The oldest players in the 2023 KBO League are Choo Shin-soo, Kim Kang-min (SSG), and Oh Seung-hwan (Samsung), born in 1982, who are celebrating their 41-year-old season. Another 1982-born Lee Dae-ho retired from the Lotte Giants at the end of last year, and his number 10 was permanently removed. The ‘Golden Generation’, which was very active not only in the national team but also in overseas leagues, now has only three players left.
Choo Shin-soo of SSG Landers, 메이저놀이터 who made a U-turn in the KBO League after graduating from Busan High School, entered the major leagues right away. This year marks his third season. Choo Shin-soo, who did not have a championship ring in the pros until 2021, the first year of the KBO League, as well as during his major league days, earned a championship ring for the first time last year and spent a meaningful season.
Last year, Choo Shin-soo recorded a batting average of 0.259, 16 homers, 58 RBIs, and an OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) of 0.812. His batting average ranked only 44th out of 53 league hitters who filled regulation plate appearances. However, he met double-digit homers and an OPS of 0.8. His on-base percentage was 0.382, seventh in the league. Recently, unlike in the past, the KBO League is changing to a tendency to value slugging power, on-base ability, and OPS rather than batting average, and Choo Shin-soo was a representative example.
Choo Shin-soo, who took on the leading role as the immovable number one hitter, had similar hitting indicators to the SSG team’s batting line. SSG ranked 7th with a team batting average of 0.254. However, it was competitive with 138 home runs, 1st place, OPS 0.732 and on-base percentage 0.33, all 3rd place. SSG’s average goals per game was 5.00, leading the league. Unlike the past, Shin-soo Choo and the SSG batting line proved that batting average does not tell everything about batting.
Choo Shin-soo took the lead in SSG’s victory with a batting average of 0.320 and an OPS of 0.774 with no home runs and no RBIs in the Korean Series, which he experienced for the first time. SSG defeated Kiwoom Heroes 4-2 and achieved its first combined victory after acquiring SK Wyverns. After the end of last year’s season, some observed that Choo Shin-soo would retire at the top. However, Choo Shin-soo signed a contract for 1.7 billion won, a decrease of 1 billion won from his annual salary of 2.7 billion won, and continued his career as an active player this year.
It is unknown whether Choo Shin-soo’s performance will continue this year as well. Looking at the so-called ‘bolsambi’ of the last two seasons, that is, the ratio of strikeouts to walks, it is revealed that Shin-soo Choo’s leading ability, which is his strong point, is declining. In 2021, he got 103 walks while striking out 123 for a ‘ball sambi’ of 0.84. However, in 2022,’Bolsambi’ fell to 0.71 with 100 strikeouts and 71 walks. It is an inevitable phenomenon that the hitter’s ratio of balls decreases as he gets older and enters the ‘aging curve’.
It remains to be seen how Shin-soo Choo’s weakness against left-handed pitchers, which has been pointed out since his days in the major leagues, will manifest this year. Last year, Shin-soo Choo’s batting average was 0.267 against right-handed pitchers and 0.273 against underhand pitchers, but he was the weakest against left-handed pitchers with a batting average of 0.233.
As data on Choo Shin-soo has been accumulated by opposing teams while playing in the KBO League for two years, it is expected that they will dig into weaknesses more tenaciously this year. Other teams recognize that blocking Choo Shin-soo, the leadoff, is the way to prevent SSG from scoring and winning.
Ahead of the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC), Choo Shin-soo has been at the center of controversy in the baseball world by criticizing the national team’s veteran boarding and excluding Ahn Woo-jin (Kiwoom), who was controversial in high school. As a result, it seems that Choo Shin-soo’s every move this year will attract more attention than in previous years.
Last winter, SSG did not have any special power reinforcement, so attention is focused on whether it will be possible to build a second consecutive victory and ‘SSG Dynasty’ this year. Attention is focusing on whether Choo Shin-soo will take the lead in SSG’s second consecutive victory with his unchanging performance.