LG Killer Benjamin? It’s a bullpen battle after all

“It doesn’t matter who the starter is, this Korean Series is a bullpen battle.”

That’s the general consensus of baseball experts watching the Korean Series.

The LG Twins and KT Wiz will play the third game of the Korean Series (best-of-seven) of the 2023 KBO Postseason at Katie Wiz Park in Suwon on Tuesday. With the series tied at 1-1, the team that wins the third game has more than an 80 percent chance of winning the title in all previous Korean Series.

Ahead of Game 3, where the stakes are so high, KT has announced Wes Benjamin (30) and LG has announced Chan-gyu Im (31). In terms of starting mound weight alone, KT has the edge.

Im Chan-kyu, who has the most wins (14) of any Korean pitcher, is no slouch either, but he pales in comparison to Benjamin, who is considered the ‘LG killer’. Im hasn’t fared well against KT this season, going 1-1 with a 6.61 ERA in four appearances. No quality starts. 캡틴토토 도메인

On the other hand, Benjamin, who went 15-6 with a 3.54 ERA in 2023, was even stronger against LG. In five appearances, he picked up four wins. He also has a killer 0.84 ERA. In all but one game (5.1 innings, 1 earned run), Benjamin achieved a quality start.

The left-hander’s sharply curving outside slider seems to travel further to lefties. Lefties like Hong Chang-ki, Park Hae-min, Kim Hyun-soo, and Oh Ji-hwan have hit just 1-for-10 against Benjamin. KT is 6-10 against LG this season, with five of those wins coming in games where Benjamin has pitched.

While the importance of starting pitching cannot be overemphasized, the prevailing view is that this Korean Series will be a bullpen battle. Both Game 1 and Game 2 featured “come-from-behind dramas” that were decided in the final inning, and the series has been characterized by fierce back-and-forth battles.

KT won Game 1 with Son Dong-hyun and Park Young-hyun, who have been ironclad since the playoffs, shutting down LG closer Ko Woo-seok. In Game 2, LG came from behind to win the series with 8.2 scoreless innings of relief, using seven bullpen pitchers after starter Choi Won-tae collapsed in the first inning.

In the postseason, the team with the stronger bullpen is likely to take home the championship ring, as starters have a shorter innings to digest compared to the regular season. KT manager Lee Kang-cheol proclaimed that “Game 4 will be bullpen day,” and LG, which relies more heavily on its bullpen because it has only one foreign pitcher, is a team that benefited from the bullpen “trick” in the regular season. In the regular season, 42 of LG’s 86 wins were come-from-behind victories. There were 11 games where they used seven or more bullpen pitchers. That’s why the prospect of a bullpen battle is gaining traction.

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