KIA Tigers pitcher Lee Eui-ri won the KBO League Rookie of the Year award in 2021. The Rookie of the Year award, called the “Rookie King,” will be selected by voting among players who meet the pre-emptive conditions of within five years of joining, pitchers within 30 innings, and batters within 60 at-bats.
Lee Eui-ri’s Rookie of the Year award was all the more unique because it was the first achievement for a Tigers player in 36 years. It was the first and only record that Lee Soon-chul became the “Rookie King” in 1985, when he was the predecessor of the Haitai Tigers. It has not produced a single person for more than 30 years since then. Baseball genius Lee Jong-beom also failed to win the Rookie of the Year award.
KIA has fulfilled its 36-year long-cherished desire, but there are teams that are as thirsty as KIA for the “Rookie King.” They are Lotte Giants and SSG Landers. Lotte’s last “Rookie King” was Yeom Jong-seok in 1992. With Lee Eui-ri winning the award, Lotte now has the title (?) of “the team that has not produced the Rookie of the Year for the longest time.” 스포츠토토
The second oldest team is SSG. Including his predecessor, SK Wyverns, there is only one “Rookie King,” and that is Lee Seung-ho, the “Rookie King” in 2000, the year of its foundation. Lee Seung-ho enjoyed the honor of being the “Rookie King” in the club’s founding season, but at that time, SK ranked last in eight clubs with a team winning rate of 0.338 and only Lee Seung-ho was proud. Since then, it has not produced any winners within the club. Kim Kwang-hyun also failed to win the award that year, losing to Lim Tae-hoon (Doosan).
Except for the two teams, the old team is the Hanwha Eagles. Kim Tae-kyun in 2001 and Ryu Hyun-jin in 2006, but there has been no news since then. However, Hanwha is the most likely team to produce the “Rookie King” in 17 years since Ryu Hyun-jin this year. It is because of Moon Dong-ju. Moon Dong-joo is a rookie who joined last year, but he is also a candidate for the “Rookie King” this year as the requirements are met. He is likely to be the No. 1 player as he has grown more than last year with 8 wins, 8 losses and a 3.72 ERA in 23 games.
Moon Dong-joo is the most likely candidate, but the only candidate who can compete against him is KIA Yoon Young-chul. Yoon Young-chul has 8 wins, 5 losses, and a 4.13 ERA in 20 games, falling behind in objective performance comparison with Moon Dong-joo. However, Moon Dong-joo finished his regular season appearance in terms of management, and Yoon Young-chul has room for reversal depending on how he performs in the remaining games. In particular, “10 wins for rookies” are significant.
This year’s “Rookie King” is likely to be a two-way match between Hanwha and KIA, while Lotte and SSG are not easy this year either. Lotte has found outstanding rookies this year, including Kim Min-seok and Yoon Dong-hee, but their performance has slowed down in the second half, and Lee Ro-woon and Song Young-jin, who also expected SSG, have been pushed out of the competition.
The Rookie of the Year is a battle of pride for clubs. This means that they have the ability to find, refine, and raise good rookies. When will the long-cherished desire of the “unemitted” teams come true.