Veteran players who have been playing in the league for a long time have their skills perfected, with the only difference being the size of their bowl. Their performance is more stable than that of younger players who are still inexperienced. They have experience with game situations and how to get through the season. They are relative “constants”.
There”s a reason why coaching staffs favor veterans. They’re easy to calculate. They have a lot of data that they’ve accumulated, and they’re able to say, “This is what they’re going to do,” and they’re able to mold their game plan. Conversely, building a roster around younger players with less data is more of a gamble. No team does that. But you do need a balance. It’s no secret that the phrase “old/new balance” dominates 10 teams every spring training.
SSG is one of the most typical veteran teams in the league, especially in the outfield, where veterans make up a higher percentage of the team than most. The mound is also starting to see its share of veterans as key players age and younger players serve in the military.
In retrospect, it was the strength of the veterans that allowed SSG to survive several close calls last year and achieve the KBO’s first ever ‘wire-to-wire’ championship. Their ability to win games in close situations was amazing. Many of the veterans were the ones who saved the team when it mattered most, and they were able to take turns and build momentum to win the Korean Series. It was a victory for Chok.
But there are problems with this structure. It makes it difficult for the team to go further. The veterans’ skills are perfected, but the flip side is that it’s hard for them to improve. Unless they”re miraculous superhumans, they”re waiting for the day when they”re physically unable to perform. They”re not as strong as they were when they were younger. Inevitably, the risk of injury increases. Once you get injured, it takes longer to recover. You can”t just do it when you”re young.
So it’s up to the front office and the coaching staff to keep filling in the gaps behind these veterans. SSG’s poor second half of the season shows that the team hasn’t been able to cope with this at all.
SSG was 44-27-1 (.620) through June, when the team had a relatively healthy roster. This was basically a favorable winning percentage of over 6%, and only 1.5 games separated them from the then-leading LG. Conversely, the distance between them and third-place NC was 6.5 games. The gap between them and third place was quite large considering the schedule wasn’t even halfway through yet, but things started to turn around in July. Since July, SSG has gone 16-23 (.410) in 39 games. That’s good for seventh in the league.
As a result, they’ve lost much of their stable win-loss margin and now find themselves in third place and chasing fourth and fifth place. So why did the team’s performance suddenly drop off in July?
Outsiders and insiders alike agree on one point: the fitness of the veterans. It’s no secret that the veterans are struggling to stay healthy as the weather heats up. This is true for fielders and bullpen pitchers alike. Their velocity has dropped, their bat speed has dropped. Skills don’t just disappear, so it was a matter of strength.
It’s not for nothing that there’s a half-joke in the organization that they’re “waiting for the weather to cool down,” but once you’ve lost strength, it’s unlikely that it’s going to come back just because it’s a little cooler. After all, SSG is a team that needs younger, more energetic players to step up and take over behind the scenes when these players run out of steam. However, it’s not like they’re coming to the forefront. They’re still stuck in the frame of a veteran’s team.
The expanded roster, which was implemented on September 1, eventually brought in a veteran beast in Kim Min-sik and Oh Tae-gon. SSG head coach Kim Won-hyung is not unaware of the problems with the current team structure. “Actually, the expanded roster is supposed to be for younger players…” Kim said. However, he added, “It can be said that the players who will come up have come up.” It’s a nuanced way of saying that he recognizes the problem, but it’s hard to change the frame.
It’s not impossible to understand Kim and his coaching staff’s stance. There is a fierce battle for position. They’re hoping for a rebound from the veterans, and that’s part of the equation for the rest of the season. However, no matter how they manage to survive this year, they could be in even more trouble next year. The problem is compounded when you look at the number of hits that veterans are getting this year.
Last year, SSGs totaled 1245 hits. If you combine the number of hits by players over 33, born before 1990, and foreign batters, which can change at any time, the total was 720 last year, or 57.8% of the total. What about this year? This year, the combined total of hits by players over 33, born before 1991, and foreign players is already 606, or 61.8% of the total (980). Despite Heredia’s high number of hits, it’s clear that the veteran presence hasn’t diminished at all, and it shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, with the current lineup, it’s likely to increase.스포츠토토
As you can see from these numbers, SSG is no longer a team that can ‘keep growing’ or even ‘keep playing well’. They’re just waiting for the day to fall. The same goes for the mound. The core set-up men are all in their 30s, and only Oh Won-seok is in his 20s.
Unless a new theory can be invented to negate the aging curve, the team will be in for an even bigger test next year. Will SSG be able to kill two birds with one stone: performance and preparation, and the sooner the better. This is likely to be an important factor in determining whether or not the team will get another chance to challenge for the big prize in Kim Won-hyung’s tenure.