He gave it a good run, but Mel Rojas Jr. of the KT Wiz has ultimately come up short of winning a South Korean baseball batting Triple Crown.
The 30-year-old outfielder led the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) in the regular season with 47 home runs and 135 RBIs. He built such substantial leads in those two categories down the stretch that the only suspense was whether he would also win the batting title and take home the Triple Crown.
The best Rojas Jr. can hope for now is to finish second in the batting race. He sat in third place in batting average with .349 after the conclusion of his season on Friday. Son Ah-seop of the Lotte Giants finished second at .352 and the league leader, Choi Hyoung-woo of the Kia Tigers, is taking his .354 average into the final game of the season against the NC Dinos Saturday evening.
A 1-for-5 night at the plate Friday ensured that Rojas Jr.
would not get the Triple Crown. Only two KBO players have won it -- Lee Man-soo in 1984 for the Samsung Lions, and Lee Dae-ho in 2006 and 2010 for the Lotte Giants. Batting average and RBIs are no longer revered as viable statistics among more analytically savvy fans and observers -- they're considered random with an element of luck involved -- but there's still something romantic about having the highest batting average and most home runs, plus most RBIs, all at the same time.
Rojas Jr. was batting .387 through July, but a .206 average in August brought his season average down to .340. He bounced back by hitting .348 for September and then .388 in October. But going
3-for-14 in his final three games likely cost him.
Rojas Jr. still put up outstanding numbers elsewhere, as he finished among the leaders in most major offensive categories except steals and established himself as a strong MVP candidate.
His 47 homers are the most by a KBO player since Kiwoom Heroes'
Park Byung-ho had 53 in 2015. Rojas Jr. is the first foreign player with the outright home run title since Larry Sutton of the now-defunct Hyundai Unicorns in 2005.
Rojas Jr. also led the league with a .680 slugging percentage and ranked third with a .417 on-base percentage. His on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) of 1.097 also topped the KBO.
Rojas Jr. ranked second in hits with 192 and third in multihit games with 58.
Rojas Jr. holds a 116-115 lead in runs scored over the Dinos' designated hitter Na Sung-bum, who may or may not play Saturday in a meaningless game for his club. But in total bases, Rojas Jr. has a huge lead over Na at 374-313. (Yonhap)