On July 17, Lotte added catcher Yoo Kang-nam to the first team roster. After being sidelined for a while with an abdominal muscle injury, Yoo Gang-nam made his way to the first team through the Futures League (second team) warm-ups after recovering from the injury, and on the 17th, he returned to the starting lineup and had a successful game.
LOTTE head coach Larry Sutton said of Yoo’s return, “It adds another layer of leadership. He’s always smiling and makes the team feel good.” However, as expected, there was no lineup change between the catchers. Instead, pitcher Seok Sang-ho was sent down to the second team, making it a three-catcher system.
Lotte is currently the only team in the league that uses a three-catcher system. Having more catchers on the roster has the advantage of allowing for different scenarios in mid- and late-game substitutions. However, it also comes with the disadvantage of sacrificing a position in the infield and outfield. That’s why most teams utilize a two-catcher system before the expansion of the roster. However, Lotte had a reason to go with a three-catcher system at this point.
That’s because of the breakout performance of Lee Jung-geun. He has been one of the best hitters in the league in August. Through 17 games, he’s batting .536 with one home run, seven RBIs, and a 1.450 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage). He’s been the lifeblood of the team’s offense. It’s something to keep your eyes open for, considering he’s historically been more of a defensive player than an offensive one, and his offensive production has been well below league average.
Because of this, Sutton has decided to go with a three-catcher system. This means that when Yoo Kang-nam is in the leadoff spot, Son Sung-bin, the team’s top prospect with a good shoulder, can be used as a “batting specialist” to fill in in mid-game and later situations. The team’s lack of right-handed hitting options makes this system work best for now. On days when Jeon Jun-woo or Ahn Chi-hong are off, we might see a designated hitter. It’s hard to know what to expect until June.
With that infield performing well and a solid core of veteran players, Lotte’s offense has exploded in August. Through 15 games in August, Lotte has a team batting average of 0.307 and a team OPS of 0.825. Both their team batting average and team OPS are well above the league average, and they are second in the league behind KIA. Through 15 games, they have 91 runs scored. As you’d expect from this metric, there’s a lot to be positive about. 안전놀이터
The veteran players, who are supposed to be the pillars of the team, are carrying the weight. Ahn Chi-hong has an OPS of 1.128 in August, Jeon Jun-woo has an OPS of 1.106, and Jung Hoon has an OPS of 1.010. In addition, Jung-geun and Lee Jung-hoon are pushing the pace, performing above expectations. Lee Jung-hoon is also on fire with a .447 batting average and 1.033 OPS in 15 games in August. This gives us one more player to call upon when we need a left-handed batting option. We also have Yoon Dong, a young player whose inexperience and fitness were a concern.