Slugging It Out in South Korea: The Best Foreign Hitters in KBO History – Post-2020 Update

Posted November 2, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Uncategorized

This is the latest version of a piece I originally posted back in 2015.  South Korea’s KBO only began allowing foreign players in 1998, and it’s is a young league, starting play only in 1982.  This means the records for foreign players are very much in play.

Initially, KBO teams brought in mostly hitters; and the foreigners, at least at first, hit a lot of home runs.  As the league improved, KBO teams began to realize after about 2005 that foreign pitchers were worth more to them than the hitters — so much so that by 2012 and 2013, there were no foreign hitters in the league at all.

KBO teams expanded the roster space for foreigners from two to three beginning with the 2014 season, as the league was undergoing expansion, with the requirement that one of the three be a position player/hitter.  Foreign hitters have been back in the league the last seven seasons and have fully taken advantage of what was until the 2019 season an extreme hitters’ league.  However, relatively few have lasted long enough in the KBO to challenge the foreign player records set before 2010.

Batting Average  (2,000 at-bats)

1.     Jay Davis      .313

2.     Tyrone Woods   .294

3.     Tilson Brito    .292

Mel Rojas, Jr. has a KBO career batting average of .321 in 1,971 at-bats through the end of the 2020 season. He was incredible in 2020, batting .349 (3rd place, but only five basis points behind the leader), and leading the ten-team circuit with 47 HRs and 135 RBIs. Rojas deserves the first multi-year guaranteed contract for a foreign player, and if he doesn’t get it, my bet he jumps to NPB for a two-year deal with a $4M guarantee.


1.      Jay Davis   979

2.     Tilson Brito  683

3.     Tyrone Woods  655

4. Mel Rojas, Jr. 633

Jay Davis had far and away the best career of any foreign hitter in the KBO, with Tyrone Woods as the only other player in the conversation.  Davis, Woods and Brito are the only three foreign players to reach 2,000 career KBO at-bats so far.

The problem is that very few foreigners have had long careers in the KBO.  Until the last ten years, when increased revenues made bigger salaries possible, the foreigners who played in KBO were clearly a cut below the foreign players who signed with Japanese NPB teams.  They tended not to maintain their initial KBO performance levels for long — three full seasons was and still is a long KBO career for a foreigner — or they moved on to greener NPB pastures or back to MLB.

Home Runs

1.     Tyrone Woods   174

2.     Jay Davis             167

3.     Jamie Romak     135

4. Mel Rojas, Jr. 132

5.     Eric Thames       124

6.     Cliff Brumbaugh  116

7.     Tilson Brito         112

8.     Karim Garcia      103

9.     Felix Jose            95

In the early days (late 1990’s and early 2000’s), KBO teams paid foreigners to hit home runs.  The most prolific was Tyrone Woods, who blasted 174 dingers over five KBO seaons and then moved on to the NPB, where he blasted 240 HRs in six seasons.  Woods never played even one game in the major leagues, and there are some reasons to believe that PEDs may have had something to do with his tremendous Asian performance, at least by the time he reached NPB.

Eric Thames was the best of the hitters to join the KBO since the foreign player roster expansion in 2014 (at least until Mel Rojas), and he was the caliber of player who would have signed with an NPB team during the earlier era when KBO teams were signing foreign sluggers.  As I predicted in October 2016, Thames did return to MLB (I actually predicted he’d sign with either an MLB or NPB team that off-season), and his contract was a steal for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Cliff Brumbaugh played briefly for the Rangers and Rockies in 2001 before starting a successful seven year career in South Korea and Japan.  You probably remember Karim Garcia and Felix Jose, who both had significant major leagues careers, and you may even remember Tilson Brito, who played in 92 MLB games in 1996-1997 for the Blue Jays and the A’s.

Jamie Romak has already signed a $1.15M deal with the SK Wyverns to return to the KBO in 2021, so he is likely to move up on the HR list and add his name to one or more of the other lists. 

Runs Scored

1.     Jay Davis    538

2.     Tyrone Woods   412


1.     Jay Davis   591

2.     Tyrone Woods   510

As you can see from the above numbers, the KBO records for foreign hitters are ready to be broken in all categories, because so relatively little has been accomplished by foreign hitters to date.  It’s mainly a matter of whether any of the post-2014 crop of foreign hitters hangs around long enough to add their names to my lists as the seasons pass.

The KBO has imposed a $1M salary cap on new foreign players (or foreign players moving to a new team). We will have to wait and see if that impacts the KBO being able to sign the caliber of players who can stick around long enough to make my lists.

More Good News for the Scrubs

Posted August 28, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Uncategorized

I haven’t been writing as much this season, because I have been working more and because Covid-19 threw the whole 2020 MLB season out of whack.  One of my most recent posts commented on the small group of marginal major league players who actually stand to benefit from the short and weird 2020 season.  Another advantage to these players that I failed to mention is the way service time is calculated this season.

Because teams are playing 60 games crammed into a 66 day schedule instead of the normal 162 games across a 186 day schedule, players this season earn just over 2.8 days of major league service time for each day on a major league roster this season.  This may not seem like a big deal to the casual baseball fan, but it’s absolutely huge to marginal players in terms of earning pension benefits years from now.

The number of players who spend 10 or 12 years playing professional baseball but end up spending less than one full season (172 days for pension purposes) is much larger than most people realize.  The very best and/or luckiest of these players can make their fortunes playing in the Asian major leagues, but that’s a small subset of this group of players — careers for foreign players in the Asian majors are typically very short.

These guys make peanuts playing in the minor leagues, and even a season of major league service at the major league minimum only amounts to about $45,000 a year over a 12 year professional career.  That’s not a lot of money given that pro baseball is essentially a full time job, particularly for marginal major leaguers who have to train hard year ’round to maximize their chances of breaking through.

Luckily, baseball players are young men, who even after 12 seasons of baseball will start their second careers at the still not too old age of 30 to 35.  However, the most import benefit a lot of these kinds of players get is a major league pension.  Any player who earns 43 days of major league service gets a pension at age 62 that amounts to $32,000 a year a year or two ago.  That’s not chicken feed, and with Social Security and second career savings/retirement benefits added can mean a very comfortable retirement for all those years devoted to the cause of professional baseball.

That’s why the service time calculations for the 2020 season are so significant, particularly when expanded rosters (26 to 30 players per team this season), Covid sit outs and illnesses, and perhaps extra injuries due to a shortened pre-season training schedule are factored in.  A scrub who spends 16 days on a major league roster this season earns 43 days of major league service time, or a lifetime (from as early as age 45 or 50) pension.  31 days on a major league roster equals two quarters of major league service time (86 days) and bigger pension benefits.

It still takes luck — a timely injury by a more accomplished major leaguer, not being one of the unlucky ones who gets hurt or catches Covid.  However, 2020 is a golden opportunity for marginal major leaguers to earn something a whole lot more tangible than great memories and stories.

Livan Moinelo Update

Posted August 28, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, Boston Red Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, NPB, San Francisco Giants

If you are not familiar with Livan Moinelo, he’s a Cuban pitcher who is basically NPB’s version of Josh Hader.  30 appearances into the 2020 NPB season, Livan has a 1.55 ERA and 57 K in 29 IP.  That’s a 17.7 K/9IP strikeout rate, for those of you keeping score at home.

Moinelo is 24 years old this season and in his fourth season in NPB.  He has 236 K in 169.2 career NPB IP with the strikeout rate improving each season.

The only knock on Moinelo is he is small, listed at 5’10” and 152 lbs (baseball reference lists him at 6’0″ and 139 lbs, but I suspect NPB’s numbers are more accurate).  In spite of the small size, his fastball hits 95 or 96 mph.  He has a sharp breaking curve, which he can throw as a slurve, breaking across, or more tightly as a 12-6 break that burrows down into the plate.  He also has a screwball type pitch that moves like a dropping change up.  In fact, he already has a lot of different breaking pitches that move at different angles and with different drops.

Like a lot of pitchers who rely heavily on sharp breaking pitches, he allows a fair number of walks. However, his breaking pitch heavy approach makes his fastball very hard to catch up with.

Because Moinelo is two years younger than Hader, my guess is that if Moinelo joined MLB in 2021, his arm is healthy and we have a vaccine for Covid-19, he’d look a lot like Hader in 2018. It’s anyone’s guess, though, how long he can throw as hard as and produce the spin rates he does given how small he did.  Tim Lincecum and Pedro Martinez seem like cautionary tales on how long small hard throwers can last.  Even so, Moinelo has seven more full seasons before he reaches his age 32 season.

The rubs is that Moinelo is pitching in Japan with the permission of the Cuban government.  He hasn’t defected, and he may not be willing to do so for personal or family reasons.

2020 NPB Mid-Season Update

Posted August 4, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, KBO, NPB

Even with the coronavirus, all is well so far in NPB in 2020.  The Yomiuri Giants have Japan’s best record, and the SoftBank Hawks lead the Pacific League.  If you know Japanese baseball, you know what I’m talking about.

Unlike every other professional league outside of the U.S., NPB is able to hold on to some of its best players, thanks to a long eight or nine year requirement to reach free agency and the fact that NPB superstars make more endorsement money than domestic MLB superstars.  I’d bet that Japanese MLB superstars like Masahiro Tanaka and Shohei Ohtani make more endorsement money in Japan than any domestic MLB star makes in the U.S.

Two NPB superstars that, alas, MLB fans will probably never get to see, Tomoyuki Sugano and Yuki Yanagita, are healthy and in fine form.  Sugano leads the Central League with a 1.69 ERA, is undefeated at 5-0, and has more Ks than IP (46K, 42.2 IP).  Sugano was looking like heavy workloads were on the verge of burning him out at the end of the 2019, but he’s bounced back so far in 2020.  I’m really starting to think that NPB’s method of pitching starters once a week is superior to every fifth start in MLB, but sixth starters in MLB just doesn’t make sense when most MLB fifth starters suck.

Yuki Yanagita is slashing .378/.506/.732 through 38 games played, and he’s really that good when he’s healthy.  He’s 31 this season, and an injury last season that limited to him to 38 games last season has likely eliminated any chance that he might cross the lake to play in MLB.

Rumor has it that soon-to-be 26 year old Seiya Suzuki will be playing in MLB in 2021.  He’s currently the Central League’s most productive hitter, slashing .343/.438/.664.  He has a rightfielder’s arm, but his range factors aren’t impressive.  He’s definitely an MLB talent in terms of his hit tool.

Likely future MLBer Takahiro Norimoto hasn’t been as impressive in 2020 as one would like to see.  He has a 3.55 ERA and 40 K in 45.2 IP after seven starts.  Lefty Shota Imanaga has a 2.84 ERA and an impressive 54 K in 44 IP through seven starts.

Hideto Asamura is playing well, but I don’t think he’s ever going to play in MLB.  A few years ago Tetsuto Yamada looked like a can’t miss MLBer, but his career has stalled, and reports have it he wants to stay in Japan.  Oh well.

At age 38, Nori Aoki is proving why he was once an MLBer.  Stefen Romero is off to a great start, but at age 31, he’d be best served staying NPB where his skills can be fully realized, much like Dayan Viciedo, also now age 31.

Youngster Munetaka Murakami (age 20) is working on his hit tool (.328 batting average) after hitting 36 HRs as a teenager a year ago.  Soon to be 22 year old right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto is another NPB youngster to watch.

Cuban lefty Livan Moinelo (age 24) has to be convinced to defect.  He has an 0.95 ERA and 37 K in 19 IP so far this season.  The worries with him are that he is slightly built and still being used as a set-up man.  Top set-up relievers have traditionally been worked a lot harder in NPB and the KBO than closers.  It isn’t fair, but it makes a certain amount of sense if the set-up man is your best reliever.

A Good Year for Marginal Major Leaguers

Posted July 25, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Baseball History, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants

Just about the only group of MLB-system players who will benefit from the 2020 season are the marginal major leaguers.  Not just the 4-A players who elected to sign with Asian major league teams in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and will get paid for a full season of play, but also the 4-A types who elected to stay in the U.S. this season.

About 11 players are sitting out the 2020 season and 84 have tested positive for Covid-19 so far, opening up a lot of major league roster time for healthy marginal major leaguers to accumulate some service time toward future pension benefits and also maybe show MLB teams they deserve more time in the Show in 2021.  Other players who got hurt in the abbreviated Spring (Summer) Training won’t get to play at all in 2020, which should give the marginal players who do a leg up in 2021.

In fact, the Opening Day line-up for the San Francisco Giants looked to be almost entirely 4-A players, but that may have more to do with the Gints just not being very good this year.

Also, with teams limited to 60 players per organization and just about every team carrying about 8 to 12 top prospects who aren’t yet major league ready but need to get the reps to develop, the 4-A guys are going to get the call when somebody on the major league roster gets hurt.  The groups that really got killed this season are the AAA and AA players good enough to be roster fillers and Class A players not seen as top prospects.  A few of the AAA roster fillers got jobs this year in Taiwan’s CPBL, but with no baseball in Mexico and only very limited play in the Indy-A’s, these guys are SOL.  I’ll be amazed if any Winter Ball is played anywhere this year, which is how a lot of players make enough money to keep playing the next summer.

A full season of no play is just a killer for any player over the age of 27.  Pitchers can come back from Tommy John surgery, but position players, even major league stars, don’t lose a full season and come back the same.

One thing is for sure — now more than ever getting off to hot start when the opportunity comes is everything.  A marginal player who gets hot for 40 games this season is going to look pretty good when the executives are sitting around this winter charting out their teams’ futures.

We’ve all seen players who look great for 40 games in April and May and then the league catches up with them and proves why they haven’t gotten a major league shot before.  Brian LaHair of the 2012 Cubbies springs to mind.  On May 22nd after 40 games he was batting .313 with a 1.028 OPS.  He finished the season at .259 and .784, because the NL figured out he couldn’t hit lefties.  He had to go play in Japan in 2013 and had exactly the same kind of season once NPB teams had figured out he couldn’t hit their lefties either.  This year the league won’t get the same chance to catch up or figure the hot-streaker out.

Covid-19 Will Finish a Lot of Baseball Careers Too

Posted July 5, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, Baseball History, CPBL, KBO, NPB

This is a baseball blog, so I’m going to ignore the 130,000+ Americans to date who’ve died of the disease and talk about the impact of the pandemic on the professional lives of professional baseball players.

MLB teams will not only be playing a highly abbreviated 60 game season (pending a negotiated 64 or 66 game season with expanded play-offs, which the owners very much want), but franchise rosters will apparently be limited to 60 players for 2020.  Major league roster limits will be 30-26 during the shortened season, plus a 3-player “taxi squad” in case someone on the major league roster gets hurt or tests positive.

That means only 30 players on the minor league squad.  That isn’t enough to play more than 3-inning practice games.  I haven’t heard whether the minor league squads will be playing against each other.  However, I don’t see how the minor league guys can be ready step into the majors if they aren’t playing games against each other.

The 60-man franchise limit means a lot of minor leaguers won’t be playing baseball in 2020.  Solid, roster-filler AAA players over age 28 will not be included as teams put together their 60-man, as teams will want more promising younger AA players instead, along with all the organization’s top prospects, to whom teams will want to give playing team even if they are initially in over their heads.

I imagine that every single player Class A+ and below who isn’t seen as a top prospect by his team will not being playing any baseball this summer.

For minor league players over the age of 28, a full year off is going to be nearly impossible to come back from, at least for position players.  A full year off at this age is not good for the batting eye or foot speed.

Players in the lower minors under the age of 25 can possibly come back from a full year off, but it’s going to stunt a lot of careers for players who might have been better than their draft pedigree.  And that’s even to say that MLB plays half-way-full minor league seasons in 2021.

The Owners have been fighting to reduce the size of the minor leagues dramatically, and the Coronavirus may mean significant reduction in leagues and levels when things get back to normal compared to immediately before the pandemic struck.

However, it’s been a good year for players from the Americas in Asia in 2020.  KBO and CPBL teams are well into their seasons, and NPB is now almost 14 games in, which probably means that every foreign player in these leagues has received a paycheck, which is more than a lot of pro ball players in the States can say.

And better foreign players are available to Asian teams because the American options have narrowed considerably.  I don’t think there is any way the Kiwoom Heroes sign Addison Russell for $530,000 for the rest of the season in any kind of normal year.

The CPBL should be able to find better foreign pitchers for their money.  Their bread and butter is the kind of 28+ AAA pitcher who isn’t likely to make any team’s 60-man franchise roster.

San Francisco Giants 2020 Draft Picks

Posted June 12, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Minor Leagues, San Francisco Giants

The Giants selected seven players (Overall Nos. 13, 49, 67, 68, 85, 114 and 144) in this Covid-19 Striken 5-round draft.

13.  C Patrick Bailey (NC State, age 21.)  Bailey looks like a legitimate 1st round pick, at least in terms of his bat.  In roughly 2.25 college seasons, he has a career slash line of .302/.411/.568, certainly fine numbers for a backstop.

There has been some comment regarding Bailey’s selection, given that the Giants used the No. 2 overall pick two years ago on catcher Joey Bart.  Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi responded that you draft for ability, not need, and you can’t have too many good catchers.  Zaidi is certainly right that a team is foolish not to draft the best available player at their first round draft spot, because the odds of drafting even a 5+ WAR MLB player after the first two selections of the first round is less than 50%.

Bailey is a switch-hitter, whom the scouting reports like best for his power and plate discipline and less for his hit tool.  The scouting reports also seem to think he’s a true catcher and not a bat-first player who might get moved out from behind the plate as a professional.

49.  3B/RHP Casey Schmitt (San Diego State, 21.)  Casey Schmitt was a surprise to be taken this high.  He has a career college slash line of .295/.366/.408, with an .865 OPS as a sophomore and an .837 OPS in only 16 games as a sophomore.  That doesn’t look a future major league hitter to me, but his pitching numbers are better: a 2.48 career college ERA with 17 saves and pitching line of 87 IP, 70 hits, three HRs, 29 BB and 78 Ks. Schmitt’s batting and pitching numbers in the Cape Cod League in summer 2019 reflect his college numbers.

Zaidi apparently like Schmitt as an all-around good baseball player, and I certainly hope he will be developed as both a pitcher and third-sacker as a professional.

67. LHP Nick Swiney (NC State, 21.)  Swiney went 15-1 in college, and, while his 3.51 career college ERA wasn’t overly impressive, his 174 Ks in 115.1 IP sure is.  He was wild as a sophomore, but looked really good in four starts this year before the shut-down.  Some scouts project him as a major league relief pitcher, but the Giants are apparently hoping his fastball will gain velocity if he adds weight to his 6’3″ 187 lbs frame.

68.  SS Jimmy Glowenke (Dallas Baptist, 21.)  The Giants sure like Glowenke more than anybody else did.  MLB’s Draft Tracker ranks him only 171st.  He slashed .340/.433/.506 mostly against second-tier Missouri Valley Conference competition.  He did bat .296 (but with only a .727 OPS) in the Cape Cod League last summer. doesn’t think Glowenke has the range to stay at SS and sees him eventually being moved to 2B, because his arm doesn’t suggest 3B except in a utility role.

85.  LHP Kyle Harrison (De La Salle HS (Concord CA), 18.) liked Harrison more than MLB teams did, but he could be a good pick at 85 overall.  He’s also a local boy.  He’s listed at 6’2″ and 200 lbs. says he’s especially tough on left-handed hitters, although his stuff may limit his ceiling.  He’s a UCLA commit, but I expect the Giants will offer him enough money to get him signed.

114.  RHP R. J. Dabovich (Arizona State, 21.)  Dabovich had a 4.04 ERA and 64K in 64.2 IP in parts of two seasons with the Sun Devils. describes him as a two-pitch pitcher with a 97 mph fastball, so he’s likely to be a reliever at the major league level.

144.  RHP Ryan Murphy (Lemoyne College, 20.)  Pitched effectively at a small four-year school — career college 3.40 ERA with 215 K in 203.2 IP.  He pitched well in the New England Collegiate Summer League in 2019, but he’s small for a right-hander at 6’1″ and 185 lbs.  The Giants may be hoping to save some money on his slot signing bonus to offer to high schooler Harrison.

Hard to Get Excited about Labor – Management Negotiations

Posted June 9, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Baseball History

As a baseball fan, I’m finding it hard to get excited about the current state of MLBPA – MLB negotiations.  I’m an attorney with almost 2.5 years of labor law experience, so I can provide some incite about what is going on, but as a fan I just want the games to be played.

The players and the owners have a long and ugly history of fighting it out to get what each side wants, going back to 1966.  The players know that if they can stay united, the owners will typically cave before they do.  The owners are always trying to claw back profits from the players, and in recent years they have negotiated the parties’ collective bargaining agreements more successfully than the players.

I think the players are right that, if they can hold out while not receiving salaries, the owners will have to give in to a more labor-friendly deal, because the owners will lose more than the players if no games are played this year.  Owners lose not just this year’s revenues if no games are played, but also the values of their franchises, which are worth more than the actual single-season revenues.  Baseball is a profitable business more because of team sale-price values than actual yearly revenues.

The Owners always hope that the players are spending it as fast as they make it, but the true stars probably have enough sense to save enough to weather labor crises, and the true stars have the most power in the union because, in no small part, they are around for the longest time.  Even the marginal players largely support the stars, because the dream of improving just that much to become a major star is eternal.

The Owners want more play-off games and fewer regular season games, because play-off games maximize TV revenues and give the teams an excuse to pay players for fewer pro-rata contract regular season games.  The players want more regular season games so they can get more of the contracts they’ve negotiated.

In my mind, I’m seeing a compromise at around 72 regular season games, for which the players are paid on a pro rata basis, followed by expanded play-offs.  For 2020 only, a compromise in this area make sense.  Six teams get a first round bye, and 20 teams play a single game play-off to create 16 teams playing five-game series down to eventual Championship and World Series.  The players on teams that continue on through the play-offs make money, with the players on the 12 teams that don’t make the play-offs or lose the one game series getting essentially shafted.  At least, their likelihood of getting injured is reduced.

At the end of the day, it’s going to be an ugly season similar to Strike 1981, which I remember well, even if a deal gets worked out.  I just want to see enough regular season games played that the season and the post-season are not a total joke.  Anything can happen in a short series, and bad-to-mediocre teams can beat even great teams in a five game series, which the rounds before the LCS and the World Series are likely to be.

Notes on the 2020 KBO Season So Far

Posted May 31, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Anaheim Angels, Baseball Abroad, KBO, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays

We are now 23 or 24 games into the 2020 KBO season.  Here are my thoughts so far.

I wasn’t surprised to see Taylor Motter last only 10 games and 37 plate appearances.  He was cheap, but he didn’t look like a KBO hitter when the tightwad Kiwoom Heroes signed him.  A slash line of .114/.139/.200 didn’t take long to make up management’s mind, particularly since it’s likely that Motter was only guaranteed $200,000 of this $350,000 contract with the Heroes.

The Heroes caught lightning in a bottle with Jerry Sands in 2019, but Motter was a bridge too far.

The Heroes should consider Andy Burns, who is still only 29 and had two good seasons in the KBO for the Lotte Giants in 2017-2018.  His .833 OPS at AAA Buffalo last summer was good for a 2B who can fill in at third and also SS in a pinch.  You’d have to think that at this moment, Burns would probably be willing to sign for $250,000 to $300,000 at this moment, given the current lack of MLB options.

23 year old lefty and future MLB prospect Koo Chang-Mo is leading the KBO with a 0.51 ERA and in strikeouts at 38 (in 35 IP).  He’s not big, however, listed at 6’0″ and 187 lbs, so we’ll see if his arm can hold up under use as the league’s top starter.

Eric Jokisch and Odrisamer DeSpaigne are the best foreign starters so far and the best after Koo.  Jokisch was a better signing for the Heroes.  He’s only costing the team a $550,000 guarantee and another $150K in performance incentives.  That’s a bargain on a second year contract, after a 13-9, 3.13 KBO rookie campaign.

Odrisamer DeSpaigne is 33 this season, but he’s still got it as a KBO rookie.  His MLB career looks a lot like Dominican right-handers Hector Noesi and Esmil Rogers, except that Noesi and Rogers were both 29 when they joined the KBO successfully.  As a Cuban defector, DeSpaigne reached the majors late.  I think he’s a better pitcher than Noesi or Rogers, but his strikeout numbers don’t suggest he had major league stuff.  Maybe in Korea against lower-level hitters, he can really take advantage of his ability to pitch.  He’s five starts into the 2020 season, but hope springs eternal.

Cubans are big this year in South Korea.  32 year old not quite MLBer Jose Miguel Fernandez is leading the circuit with a .468 batting average, along with a 1.206 OPS (2nd), through 23 games.  Mel Rojas, Jr. is batting .409 (2nd) with an 1.149 OPS (3rd) 23 games in.

25 year old Mexican Roberto Ramos leads the KBO with 10 home runs and a 1.263 OPS.  The LG Twins apparently got it right in signing him this off-season.

Also still 25 year old Chris Flexen has a 2.61 ERA (5th) and 28 K (6T) in 31 IP.

I don’t recall having two 25 year old North American players succeed in the Asian majors in the same year for as long as I have been paying attention.  If Ramos and Flexen can keep it up, it will really open up some opportunities for both players going forward.

Now KBO veteran (just barely) Preston Tucker has a 1.007 OPS (7th), and rookie Aaron Altherr is starting to get hot and demonstrate his power potential.

Future MLBer (?) Kang Baek-Ho , age 20, has a 1.143 OPS so far, but he hasn’t played since May 21st, assumably because of injury.  24 year old SS Kim Ha-Seong got off to a slow start this year, and he’s still batting only .236, but has brought his OPS up to .809.  I read an article  on that sounded like Kim hadn’t lost any confidence but was trusting to the process in play, so there’s no reason to think it’s anything but a short slump when the hits aren’t falling or you’re just missing by that much.  We shall see.

Steve Dalkowski Passes

Posted April 25, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Anaheim Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Baseball History, Houston Astros, Minor Leagues, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers

News on is that Steve Dalkowski, aged 80, died today of the coronavirus.  Dalkowski is one of the most famous players in baseball history who never reached who never reached the majors.

Dalkowski was a smallish lefthander (5’11”, 175 lbs) who threw incredibly hard but had no idea where it was going.  Many players who played against him said he threw harder than anyone they’d ever faced.

In his first season in a 1957 Class D (rookie) league, he struck 121 batters in 62 innings pitched but also walked an incredible 129.  He was certainly the scariest pitcher many players ever faced because he just might kill you.

Three years later, he both struck out and walked 262 in 170 IP in what was then the Class C California League (an full season A league in today’s game).  He walked 196 and struck out 150 in 103 IP a step up the minor league ladder in 1961.

Dalkowski had his best minor league season in 1962 at age 23 for the Eastern League’s Elmira Pioneers, which played at what we’d call AA level today.  He only went 7-10 but had a 3.04 ERA and, while striking out 192 batters in 160 IP, he walked a modest for him 117 batters.

Earl Weaver, before his great Orioles days, was Dalkowski’s manager in 1962.  He told Dalkowski, a starter, to throw just the fastball and slider and to throw every pitch at the middle of the plate.  Even Weaver said Dalkowski threw harder than Nolan Ryan, and he saw plenty of both.

A 2013 article says, “On a $5 bet, Dalkowski threw a baseball through a wooden fence. On a $10 bet, he threw a ball from the center-field fence over the 40-foot high backstop screen behind home plate.”

The 2013 article says that “Nuke” LaLoosh from Bull Durham was based on Dalkowski, and Kevin Cosner’s “Crash” Davis was based on Dalkowski’s roommate and former SF Giants and  manager Joe Altobelli.  “Alto once quipped, ‘I didn’t room with Dalkowski, I roomed with his suitcase!'” which is an old, old baseball line.

However, Dalkowski’s control really hadn’t improved, it’s likely he blew out his elbow tendon in 1963, and he was a hard drinker, so he was out of organized baseball by the end of the 1965 season at age 26.  Aside from being small, Dalkowski had a compact delivery, but it didn’t improve his ability to throw strikes or diminish from his fastball speed, at least until after the injury when his fastball dropped to 90 mph.

In separate games in his career, Dalkowski struck out 21 and walked 21.  He is said to have thrown a pitch that tore of a batter’s ear, but he didn’t actually hit that many batters, a season high of nine in 170 IP in 1960.  Hitters were “loose” when they got into the box against “White Lightning,” meaning they were every bit ready to get out of the way.

Dalkowski had a hard life after baseball.  He still drank hard, which took his mind prematurely.  It says something about modern medicine that he lived long enough to be felled by the coronavirus.  He was 80 and had lived in a care home in New Britain, Connecticut for many years.