Yesterday, Nexen Heroes’ rookie center fielder Lee Jeong-hoo was intentionally walked in the 7th inning. This walk was significant for two reasons -- it was the first of Lee’s career, and it came with two outs.
In baseball, issuing an opposing batter an intentional walk is a strategy that involves taking a little risk to avoid possible greater danger.
Typically intentional walks are issued toward the end of games to create force-out situations. For example, they are commonly used in close games to set up double-play possibilities or create a force play at the plate.
However, these situations usually only occur with one out. If a batter is given an intentional walk with two outs, that is for a different reason entirely -- they are deemed too large of a threat, and simply giving them first base free is more desirable than risking them getting a hit.
Nexen Heroes' centerfielder Lee Jeong-hoo batting in a game against the NC Dinos on June 29, 2017. (Yonhap)
Yesterday, when Lee Jeong-hoo stepped up to the plate in the 7th inning with runners on 2nd and 3rd, he had already collected two hits and a walk in the game. The opposing Kia Tigers, down 4-2, chose to walk Lee rather than risk pitching to him and increasing their deficit.
It was the right choice. After walking Lee to load the bases, Kia’s Park Jin-tae escaped the inning without further damage. And while Kia still lost, they had avoided facing Lee.
It is very rare for a rookie to be issued a 2-out intentional walk.
The most recent occurrence was June 5, 2010, in a game that coincidentally also involved Kia and Nexen. In that game, Nexen pitcher Song Shin-yeong walked Kia rookie Lee Jong-hwan to preserve a slim 6-5 lead in the 8th inning.
In the past decade, this type of intentional walk has only been issued one other time, to SK Wyvern’s rookie An Chi-hong on June 24, 2009.
Lee Jeong-hoo, who is only 19, currently stands as the runaway leader for the 2017 KBO Rookie of the Year award. He has collected 107 hits in 332 at bats this season for a .332 average, as well as 2 home runs, 31 RBIs, and 67 runs scored. He was also the youngest player to ever start in the KBO All-Star Game and is currently riding an 11 game hit streak.
By Alex Park / Intern reporter (email@example.com)