Back To Top

Korea crashes out with stagnant offense and sloppy fielding

TAICHUNG, Taiwan (Yonhap News) ― Leading up to the World Baseball Classic, South Korean players and coaches talked the talk. The country was third at the inaugural WBC in 2006 and then was second in 2009. Brimming with confidence, they said they were bound to win it all in their third try.

In Taiwan, though, they couldn’t walk the walk.

Despite making seven roster changes before the tournament and losing the country’s only two major leaguers ― Cincinnati outfielder Choo Shin-soo and Dodgers pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin ― manager Ryu Joong-il had repeatedly said he had assembled the best national team ever, even better than the teams that ranked third at the first WBC in 2006 and second three years later.
Closer Oh Seung-hwan was the most dominant relief pitcher for Korea.(Yonhap News)
Closer Oh Seung-hwan was the most dominant relief pitcher for Korea.(Yonhap News)

And yet, South Korea began the tournament with a 5-0 loss to the Netherlands last Saturday. It beat Australia 6-0 on Monday and also Taiwan 3-2 Tuesday, but that wasn’t enough to put the 2009 runner-up into the next round.

It needed to beat Taiwan by six runs, or by at least five and hope for a favorable tiebreak. South Korea had dug too large of a hole with the loss to the Dutch.

The game against Taiwan served as an apt microcosm of the team’s performance in the opening round, for it featured an offense that couldn’t capitalize on chances and an uncharacteristically sloppy defense.

South Korea eked out just four singles in the 5-0 loss to the Netherlands on Saturday. The hitters appeared to have bounced back by getting 11 hits off Australia in the 6-0 win, but they returned to their old, unproductive selves Tuesday against Taiwan until the three-run eighth inning.

Sub-par fielding also hurt South Korea. In the third inning against Taiwan, center fielder Jeon Jun-woo bobbled the ball on a single that he should have handled easily, and the mishap allowed the runner, Yang Dai-Kang, to score all the way from first.

Bright spots in bullpen

Though South Korea was knocked out of the first round at the World Baseball Classic, the country did have some bright spots, particularly in the bullpen.

Oh Seung-hwan, the all-time saves leader in the top domestic league, was easily the most dominant relief pitcher for South Korea.

He appeared in all three games, striking out six in 2 2/3 innings without giving up a hit or a walk.

It was a bounce-back performance for Oh, who only made two appearances in South Korea’s dramatic run to the final at the 2009 WBC and was tagged with a loss in an inning of work.

The pending free agent also drew plenty of attention from major league scouts watching WBC games in Taiwan.

Known for his heavy fastball and slider, the Samsung Lions closer was one of the few pitchers in midseason form, hitting 151 kilometers per hour on the speed gun.

Left-handed reliever Park Hee-soo made a successful international debut, throwing three effective innings.

Against Australia, he entered the game with no outs and a runner on second in the fifth, and left it without giving up a run over 1 1/3 innings.

Then against Taiwan, he inherited a runner on first with one out in the fifth and kept the opponent off the board over 1 2/3 innings. The 29-year-old had been tabbed as the best left-handed option in the bullpen, especially after Bong Jung-keun pulled out with a shoulder injury.