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“0,142?” Come on, Lee

Posted May. 09, 2004 20:44,   


How longer can his poor batting continue?

“Asia Homerun King” Lee Seung-yeop (28, Lotte Marines, photo) is struggling at bat.

On May 8 Lee suffered the humiliation of being moved down to the seventh batting slot in the home game against the Kintetsu Buffaloes for the first time since his debut in Japan. When the Marines lost 1-5 on May 9, he made one hit in three at bats, and even then it did not help the Marines’ score.

He only hit three of 21 at bats (0.142) with no home runs during the past six games. Furthermore, Lee has only gotten five home runs over the past 37 games, averaging 0.240, destroying his reputation as the best hitter in Korea. This batting average ranks Lee low among 40 batters in Pacific League who have exceeded the required minimum.

Lee is now faced with the possibility of stepping down to a second-class team. A maximum of four foreign players can play according to regulation, and Lotte, whose primary focus is on batting, has appointed all three foreign hitters, including Benny and Franco as well as Lee.

Manager Bobby Valentine, who praised Lee as “the best” until recently, is considering allowing a new foreign pitcher in an extreme measure to improve the team’s performance. Lee’s exclusion from clean-up hitting would be included in possible changes.

The Japanese press also started to criticize him but are being met with indifference. Nikkan Sports stated bluntly, “Lee often misses the chance to raise his team’s momentum.”

The worst thing is that he hasn’t been able to determine the reason for his poor performance. His swing has not changed and he has no physical problems.

Some people say that he is scared of inside balls and consequently standing too far from home plate as well as waiting for curveballs. Lee disagrees.

Generally power hitters like Lee hit a homer by pulling a bit far from a plate. Lee has also been aggressive at the plate: he has swung at the first or second pitch 32 times out of 130 at bats. His current batting average on the first or second pitch has reached 0.281, a level much higher than his total average.

A worsening batting eye may be the reason of his bad batting. He has lost his hitting balance as a result of deception by Japanese pitchers who like to throw a luring ball even in disadvantaged ball counts.

Lotte, in first place in the beginning of season, has recently suffered 1 win and 6 losses simultaneously with Lee’s slump and is now in last place with 15 wins, 20 losses and 1 draw as of May 9.

Hwan Soo Zang zangpabo@donga.com