Current KBO hits leader, Lotte Giants right fielder Son Ah-seop. (Yonhap)
As the summer heats up, so do offenses in the Korean Baseball Organization. And currently the most hotly contested offensive category among KBO hitters is the title of “Hit King.” Additionally, this season hitters are not only chasing each other, but also chasing the elusive 200-hit benchmark.
As of July 23, Lotte Giants right fielder Son Ah-seop was the KBO hits leader, with 123. Tied for a close second were Doosan Bears left fielder Kim Jae-hwan and Kia Tigers left fielder Choi Hyoung-woo with 122. Nexen Heroes second baseman Seo Geon-chang sat in fourth with 119, and Tigers shortstop Kim Seon-bin rounded out the top five with 114.
The Tigers, whose record-breaking offense has driven them to the top of the standings in the 10-team league, have four players in the top 10.
Statistics retrieved from STATIZ.*Lee Jeong-hoo and Roger Bernadina are both playing their first seasons in the KBO and do not have previous season highs.
Despite the number of quality batters vying for the hits title, however, it is possible the coveted 200 hits mark may remain elusive for another season. Of the season’s leaders, only Doosan’s Kim is on pace to reach the mark. He has played 87 games and averaged 1.4 hits per game, which puts him on pace for 201 by the end of the 144-game KBO season.
However, some of the other hitters may be able to reach the mark if they get on a hot streak. Typically as the season draws into the year’s warmer months, offensive production around the league increases. Lotte’s Son has been a good example, as he collected just 27 hits in April, but 37 and 38 in May and June, respectively. Kim started similarly slowly, collecting only 21 hits in May before erupting with 43 in June.
Nexen Heroes second baseman Seo Geo-chang, the only batter to ever collect 200 hits in a single KBO season. (Yonhap)
In the KBO’s 35-year history, only one batter has ever collected 200 hits: Nexen’s Seo, who collected 201 hits in 2014. Seo’s mark is even more impressive given that season he only played in 128 games, a 226-hit pace over a full season.
History may perhaps put Seo, who is only on pace for 186 hits, in the best position to make a late season surge for the hits title, and maybe even repeat his 200 mark.
Heroes center fielder Lee Jeong-hoo, 19, also made a surprise appearance on the leaders table, in eighth place with 112 hits in his rookie season.
By Alex Park / Intern reporter (firstname.lastname@example.org)