The 40-hold king of the year, the four-game winning streak… Better than a 40-billion FA, a 100-million free agent, and the Lotte bullpen without him.

In modern baseball, where pitching three straight games is taboo for bullpen pitchers, it’s now possible to pitch four straight games. The Lotte Giants’ best bullpen arm, Kim Sang-soo (35), has been supporting the team’s bullpen with his hard work. Although he was a free agent, he has been performing better than a free agent.

On April 18 against Gochuk Kiwoom, Kim Sang-soo pitched a scoreless seventh inning with a 3-2 lead to secure his 13th hold of the season. However, Han Hyun-hee, who took over for Kim Sang-soo, gave up a game-winning three-run homer to Lee Joo-hyung and the team lost 4-5. The team’s bid for a five-game winning streak and a return to the five-win column fell short. The loss negated Kim Sang-soo’s four-game pitching streak.

Lotte swept the three-game series against Sajik SSG on April 15-18, but all three games were close affairs that required pitchers to be brought in late in the game. On the 17th, they won the game 15-4, but held a slim 6-4 lead before a nine-run eighth inning. In the process, Kim Sang-soo, Choi Jun-yong, Goo Seung-min, and other must-win setup men pitched three straight games on the 17th. On the 18th, no pitcher was able to keep the game close.

Starter Charlie Barnes went six innings, throwing 102 pitches, allowing seven hits, two walks, five strikeouts, and two runs (one earned) with the score at 3-2. My worst fears were realized. With a slim lead, we had no reliable pitchers in the seventh inning except for closer Kim Won-joong and the bullpen, with the exception of Kim Sang-soo, who pitched fewer innings and fewer pitches in his third straight start. He threw 10 pitches in ⅓ inning on the 15th, 7 pitches in ⅓ inning on the 16th, and 20 pitches in 1 inning on the 17th.

Eventually, Kim Sang-soo was chosen to pitch the seventh inning. He gave up a leadoff single to Kim Hye-sung, but got Dawson to ground out to first base and Kim Hwi-jip to fly out to center field to end the inning on a three-hitter. He finished the inning with 13 pitches.

Kim Sang-soo returned to the mound after a four-day layoff due to a micro-tear in his left calf muscle suffered against Gochuk Kiwoom on April 10, but he immediately threw four straight shutout innings. The situation was unavoidable.

However, there is no avoiding the criticism that the situation should not have been created. It was a bullpen day starting with Shim Jae-min against SSG on the 17th. Shim lasted three innings with two runs, and Han Hyun-hee came in afterward and pitched two scoreless innings. With the bullpen already having pitched back-to-back games, it would have been a better option to give Han a longer inning, as he has experience starting. However, Han was sent down after only two innings, and the bullpen of Kim Sang-soo, Choi Jun-yong, and Koo Seung-min all had to pitch back-to-back games. This led to Kim Sang-soo’s fourth straight start.

After being released by SSG last year, Sang-soo rejected offers from several teams to join Lotte. His annual salary is 110 million won. In 2019, he became the first KBO player to record 40 holds in a game, but after his release, he vowed to stay with Lotte and is proving it with results. This year, Lotte signed a number of free agents, and Kim is arguably their best signing. In 54 games, he has a 4-1 record, 1 save, 13 holds, and a 3.54 ERA (16 earned runs in 40⅔ innings).

He has pitched the most games for the team and the league. He has pitched four consecutive games and three consecutive complete games three times this year. That’s not to say he’s had it easy on the mound. He has walked the fifth-most runners in the league (34), but has allowed just five runs. That’s a 14.71% walk rate. This is second only to SSG’s Ko Hyo-joon (4 of 35, 11.43%) among pitchers who have inherited 30 or more runners.

On the other hand, Han Hyun-hee, who signed a four-year, up to 4 billion won free agent contract with Lotte this year, overshadowed Kim Sang-soo’s four-game no-hitter in Game 18. He has struggled this year, going 5-10 with a 5.77 ERA while splitting time between the starting rotation and bullpen. In terms of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Kim Sang-soo is at 0.68 and Han Hyun-hee is at -0.27.메이저놀이터

Not only has Han Hyun-hee failed to fulfill his role as a starter and bullpen player, but Kim Do-kyu and Kim Jin-wook have struggled, Lee Min-seok has been injured, and Seo Jun-won has left the team for one reason or another. There’s no telling how bad the Lotte bullpen would have been without him this year.

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