup was not complete due to lineup injuries, and the lineup was heavy on young players. The veteran players were not able to do their job as they were heavily scrutinized by the opposition. Samsung’s team batting average in the first half was ninth in the KBO (0.252). Its batting average in scoring position was eighth (0.248). Aside from Kang Min-ho (0.307 batting average), no player has been able to consistently lead Samsung’s center field without injury or slumping.
The bullpen was also disappointing. In the first half of the season, Samsung’s bullpen had a 4.97 ERA (9th in the league). They suffered the most losses in the league (16) and had 10 blown saves. Samsung had 24 first-half blown leads, the most in the league. No Samsung bullpen pitcher with more than 20 innings pitched had a sub-3 ERA.
The lack of veteran players who were supposed to anchor the team was painful. At the plate, Oh Jae-il, who was supposed to lead the team in runs with one long hit, was silent. On the mound, Oh Seung-hwan’s inability to protect the team’s one- or two-run lead was disappointing.
Oh, a typical “slow starter” in the league, had his worst first half since his debut. He batted .183 with seven home runs, 34 RBIs, and a .332 on-base percentage. It was the first time since 2010 that Oh finished the first half with a batting average in the teens (.185). Oh also struck out 76 times, the second most in the league. In the end, Oh made one trip to the Futures (second team) in June. Shortly after returning to the first team, he was sidelined again in early July with a left hamstring injury. He didn’t play well in the first half.
Oh Seung-hwan also had an awkward first half. Seung-hwan Oh appeared in 26 games this year, posting a 2-3 record with two wins, two losses, 10 saves and a 4.80 ERA. He even made two trips to the starting mound for the first time in his professional career as he tried to find his pitching rhythm. He was released from the first team after an emotional outburst. He is now back in the first team, but has been sharing the closing duties with left-hander Lee Seung-hyun. He hasn’t lived up to his nickname as the closer.
Both players are said to be on the “aging curve” (declining performance with age). But Samsung, in the midst of a generational shift, still needs them. They’re the ones who are going to have to take the bull by the horns and guard the back door. That way, there’s less pressure on the younger players. Samsung’s second-half rebound and generational shift will depend on their resurgence.