They say they don’t know the bullpen, but they know the bullpen.
The Lotte Giants have a pretty big gap between their pitchers in the best-of-seven group and their non-best-of-seven pitchers. Their lineup of closer Kim Won-joong, set-up man Koo Seung-min, and Choi Jun-yong is as good as any of the 10 teams in the league. While many clubs change their starting lineup every year, Lotte has been able to keep this lineup stable.
The problem, however, is the pitchers outside of the top of the order. Lotte was constantly trying to develop pitchers who could support the top of the lineup, but it wasn’t easy. If the starter went down in the fifth inning, there was no one who could take charge of the sixth inning. We couldn’t find the link to the bullpen. For the past two years, Kim Do-kyu has fulfilled that role to some extent, but he hasn’t found his best form since returning from surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow at the end of last year.
Lee Min-seok and Seo Jun-won were also considered to be capable of filling this role, but Lee suffered a torn elbow ligament in the opening game of the year. The ligaments in his elbow, which had been built in and taken care of, suddenly failed to hold up and he had to undergo Tommy John surgery. Seo Jun-won, who was charged with a sex offense against a minor before the season, was released and is now a taboo word for everyone in Lotte.
Instead, Lotte built up its bullpen depth by signing a number of veteran pitchers who were released. Shin Jung-rak (36), Yoon Myung-joon (34), and Kim Sang-soo (35) were brought in one after the other. These were veterans who had slowed down from their prime. Although they weren’t at their peak, we believed they could still play a role. Shin Jeong-rak and Yoon Myung-joon had flashes of brilliance but were inconsistent. But Kim Sang-soo was different. He has rebounded to the point where he has become the embodiment of grit, firing up the mound with passion and reminiscent of his prime.
Kim Sang-soo has been a virtual must-win this year. He anchored the bullpen when Choi Jun-yong went down with an injury. In 50 appearances, he has a 3-1 record, one save, 11 holds, and a 3.79 ERA (16 earned runs in 38 innings). He transplanted his experience as the KBO’s first-ever 40-hit man in 2019 to the LOTTE bullpen this year, bringing enthusiasm and energy. He is currently Lotte’s top pitcher and tied for third among all bullpen pitchers in the league with Jung Woo-young (LG) and Park Young-hyun (KT) for most appearances. 먹튀검증
With Choi Jun-yong back, Kim Sang-soo is back to being the go-to guy. Especially when the team was chasing or trailing, the pitcher expressed the bench’s determination not to give up on the game.
However, his second half contributions were even more remarkable. A 2.16 ERA in 11 games with 3 holds (2 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings). He’s already thrown two three-hit shutouts as the first pitcher called upon in late-inning crunch time, especially in the second half, where he stranded 15 runners but allowed just one to reach base. He’s allowed just 6.7 runs on those runners.
However, Kim Sang-soo will not be available for the three-game series against KIA this weekend. He felt pain in his left calf and suffered a micro-tear in his left calf muscle on April 10 against Gochuk Kiwoom. Entry