The “boy wonder” Choi Jeong (36-SSG) has been dominating, and the “new kid on the block” has thrown down the gauntlet.온라인바카
Hanwha’s Noh Si-hwan (23) hit his 19th home run of the season on April 6 at home against Lotte. His six homers in his last six games have propelled him to the top of the leaderboard. He is tied with Choi for first place.
Noh’s surge isn’t limited to home runs. As of July 7, he is second in RBIs (56) behind Choi (58), and his on-base percentage (.564) is right behind Choi’s (.577). He is also second in OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) at 0.961, behind Choi (0.973).Choi, who was drafted by SK (now SSG) in 2005, won his first individual home run title with 40 in 2016 and has won the home run title three times in 2017 (35) and 2021 (35).
This season, in his 19th year in the league, he is on track to win the title once again as he continues to build his home run total. At his current pace, he could win multiple awards in other categories as well.
One player who is up to the challenge is Noh Si-hwan, who is in his fifth year in the game. After graduating from Gyeongnam High School, Noh was drafted by Hanwha in the second round of the 2019 KBO Draft with the third overall pick, and has been touted as a big bat since his debut.
After hitting double-digit home runs for the first time in 2020 (12) and 18 in 2021 before slowing down to six last year, Noh has already reached a career-high with 19.
The matchup between the two big hitters is also a welcome one for the league as a whole.
In recent years, the league has seen a dearth of young home run hitters. Last year’s home run leader was 1986-born KT’s Byung-ho Park (35), followed by Choi in 2021 and Mel Rojas Jr. (formerly of KT) in 2020 with 47 home runs. The category was dominated by experienced veteran hitters or foreign hitters.
The “Beijing kids,” such as Lotte’s Han Dong-hee and KT’s Kang Baek-ho, have been in the spotlight, but they haven’t hit long enough to compete for the home run title. Baseball trends have also changed. Changes in batting styles that emphasize contact over big hits played a role.
Noh Si-hwan was one of those big-hitting prospects who wanted to improve his team and the league. This year, he’s emerging from his so-called “egg”.
The race between the new and old big guns will be decided in the summer. That’s because summer is when the physical demands of the game begin. It will be interesting to see if the veteran Choi’s experience or the rookie Noh Si-hwan’s ambition will prevail until the end of the season.