Even in the retirement season, Lee Dae-ho (40, Lotte Giants)’s bat is still hot. He is battling with a distant junior and foreign player for the batting king and the most hits.
As of the 20th, Dae-ho Lee recorded a batting average of 0.347 and is in second place in this division. The bat of Samsung Lions Jose Pirella (0.355), who had a batting average of 0.400 until May 31, faltered in the summer (batting average of 0.231 in June), narrowing the gap a lot. While chasing the 3rd~5th place KIA Tigers Socrates Brito (0.341), Lotte Han Dong-hee (0.339) and Kiwoom Heroes Jeong-hoo Lee (0.337) is not easy, Dae-ho Lee continues to play steadily.
Dae-ho Lee also placed 3rd (85) in the most hits category, closely following Socrates (89) and Pirella (87) in 1st and 2nd places.
The turnaround point of the regular season has not yet been reached and there are many variables such as injuries, so it is too early to pay attention to the title competition. However, it is meaningful because the player who leads the batting race in the first half is Lee Dae-ho.
Lee Dae-ho is a home run hitter representing the KBO League. He ranks third in home runs (359). Thanks to his smooth swing and contact ability, he won three batting titles in 2006 (0.336), 2010 (0.364) and 2011 (0.357). If he won the batting title in the last season of his career, it would be on par with the record of most hitting batting champions (4) held by Hyo-jo Jang (1983, 1985, 1986, 1987) and Yang Jun-hyeok (1993, 1996, 1998, 2001).
Another record that Dae-ho Lee can break is the oldest hitting king in the KBO league.
Currently, this record is held by LG Futures League hitting coach Lee Byung-gyu. Born in October 1974, Lee Byeong-gyu won the title in 2013 when he was 39 years old with a batting average of 0.348. Baek In-cheon, the first batting champion, also ranked first in batting average at the age of 39 with Lee Byung-gyu, but his birthday is about a month later than Lee Byung-gyu.
Lee Dae-ho is forty years old this year. If Lee Dae-ho achieves a great job, he will be on par with MLB “last 40,000 hitter” Ted Williams (1958, former Boston) and personal most home runs (756) recorder Barry Bonds (2004, former San Francisco). Both Williams and Bonds became batting champions at the age of 40.
Daeho Lee is more consistent than his competitors. Pirella, Socrates, and Han Dong-hee show some ups and downs, but Lee Dae-ho’s monthly batting average is 0.323-0.356. He has experience in hitting the batting title, and as a designated hitter, he has less stamina than his competitors.
It is hard to believe that it is the performance of a player in his 40s who is about to retire. He has the highest batting average since 2011 (.357 batting average) before going overseas. Dae-ho Lee recorded a batting average of 0.320 in 2018 when he returned to the KBO league and a batting average of 0.333 the following year. But in his last three seasons, his batting average has been .285-0.292-0.286, under 30%.
Lee Dae-ho emphasizes ‘team’ rather than ‘individual’. Since last year when he announced his retirement date, he has consistently said, “Even if I sit on the bench because I’m not good at it, I hope the team and my juniors do better.” After joining in 2001, there was a ‘win-win’ that Lotte had never achieved. It is for this reason that he signed a two-year free agent (FA) contract with Lotte in January of last year, and put 100 million won each in winning options.
Dae-ho Lee’s performance is a stepping stone to victory. In the home match against ‘distribution rival’ SSG Landers held at Sajik Stadium in Busan on the 19th, Lee Dae-ho laid the foundation for the team’s 7-4 comeback victory with a single RBI at the end of the 8th inning, behind 2-4. On the 9th, he hit a finishing hit at the end of the 11th inning against Samsung, and on the 12th he exploded a multi-home run (4 hits, 3 RBIs in 5 at-bats) against KT Wiz.
He expressed his earnest desire, “I have no desire to leave (for personal performance). I hope that the 144th game of the regular season will not be my last game. .
Reporter Lee Hyung-seok