Posted : 2014-06-09 17:00
Updated : 2014-06-09 17:46

Ready to set new records

By Kim Tae-jong

As the slugfest trend continues this season in Korean baseball, attention is now placed on whether the league will see new historic records in batting.

Some outstanding hitters have already reserved their tickets to titles for the largest number of
home runs,
Lee Jae-won of the SK Wyverns
Park Byung-ho of the Nexen Heroes
Seo Geon-chang of the Nexen Heroes
highest batting averages and the most hits.

Park Byung-ho of the Nexen Heroes hit a solo homer in the ninth during a game against the Doosan Bears in Mokdong, Seoul, Sunday, when his team was losing 8-11.

Although Park's homerun failed to help overturn the result, it was obviously important for him to get closer to this year's home run champion title.

It increased his number of home runs to 26 in 55 games, leaving other sluggers far behind.

In comparison, his teammate Kang Jung-ho and the NC Dinos' Eric Thames, who are chasing Park, have 17 homers each. Na Sung-bum of the Dinos and Choi Hyoung-woo of the Samsung Lions follow them with 16 and 14 home runs, respectively.

What's most amazing about Park is he has gained momentum in hitting. At this pace, theoretically, Park could hit over 60 home runs this season.

In the March-April period, he hit six home runs in 24 games, but he slammed 14 home runs in 24 games in May and six home runs in just seven games in June.

In the beginning, fans were interested in whether he could hit more than 50 and he could replace the current record of 56 home runs set by Lee Seung-yuop of the Lions in 2003. But now the anticipation is high on whether he will break the 60-homer mark for the first time.

Another hot hitter is Lee Jae-won of the SK Wyverns, who has recorded the highest batting average of .432 in 52 games.

If he can remain consistent throughout the season, keeping the average above .400, he will be able to rewrite history.

No hitter has topped .400 except for in the inaugural year of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) when each team had only 80 games. Baek In-cheon, who returned from the Japanese baseball league in 1982, recorded .412 that year in 72 games.

Lee Jong-bum of the Haitai Tigers, the former Kia Tigers, maintained an average of over .400 during the first 104 games in 1994; and Kim Tae-kyun of the Hanwha Eagles topped .400 in 2012 in the first 89 games, but they failed to keep their form up until the season ended.

In the race for the most number of hits, Seo Geon-chang of the Heroes is expected to set a new record.

He produced five in Sunday's game against the Bears to reach 89 in 55 games.

As he is recording 1.62 hits per game, he could have 207 in the season, the first time for a player to break the 200 mark.

The previous record was set by Lee Jong-bum of the Tigers with 196 in 1994, followed by Lee Byung-kyu with 192 in 1999.

If the three leading players in each champion category stay in shape without any injuries and succeed in keeping sharp throughout the season, the KBO will see remarkable records set this year.

Another interesting record that is expected is the number of spectators heading to stadiums.

As of June 8, the league has surpassed the 3 million mark in 239 games, according to the Korea Baseball Organization.

This is the third minimum number of games in which the mark was reached after 2012 and 2011.

This is a remarkable number, showing the popularity of the sport despite the negative impact of the Sewol disaster in April, which put the entire nation in a state of shock and led people to refrain from doing anything fun.

But it bears further watching whether the sport will draw its largest number of spectators this season, as it needs to survive the World Cup in June and early July, which will take a lot of attention away.

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