SK Wyverns to set a new record of most victories in season
Kylie Sun, Aug. 8, 2019, 9:42 a.m.
Defending South Korean baseball champions SK Wyverns are threatening to set a new standard for most victories in a regular season this year, though they have bigger fish to fry than a spot in the record books.
The Wyverns defeated the KT Wiz 5-2 Wednesday to improve to 70-35-1 (wins-losses-ties). At seven games ahead of the Kiwoom Heroes, they're in first place with 38 games remaining in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).
The Wyverns' current winning percentage is .667. If they play at the same clip the rest of the season, the Wyverns will end up with 95 wins, eclipsing the current record of 93, set by the Doosan Bears in 2016 and matched in 2018.
Last year, the Bears reached their 70th win in 107 games. The Wyverns are one game ahead of that pace.
The Bears, though, came up short of winning the league championship last year, as the Wyverns knocked them out in six games in the Korean Series. The Wyverns surely wouldn't want to follow that pattern of posting the best regular season record and losing in the Korean Series.
A team that reached the 70-win plateau first in the regular season has won the Korean series 62.1 percent of the time.
SK manager Youm Kyoung-youb has been running his team in ways that demonstrate his long-term approach. For one, Youm has been keeping his starters on a strict pitch count. Right-hander Angel Sanchez has exceeded 100 pitches only three times out of 20 starts all season, and not since June 26. Sanchez skipped a turn in the rotation in late June, as the Wyverns decided to give him a breather even though he wasn't injured. He went 12 days between starts then.
Left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun, in his second full season back after Tommy John surgery, was pulled after only 84 pitches through seven innings in his most recent start last Thursday, when the Wyverns were holding a 10-1 lead.
Just playing .500 baseball the rest of the way should get the Wyverns to the finish line in first place. In that case, the Heroes will have to win 26 out of their 37 remaining games to get past the Wyverns. It's possible only in the mathematical sense.
Youm, big-picture manager that he is, said he'd like to see his hitters swing with more consistency before the postseason rolls around in October.
The Wyverns have just four home runs in nine games since the All-Star break, tied for the second-fewest in the KBO. They're only batting .247 and slugging .312, both eighth among 10 clubs.
"For the past several years, our offense stopped hitting for power in the summer, and we've got to figure out why that's been the case," Youm said. "It falls on me as their manager and on our hitting coach, but we have guys who hit well one season and poorly the next season. We've come this far thanks to our pitching. If we want to take the next step, our position players have to do their part, too."