The Lotte Giants and Hanwha Eagles are the KBO’s only two remaining 20th-century champions, but can they be different this year?
The LG Twins won the regular season and Korean Series last year, ending a 29-year drought since 1994. They finished first in the regular season with 86 wins, two ties, and 56 losses, and in the Korean Series, their first in 21 years since 2002, they defeated second-place KT (79 wins, three ties, and 62 losses) four games to one to win their third Korean Series title.
LG’s coveted title leaves Lotte and Hanwha as the only two teams to win the title in the 20th century but not in the 21st. Lotte hasn’t won a title in 31 years, with the last one coming in 1992, and Hanwha hasn’t won a title in 24 years, after winning its first and last in 1999.
Lotte finished seventh in the league last year with 68 wins and 76 losses.
It was in contention for the league title until May 19, but gradually slipped and ended the season in seventh place. After finishing third in the league in 2017, they finished seventh in 2018, 10th in 2019, seventh in 2020, eighth in 2021, eighth in 2022, and seventh in 2023, marking their sixth consecutive year in the bottom half.
After head coach Larry Sutton left the team during the season due to health reasons, Lotte hired Kim Tae-hyung as the new head coach to lead the team for the 2024 season. Kim was the manager of Doosan from 2015 to 2022, leading the team to seven consecutive Korean Series appearances and three Korean City League titles (2015, 2016, and 2019). The appointment shows Lotte’s intention to challenge fall baseball by rebuilding the team. 바카라사이트 At the inauguration ceremony, Kim Tae-hyung said, “In my first year as manager, I said that I aimed to win the championship without fear, so I would like to say it here as well. I hope the players will also aim to win the championship and prepare themselves. As a coach, what else can I say? The first goal is the postseason, and the next goal is the championship. After every season, there is always disappointment. There are many ways to overcome disappointment, but it’s important to feel it in your body. I want to emphasize that to the players,” he said, adding that he was determined to win.
However, there was a major loss in team strength.
While internal free agent Jeon Jun-woo re-signed for up to 4.7 billion won ($4.7 million) over four years, starting second baseman Ahn Chi-hong left the team to sign a 4+2-year deal with Hanwha for a total of 7.2 billion won. The loss of Ahn Chi-hong, who batted 2-for-9 (124-for-425) with eight home runs, 63 RBIs and a .774 OPS in 121 games last year, will be missed. Lotte made a move to minimize Ahn’s absence by selecting Oh Sun-jin and Choi Hang in the second round of the draft.
Hanwha finished ninth in the league last year with 58 wins, six draws, and 80 losses. They failed to qualify for the postseason and had to settle for avoiding the ignominy of finishing last in the league for the fourth straight year. After finishing third in the league in 2018 and reaching the postseason for the first time in 11 years, the team hasn’t finished higher than ninth in five years, finishing ninth in 2019, 10th in 2020 and 2022, and ninth in 2023.
This year, however, was a season of bright spots.
The signing of Chae Eun-sung to a six-year, up to $9 billion free agent contract bolstered the batting lineup, and Noh Si-hwan reached his full potential, batting .298 with 31 home runs, 101 RBIs and a .929 OPS in 131 games (514 at-bats, 153 hits). Moon Dong-ju also raised expectations for the 2024 season after winning the Rookie of the Year award with an 8-8 record and 3.72 ERA in 23 games (118⅔ innings).
Hanwha further bolstered its batting lineup this winter with the signing of Ahn Chi-hong, the second big free agent after Chae Eun-sung. They also brought in veterans like Kim Kang-min and Lee Jae-won, both of whom had won championships with SSG, to fill the team’s lack of experience. Internal free agent Jang Min-jae was also re-signed to a 2+1 year deal worth up to 800 million won. This was the most aggressive move of the Stobrig.
Lotte and Hanwha both have something to look forward to this year. Fans are eager to see if the two teams, which have been in the bottom half of the standings for a long time, can show a different side in 2024.