Coach change → 5th place finish → 10th place finish in 72 days…MVP and Rookie of the Year candidate…4th straight year in last place.
The Hanwha Eagles, who have lost eight straight games, are back in last place after 72 days, a winning percentage lower than even Kiwoom, which has been “virtually tanking”.
Hanwha went 0-10 against the LG Twins in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on April 1. The losing streak, which began on the 19th of last month, has now stretched to eight games. With 42 wins, six draws, and 61 losses, their winning percentage dropped to 0.408 and their ranking dropped to 10th. The Kiwoom Heroes moved up to ninth place, one game behind Hanwha in terms of game difference but ahead in terms of winning percentage (0.412). Hanwha is back in last place for the first time in 72 days since June 21.
Game 1 was tight until the fourth inning. Felix Peña gave up an early run, but was able to escape with runners on first and second and only one out. However, the three runs in the fifth proved costly. With Peña giving up four runs in five innings, the bullpen collapsed. The second pitcher, Lee Chung-ho, gave up five runs with one out, and even Kang Jae-min couldn’t save the day.
The batters managed just five hits. They couldn’t even score with runners on first and second with no outs, and when the gap grew to 10 runs, Han threw in the towel. After using a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning, he changed all of his outfielders, and in the eighth inning, he changed all four infielders.
The offensive inning became meaningless with the leadoff man out of the game. With runners on first and second in the sixth inning, 12 batters were retired in a row, ending the game in 2 hours and 44 minutes. Hanwha dropped to last place as Kiwoom caught KT a short time later.
The team changed managers, vowing to play winning baseball, and at one point even chased for fifth place, but ultimately fell into place. If they finish the season as they are, they will be the second franchise in history to finish last for four consecutive years, following the Lotte Giants from 2001-2004.
On May 11, when Choi Won-ho was promoted to first team manager, Hanwha was ranked ninth. Hanwha moved up to ninth on May 7 under Subero and stayed there for a month until June 6. From June 7-21, the team was in last place for 15 days before rebounding on the 22nd. At one point in July, it closed to within 2.0 games of the top five.
However, they were unable to keep up. The team tried using foreign batters in an attempt to solve the batting slump, but it was just another failure. After a month of deliberation following the release of Brian O’Grady, the team brought in Nick Williams, but things didn’t change.
Williams hasn’t even made it into the starting lineup due to defensive insecurities. In 37 games, he’s batting just .221. Even the foreign bats, thought to be the final trump card, have failed to deliver, and Hanwha’s team batting average is 0.238 and OPS is 0.665, both dead last.
Mistakes, which topped the list with 134 last year, were at least 76 this year. Choi Won-ho also emphasized defense to his players during the losing streak. “I told them to focus on what they can do better between hitting and defense. Hitting is not something you can get good at just by trying. No one can hit because they don’t want to. But you can be good at defense if you’re conscious of it. We’re going to focus on defense.”스포츠토토
In fact, the team only committed four errors in the period, but the losses were elsewhere. The team is batting just .160 and giving up 6.1 runs per game.
The team has run out of options to bolster its lineup, including foreign players and trades. Expanding the roster in September is also unlikely to give Hanwha a dramatic boost. Moreover, the top two hitters will soon be gone. Moon Dong-ju will wrap up his regular-season appearances on March 3 against LG in Jamsil, and then he’ll start managing his innings and preparing for the Asian Games. Noh Si-hwan will also play in the Asian Games.
Another reason why finishing last for a fourth straight year doesn’t seem impossible is Hanwha’s second-half performance. Hanwha is 8-2 with 21 losses in the second half of the season for a .276 winning percentage. If this is what Hanwha wanted this year, whether it was to play winning baseball or to prepare for winning baseball, I don’t think they expected this kind of performance.