Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Japan 5, Korea 3

Dear Korean,

WTFFFF was the Korean manager thinking when he decided to pitch to Ichiro in the WBC Championship with 2 in scoring position and 1st base OPEN in extra innings!?!? Anybody with any remotely miniscule knowledge of baseball knows that when you are facing Ichiro with game on the line with 2 outs and 1st base open, you WALK the guy!

Since I assume that the Korean manager knows baseball, I have to also assume that pitching to Ichiro was only about one thing - Korean pride. To which I say, wtf!! Win the damn game and then feel proud, who cares whether you strike out Ichiro or not?!? As a Korean who's been around the world, I have to say that while Korean pride may begreat and all that, seriously, nobody else in the world cares. IfKorea is to become truly world-class, Koreans (especially Korean men) need to get over it, even when it comes to Japan. Or else, just keep pitching to Ichiro in extra innings with 2 on and 2 out and 1st base open, see what happens next time.

Unbelievably Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

Now that the Korean is done crying himself to sleep, let us calmly assess the situation.

First, you are not alone in thinking that it was the nationalistic pride that made Team Korea refuse to walk Ichiro. East Windup Chronicle, the finest blog covering East Asian baseball, essentially agrees with you, with this upshot:

In the mind of [Team Korea manager] Kim In-shik to walk the reviled Ichiro was to lose face. Even with Hiroyuki Nakajima (hitting .222 for the WBC) on deck, even with first base open and two outs, even with his closer having already thrown over 30 pitches, Kim (since he’s likely calling the pitches from the dugout) came at Ichiro with several more pitches before the eighth was lined into centerfield.

But after some reflection and post-game analysis, the Korean would disagree. First, straight from the horse's mouth, In-Shik Kim said he gave a sign to the the pitcher Chang-Yong Lim to walk Ichiro, although not necessarily through an obvious intentional walk. Lim said he did not see the sign.

This direction from Kim makes sense once you reflect over what actually happened at Ichiro's at-bat. This is the pitch-by-pitch for Ichiro's at-bat:

Ball, Strike (looking), Strike (foul), Foul, A Iwamura to second on fielder's indifference, Foul, Foul, Ball, I Suzuki singled to center, S Uchikawa and A Iwamura scored, I Suzuki to second advancing on throw

So at two pitches before Ichiro singled (at which point the first base was empty), the count was 1-2. At this point, the Korean thinks Kim's sign makes perfect sense. One more strike, and Ichiro was gone and the inning was over. So keep throwing out of strike zone at him -- perhaps a high heat at the chest level -- and maybe Ichiro chases it. If he does not, Team Korea does not face Ichiro. Intentional walk would be less than best in that situation. After all, Lim was ahead in the count. Intentially loading the base is never a good idea, although it may have been marginally better than facing Ichiro, who had been hitting hot in that game. So less-than-intentional walk was the most rational decision to make, which makes Kim's story credible.

As to why Lim did not see Kim's sign, the Korean's personal opinion is that it was probably not about nationalistic pride, although Lim did say he wanted to go against Ichiro. While nationalism is a strong force in Korea, it is hardly the be-all and end-all, as the Korean wrote previously. Team Korea is professional; they do what it takes to win. However, we will probably never know why, until some time in the future when a member of Team Korea decides to write a tell-all book.

The Korean thinks the critical error in decision by Kim was not the fact that he did not give a clear intentional walk signal, but the fact that he left Lim in for the 10th inning. Especially by the time Lim was facing Ichiro, he looked gassed. Lim is a good pitcher, but he is a right-handed pitcher facing one of the greatest left-handed hitters in baseball history. This would have been the perfect time to employ a LOOGY, and Team Korea had plenty of those including the excellent Kwang-Hyun Kim -- his disastrous Tokyo Dome debut aside.

At any rate, the Korean is man enough to admit that the better team won the game. Team Japan pitched better and hit better. Team Korea's otherworldly defense was the only thing that held the game together, but eventually even the best defense will give way to constant hitting. Team Korea's best chance came and went at the bottom of the 9th, when the slugger Kim Tae-Kyun was replaced by a pinch runner. Even if Team Korea somehow survived Ichiro in the 10th, it was highly likely that Team Korea simply would not have had enough firepower at the bats to score any further.

All in all, it was a scintillating game. The Korean lost interest in baseball quite some time ago, but he would come back in a heartbeat if even a quarter of MLB games were like this one. Until then, the Korean will be watching the Lakers.

Just a few more WBC thoughts in general...

- Excellent article from Eric Neel at ESPN.com describing the game:
Here's what I saw Monday night:

... Japanese left fielder Seiichi Uchikawa skidding to cut off a sharply hit ball in the corner later in the fifth, and then popping up and firing to nail Korean second baseman Young Min Ko at second base -- a play from start to finish I cannot imagine a single current major leaguer even attempting, let alone pulling off.

Japan collecting 13 singles and 15 total hits, but Korea making them strand 29 runners, twice stemming the tide with critical 5-4-3 double plays, the second of which featured a stout, quick turn and was, in the words of one of my colleagues in the press box, "a legitimate 180-footer like you almost never see."
- Did you notice how the WBC announcers were constantly talking about the military service that some members of Team Korea must face? See the post below. Is there any doubt that AAK! always addresses the most up-to-date Korea-related topics?

- Korean sluggers are huge. Tae-Kyun Kim, the first baseman, looked twice the size of Ichiro when Ichiro was on the first. As Dae-Ho Lee stepped in as a pinch hitter, the announcers said, "For pinch hitter, we have a huge human being -- 6-foot-4 Dae-Ho Lee." The Korean is sad to say that his next thought hearing that line was: 'steroids'. No, the Korean probably can't watch baseball anymore.

- Yu Darvish's slider is completely, utterly, ridiculously filthy. He needs to play in MLB yesterday.

- It is a travesty that Matsuzaka won the MVP, and not Ichiro.

- USA has no excuse losing. And screw you Joe Morgan for insisting that it is "too much to ask" for MLB players to work out and stay in shape for WBC prior to the regular season. Um, isn't Team Japan also littered with MLB players who managed to stay in shape and eventually won the whole series? Be more like David Wright, who said "We knew what we were getting into." That is accepting responsibility like a real man.

- Ugh, it still hurts. Losing sucks.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@hotmail.com.

-EDIT 4/1/2009 11:18 p.m.- It just occurred to the Korean: where would this game fall in Bill Simmons' 16 Levels of Losing? Feels like this game all the elements from Princeton Principle (Lv. 16), Alpha Dog (Lv. 14), Monkey Wrench (Lv. 10), and The Guillotine (Lv. 4). After much deliberation, the Korean would pick Alpha Dog. In the end, the difference was Ichiro, and Team Korea was not going to stop him. The Korean just suffered an episode of severe ulcer writing that sentence.


  1. Yessss, if I'm reading you correctly, I'm not a complete moron. This is a good sign.

    God I'm sooo friggin sore. But not as sore as 이용규 I imagine.

  2. By taking the challenge instead of taking the walk, it was a more honorable loss. A walk would have been the weaselly way out — a tainted victory or a smudged loss.

    Bad call, perhaps, but good drama.

  3. aw man. i didn't even THINK about steroids until you said it. now i just feel all yucky and betrayed them. ugh. thaaaaaanks. haha. i didn't get to watch the game because i was in europe (apparently, they don't care too much about baseball in vienna) but i am sooooo proud of how far our team got. freakin' awesome. i agree with u - pretty sad about usa... but mebe its bc all the GOOD players were on the different teams. HAHAHA... i'm gonna get shot. ;)

  4. Ahhh I'm so sad that Korea lost :(

  5. I dont understand how people(Koreans) can be proud of our national team losing to Japan. If you are, you obviously aren't a fan of Korean baseball team. In other words, Korean baseball team is not just goood, but they are GREAT.

    I, like everyone else, was extremely disapointed when we lost to japan, especially in the manner which we lost. After the loss, I literally couldnt sleep till 5.A.M. The loss still lingers in my heart and it will take a long time for me to let it go -- if you think I am Korean nationalist, then you dont know Koreans especially folks from Jeolla providences.

    I thought it was more than just a baseball game. I really had thought that by Korea winning the championship, it would of brought a tremendous amount of joy to Koreans, especially at a time where Korea is going through social and economic crisis. The win vs Japan would of give them hope and happiness at a time where suicides are rampant and unemployment is at a all time high.

    I agree with the Korean, the best team won that night. Only that night, however. Again, the loss to Japan still lingers in heart and will take a long time to get over it.

    On the bright side, I think we will see many Korean major leaguers in the near future. In the very near future. Hopefully, the Washington Nationals will sign some Korean players, thereby allowing my to see some of my country men go against the likes of Park, Afraud, Jeter.

    Always Korea Hwaiting..


  6. Miguk chonhnum, two things...

    First, being the second best in the world is not too shabby.

    Korea should always strive to be #1, but be happy if a great effort still only yields second place (or third, depending).

    Second, Korea is still the reigning Olympic champions.

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  8. As a Korean American, it broke my heart to see Korea come up just a bit short against Japan. Both my wife and I had tears in our eyes from the heartbreak. As much as it pains me to say this, I agree with those that say that the better team won. As improved as the Korean squad was from the first WBC three years ago, they simply were outplayed by the much deeper Japanese bench and bullpen, and they had been running on fumes by the time Darvish came in relief. I take courage, however, in knowing that future looks very bright for the Korean squad, and I have no doubt that in the 2013 WBC, they will be able to bitchslap Japan. I just hope that the KBO officials will pull their heads out of their bungholes and allow more players to come to the Major Leagues to develop their skills and have a chance to shine.

    BTW, I hate the Japanese brand of "small ball" with passion. I appreciate the skills and discipline to play the way they do, but I've seen girls college softball teams that play with more power and bravado than the Japanese do. Yuck!

  9. i'm sad too. especially after seeing how excited the ajumahs and ajushis were during the venezuela game (i watched that game at nokia theatre).

  10. 15 hits against 5? I'm amazed we still managed to have a chance to win this game in the bottom of the 9th. We have to thank the poor luck from the Japanese hitters (who couldn't get a clutch hit in several moments) for it could have been a humiliating loss.

    This game showed properly the difference between the baseball in Japan and Korea, which essentially is depth. They have 12 teams in their league, we have 8 in ours. We don't have as deep of a talent pool.

    Lets consider the batting average of these four regular starters for Team Korea:
    K.O. Park (C): .087 in 23 AB
    K.H. Park (SS): .115 in 26 AB
    J.W. Lee (OF): .158 in 19 AB
    Y.K. Lee (OF): .222 in 18 AB

    This means we had a giant hole in the lineup that the opposing pitchers feasted on. I could throw a fastball past these guys. They couldn't hit the ground if they jumped off the 2nd floor of a building.

    Don't we have a better hitting catcher than Park (this mofo had 2 hits the whole competition!!)? Or a better hitting SS? Of course not, otherwise we would have brought them to the tournament.

    Korea only got this far because 1)this is a short tournament, 2)other players picked up the slack and 3)luck. In a longer tournament, with more games, the hole in the lineup would have dragged us down.

    Losing to Japan sucks, of course. But, we have to consider ourselves lucky we got this far, and, hey, remember Beijing 2008?

    I'd like to make a request to the Japanese though. Next time you're in an international competition, please leave this guy behind. He's too ugly for TV.

  11. Although we lost to Japan in the WBC, we can still kick their azzez in Soccer, which, IMO, is more important tournament than the WBC.

    I must admit that I cried a bit when we lost to Japan, too. I hate to lose, and losing to Japan made it even worse. The win vs japan would of given people in Korea so much hope and happiness. Oh well. I believe in baseball gods, so if they didn't get it right this time they will get it right next time or some other time.

    On the other hand, I would much rather we perform well in the Worldcup than at the WBC. Koreans care more about the Worldcup than soccer because its the global international competition unlike baseball.

    What a game, regardless. Koreans by far have the best fans in the world when it comes to international competitions. You can hear the "Da Han Min Guk" chants so well that I thought I was in the Seoul Worldcup stadium. I am so proud of them, and I felt so privileged to be Korean.

    I wish the U.S would host another Worldcup. I wouldnt miss a single Korean game.

  12. Apparently Park Kyung-wan is much better at calling the game, which is just as well because he was horrible, horrible with the bat. That's kind of surprising, because he's not too bad for the Wyverns. I once saw him hit three home runs in a single game.

    Man that loss really hurt, and I'm not even Korean. There's something so depressing about seeing a team of bright, optimistic underdogs give the performance of their lives and still come up short. It's sort of like watching the human spirit get crushed.

  13. One of the rare times I disagree fundamentally with theKorean's analysis--albeit it's only baseball. (Now, it would be serious if it were over basketball or football or hockey! :)

    1. I think iheartblueballs at the Marmot's Hole made a persuasive case why it was a poor baseball decision to pitch around to Ichiro, rather than intentionally walk him. The nerve point is that such a strategy--essentially hoping that the batter chase bad balls--works with a free-swinger who strikes a lot but not a bad ball hitter who rarely strikes out like Ichiro.

    I am not sure if you are old enough to recall the 1982 world amateur championship (I think that was the year) in Seoul. But it reminds of the play where the batter jumped to bunt-hit a pitch-out pitch, because the runner on 3rd base was running on a squeeze sign. The point is that you never mess with a guy with a good bat control. You either walk him intentionally or earnestly confront him.

    2. I also disagree that nationalism was not the main reason in the decision to not intentionally walk Ichiro. Conjectures like this is hard to prove either way, but I would imagine that the pressure of nationalist atmospherics is simply to powerful for individual players in cases like this.


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