The sight of the year-end awards ceremony where we could see our team’s players every year was a source of pride for Kiwoom Heroes fans, along with the fact that they were invited to 9 of the last 10 fall baseball games. However, like in 2017, when Kiwoom was the only player in the past 10 years to fail to advance to the postseason, it was in danger of not being able to produce a single player from the team at the year-end awards ceremony.

This season, Kiwoom is at the bottom of the league with 51 wins, 3 draws, and 78 losses as of the end of the game on the 17th, realizing the limitations of its poor batting lineup and bullpen despite aggressive investments in the off-season. Until July 22, the team was 3.5 games behind the then 5th place Lotte Giants, so it was not a situation worth giving up on fall baseball.

However, on this day, the team’s key player Lee Jeong-hoo (25) suffered an injury to his left ankle extensor zone (membrane surrounding the ankle tendon) while playing defense, and decided to have surgery on the 27th, so Kiwoom also began rebuilding. The trade on July 29th, in which the LG Twins received infielder Lee Joo-hyung (22), pitcher Kim Dong-gyu (19), and a first-round pick in the 2024 rookie draft, and gave away pitcher Choi Won-tae (26), was a representative example of Kiwoom’s changed tone.

In addition, as ace Ahn Woo-jin (24) decided to undergo reconstruction of the medial collateral ligament of his right elbow (Tommy John surgery) on September 2nd, Kiwoom went down inexorably. At the end of July, when Lee Jeong-hoo left, they recorded 9 consecutive losses, tying the highest losing streak since the team was founded, and from early September when Ahn Woo-jin was out of the season, they have lost 8 straight games to date, making the gap between the two people feel real.

With the loss of those who were the team’s key pitchers and title holders, the good trend of winning at least one individual title was cut off. There are a total of 15 individual titles awarded at the year-end awards ceremony, including 8 for batters (batting average, 먹튀검증 most hits, home runs, RBI, runs scored, stolen bases, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) and 6 for pitchers (multiple wins, ERA, strikeouts, saves, holds, winning percentage). It varies from dog to dog.

Lee Jung-hoo almost finished the season with a batting average of 0.319 (112 hits in 329 at-bats) in 85 games, 6 home runs, 45 RBIs, 50 runs, 6 stolen bases, and an on-base percentage of 0.407 and a slugging percentage of 0.456. At the time of July 22nd, when the surgery was decided, there was no first place category, but batting average, hits, and on-base percentage were not significantly different from the leaders, and it seemed possible to reclaim the title. The same was true for Ahn Woo-jin. Woojin Ahn was a strong title holder with 9 wins and 7 losses in 24 games, an ERA of 2.39, and 164 strikeouts in 150⅔ innings. However, while they were leaving, competitors gradually began to accumulate, and in the case of Ahn Woo-jin, he even recently lost first place in strikeouts to Eric Peddie (NC Dinos).

If Kiwoom does not produce a title holder like this, it will be 6 years since 2017, the only time in the past 10 years that they did not go to fall baseball. As of now, the only hope is second baseman Kim Hye-seong (24). With excellent contact tools and quick feet, he is worth aiming for titles in four categories, including batting average, most hits, runs scored, and stolen bases. This season too, he had a batting average of 0.331 (176 hits in 531 at-bats), 7 home runs, 54 RBIs, 97 runs, 24 stolen bases, an on-base percentage of 0.394, and a slugging percentage of 0.443, ranking 3rd in batting average, 2nd in runs scored, 1st in most hits, and 5th in stolen bases. This is his second individual title after being the stolen base king in 2021. I’m taking on a challenge.

The most hits category, where he is competing with Son Ah-seop (NC, 158 hits) and Hong Chang-ki (LG, 157 hits), is worth aiming for, but it is not easy due to the fewer games compared to his competitors and joining the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games national team. As of the end of the game on the 17th, NC has 24 games left, LG has 21 games left, and Kiwoom has only 12 games left. Kim Hye-seong must respond to the national team call-up on the 22nd, so in fact, there are only three remaining games: against Busan Lotte on the 19th, against Gwangju KIA on the 20th, and against Gocheok NC on the 21st.

So far, the league’s top players, including Ha-seong Kim (28, San Diego Padres), Jeong-hoo Lee, Woo-jin Ahn, and Byeong-ho Park (37, KT Wiz), have played together, so they have always won at least one individual title. However, it is highly likely that even Lee Jeong-hoo and Ahn Woo-jin will be gone as they leave one by one. Lee Jung-hoo declared his bid for the major league after the end of the season, and Ahn Woo-jin will not be able to play for at least a year if he undergoes Tommy John surgery. To put it bluntly, Kiwoom, a last-place team, can count on one finger the number of players who will challenge for the individual title next year as well. It is not easy for closer Cho Sang-woo (29), who is returning after being discharged from military service in December of this year, as he can make many saves only when the team’s performance is good.

An individual title holder means that he is the best player in the league in some aspect. In addition, since it is possible to complete the season as a starting player, the more title holders there are, the more the rebuilding is completed and it is a sign that the team is getting closer to the power to challenge for the championship. In 2017, Kiwoom ranked 7th and suffered the pain of being eliminated from the fall baseball season. However, led by Lee Jeong-hoo, who debuted that year, they returned to the postseason a year later and became a regular in the fall baseball team, winning 16 individual titles. The baseball world is paying attention to whether Kiwoom, which is on the verge of losing its title holder for the first time in six years, can bounce back.

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