The root cause of NC’s rapid decline in June was the collapse of the starting lineup. Local ace Koo Chang-mo left due to a stress 안전놀이터 fracture, and Shin Min-hyeok and Song Myeong-ki, who were dropped in the 4th and 5th starts before the season, were in trouble. Although substitute starters Choi Seong-young and Lee Jae-hak endured good pitching, they also fell out after being hit by batted balls in turn on June 20 and 22, and could not find an answer anymore. The vicious cycle of early steeling of the starting pitcher → bullpen overload → turnaround at the end was repeated. Coming down to the hitting cycle, NC was at the bottom of the league in this section with 4 wins and 11 losses in the last 15 games in the first half.
As of the 19th, two days before the opening of the second half, NC is 4th in the league with 39 wins and 38 losses. The 2.5 game gap with Doosan in 3rd place is already clear, and the momentum of the teams coming up from below is scary. It is 2 games behind KIA in 6th place and 2.5 games behind KT in 7th place. If you take a few wrong steps, you can fall right under the starting line for fall baseball.
Starting pitchers desperately need to return from injury. Among the three players, the fastest recovering player is Choi Seong-yeong, who suffered a fracture in the orbital region. Fortunately, he avoided surgery, and on the 17th, he received a finding that it was okay to resume exercise. There is an expectation that a return is possible in August at the earliest.
Through precedents, we can guess the timing of Choi Seong-young’s return. Doosan Kim Myung-shin, who was hit in the face like Choi Seong-young in 2017, returned to the first team after 88 days. On the 10th, two months after the injury of Ryan Yarbrough (Kansas City), who was recently hit in the face by a ball with an exit speed of 170 km in the major leagues, he made the mound as a starter and pitched 6 innings and 1 run.
Gu Chang-mo and Lee Jae-hak will continue their rehabilitation after a reexamination on the 21st. It is not yet known when the return will be.
The fact that Gu Chang-mo’s return is being delayed is a worrying factor. When Koo Chang-mo was out of power due to an injury, NC coach Kang In-kwon predicted that he would be able to return before the All-Star break. However, at the end of last month, a stress fracture was discovered in a detailed examination, and it was confirmed that he was out for the first half.
The influence of native aces in the KBO league is absolute. If it is ‘Healthy Chang-Mo Koo’, he is a pitcher who can be counted as the first player in the league, but he is hardly able to maintain that health. Gu Chang-mo’s health is an important variable not only for his performance in the second half of the year, but also for the future of NC. Last year, Chang-mo Koo signed a non-FA multi-year contract with NC for ‘6+1 years’ worth 13.2 billion won. This year is the first season. If Koo Chang-mo’s recovery is delayed, the Hangzhou Asian Games plan should also be redesigned.