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Royals Rumblings - News for July 21, 2023

Asian Baseball Midseason Check, Part II: KBO

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Indians
Why am I using a picture from a 2020 Royals-Indians game? One of these masked men is Adam Plutko, who will appear later in this article
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Day games are rough. Most outlets figure they can just use the game story to cover their Royals quota for the day. So there’s not a lot of Royals content. But I had a lot of fun checking in on the KBO at mid-season.

Anne Rogers caught up with MJ Melendez, who tinkered with his swing over the All-Star break:

Melendez altered his batting stance a bit so his hands are placed slightly farther away from his body. That’s allowed him to stay in line with the ball better instead of cutting off his swing.

“You want to hit the ball out front, but for me, when I was hitting the ball out front, my barrel was already coming out of the zone by the time I hit it,” Melendez said. “So I think that’s part of the reason I was a little bit late. I tried to adjust so I could hit a little deeper, keeping my hands more toward center field instead of toward the dugout.”

Meanwhile, Jaylon Thompson talked with some players who have been the subject of trade rumors:

“Some of these guys will experience getting traded for the first time and that’s kind of a shock,” Duffy said.

Duffy remembers shedding tears after getting traded from the San Francisco Giants. He was departing from the organization that drafted him. The process taught him to worry about controllable things on the field.

Here ends the official stories about the Royals today. Oof.

Not a lot going on with blogs, either. David and Craig took the day off. Alex has been busy with other work all season so there’s just not as much coming out of RFR. But he did drop this good news last night

Kevin O’Brien at the Royals Reporter gets a prime spot for his article “Three Reasons Why This Trade Deadline May Be a Tame One for the Royals

Last season, the Royals had a lot of talent that they could dangle for prospects. Benintendi and Merrifield ended up getting dealt, but Scott Barlow, Brad Keller, Taylor Clarke, and Josh Staumont were all assets whose names were mentioned around the deadline that did not get traded away.

Unfortunately, the Royals don’t have the position players available who can attract as much as Benny and Whit did a season ago. The most “realistic” tradeable position players on this Royals roster probably are Nicky Lopez and Edward Olivares, who both seem to be superfluous on a roster that is flush with infielders and outfielders, respectively.

Over at KOK, Jacob Milham asks Who is Hunter Patteson?

Finally, Patrick Glancy at Powder Blue Nostalgia looks at more old baseball fun: R-O-L-A-I-D-S Spells Relief

I’m sure my readers who aren’t Royals fans get tired of my Royals references, and I promise, I really do try to keep myself in check. But in this case, I think it’s appropriate. I want to talk about HDH. That’s Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland, for you non-Royals fans. And yes, I realize they don’t fit into the era we focus on in PBN, but bear with me a minute. I promise I’ll bring it back around again.

Last we looked at the CBPL. This week, it’s the KBO. Our timing has been perfect for the first two weeks. The CPBL started their second half last Friday. The KBO starts their second half today. Next week, we’ll finish with the NPB. But we’re not going 3 for 3 on second half starts as the NPB had their two All-Star games the last two days, is on break today, and will start the second half on Saturday. Here was our season preview for the KBO.

The KBO All-Star Game was July 15th. I watched a little of it using one of the links I mentioned in the season preview: “There’s a Reddit user (DreadsROK) who does goofy fun broadcasts of Hanwha Eagles games on his AfreecaTV channel”. Here’s the link to the All-Star game (also as I mentioned at the start of the season: “I had good luck with Opera and the Asia VPN mode, but, in theory, you should be able to watch from the States without it”).

Purple team Nanum beat Yellow team Dream 8-4. There are no leagues in the KBO - just 10 teams on a single table, 5 teams feed into each of the All-Star teams. Lest you think the USA is the only place that mixes military displays with sports, there was a 15-minute show in the middle of the game (about 1:25-1:40 on the video). In trying to figure out what it was, I found this less-than-pefect translation:

After the cleaning time in the bottom of the 5th inning, a special performance is prepared. In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice and the first All-Star Game held at Sajik Baseball Stadium in 16 years, the Navy Jinhae Base Command Honor Guard will present a splendid yet moderate performance.

I was about to do that thing where you look at the standing and then try to find different ways to verbalize the table. But the Korea Times already did this for me with their second half preview:

The LG Twins are leading the way with a record of 49-30-2 (wins-losses-ties), the only club to have won at least 60 percent of the games so far. Defending champions SSG Landers sit 2.5 games behind in second place, followed by the surging Doosan Bears, who have gone a perfect 9-0 in July. But the Bears still find themselves four games behind the Landers, and they are only five games up on seventh-place KT Wiz.

There’s a marquee matchup to start the second half:

The top two teams will clash for a three-game set to open the second half of the season, with the Twins hosting the Landers at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. The Twins have gone 6-2 against the Landers so far this year.

Where in the standings are our hapless Hanwha Eagles? Remember, they won the equivalent of the Cactus League title, which I think is as real a thing in Korea as it is here. Let’s start at the bottom of the standing, where they’ve been each of the three years we’ve followed them and... hey! They’re not in last! Sure, it’s only the halfway point and they could still sink to the bottom, but, for now, they’re in 8th at 34-40-4. The top five teams qualify for the playoffs and they’re only 2.5 GB of a playoff spot! However, there’s a lot of traffic behind the top 3 teams as 4th through 9th place are only separated by 4.5 games.

Here’s some news from back in June that spans the globe:

Seunghwan Oh recorded his 500th professional save when the KBO’s Samsung Lions beat the NC Dinos 9-6 earlier this week. The 40-year-old right-hander has since added one more and now has 379 saves in the KBO, 80 in NPB, and 42 in MLB. All but three of his stateside saves came with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2016-2017.

Addison Russell was released from the Kiwoom Heroes earlier this year. He hit a respectable .286/.339/.400 but got injured and those numbers are a bit low for a foreign player. Each team is only allowed 3 so teams have to use those spots judiciously.

Speaking of judicious use of foreign players, former Mariner, Ray, Pirate, Met, and Brave Guillermo Heredia was only a career .231 hitter across 7 MLB seasons. He’s leading the KBO at the All-Star break with a .339 average for the 2nd place SSG Landers.

Meanwhile, on the pitching side, 3 foreign players are aces of the other teams atop the standings. Adam Plutko, formerly of the Indians and Orioles, leads the 1st place LG Twins at 11-1 with a 2.21 ERA. The 3rd place Doosan Bears feature former Oakland pitcher Raul Alcantera at 9-3 with a 2.03 ERA and 107 K in 106.2 IP. But the best of all so far this season is former Nat Erick Fedde, pitching for the 4th place NC Dinos. His 12 wins and 1.71 ERA lead the KBO while his 109 Ks are 2nd.

An Woo Jin is the only other pitcher whose statline can match or even exceed Fedde. He is only 6-5, playing for the 9th place Kiwoom Heroes but his ERA is 2.44 is 4th in the league and he’s lapping the field with 130 strikeouts. He made some international waves earlier this year when he was left off the South Korea team for the World Baseball Classic due to bullying accusations.

The K.B.O. has said it excluded Mr. An, who has been dogged by anonymous accusations that he assaulted his teammates while in high school, because it considers him a reputational liability. He was not considered last year for an award given to the K.B.O.’s best pitcher because of those accusations.

No charges have ever been filed, and Mr. An has said that news reports about his bullying, for which he apologized at the time, were exaggerated. Yet many South Koreans, including baseball fans, have said they support his exclusion.

Over the last two decades, public accusations of school bullying and violence have played an increasingly prominent role in South Korean culture — Netflix even has a hit show on the subject, “The Glory.”

Finally, ICYMI: The Dodgers and Padres will open the 2024 MLB regular season in South Korea:

MLB and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) announced Wednesday (U.S. time) that the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres will play in Seoul on March 20 and 21 as the 2024 season opener. Dubbed the “Seoul Series” as part of the MLB World Tour, the games between the two National League West division rivals will be the first MLB regular season contests ever played in this country.

Time for some Matt catnip. This is as easy and as slow as it gets for F-Zero GX. This is the very first level on the very first cup on novice difficulty. It’s Mute City: Twist Road.