After being one of the best hitters in the history of the KBO, Doosan’s Lee Seung-yeop spent a long time playing in Nippon Professional Baseball. When he returned to Samsung in 2012, he found himself facing a mountain to climb in the form of a catcher he hadn’t seen before in Japan, Yang Ji (36, Dusan).
Lee, who was in the opposite dugout during his playing days, remembers sticking his tongue out at Yang’s relentless lead. “Even then, he was a good catcher,” Lee said of his experience with Yang before the Gwangju KIA game on April 18. When he’s in the batter’s box, he’s relentless. He sees the weaknesses to the end.” “Even now, if there is a batter who is weak in the body, he goes in until he hits recklessly. It was a little hard for me, too,” he recalls with a wry smile.
Yang admitted that it was difficult to gauge what was in the catcher’s head. “I don’t know why she was like that, but she was a little unpredictable,” Lee said. “I think it’s more about the catcher’s personality than the pitcher’s, so I was thinking a lot about, ‘What is she thinking,’ and I think that’s what makes her even more amazing.”
By the time Lee retired, Yang had become the best catcher in the KBO. He is considered to have all the basic qualities of a catcher. In addition to basic defense, he can read the pitcher’s strengths and the batter’s mind, and he can read the entire game. He’s a great catcher, but he’s also a great offensive player. His offensive production is among the best in the league. He’s the best catcher and the best hitter in the game, and there’s a reason he’s a two-time $10 billion free agent.
For Lee, who began his coaching career this year with Doosan, Yang was the perfect gift. After leaving his beloved Dusan after the 2018 season to sign a four-year, 12.5 billion won deal with NC, Yang signed a free agent contract with Doosan ahead of this season and returned to his hometown team. For Doosan, branded as ‘Lee Seung-yeop’, he was like a crown jewel. He is in his mid-to-late 30s, but his skills are still strong. His physical strength may not be what it used to be, but his game-changing charisma is even stronger.
Not to mention his presence on defense and as a catcher, and his offense, which many feared would hit an aging curve, is still going strong. Through 18 games, Yang is batting .311 with 12 home runs, 53 RBIs, and an OPS of 0.876 in 107 games this season. His adjusted wRC+ (wRC+) is 153.4, according to Statiz. This is one of the best in the league, along with Noh Si Hwan (Hanwha, 159.9), Hong Chang-ki (LG, 157.1), and Choi Jeong (SSG, 154.8). Again, Yang is a catcher. As a catcher, he is unrivaled. He is unrivaled.
He’s gone from being an underdog opponent to a trusted field commander who can be counted on for everything. And he insists that Yang Ji’s class is still there. “Another five years have passed, so he has more experience,” Lee said, summarizing Yang Ji’s class in one scene. It was the fifth inning of the Gwangju KIA game on the 15th. After batting in the fifth inning with the team trailing 2-5, Yang made a surprise steal of second base. When the ball got away from him, he sprinted to third base without looking back. He realized that there was no defender at third base.
“When you see him make that play, you can tell that he’s got a lot of sense, and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. It’s just that he’s not a fast player, so it doesn’t show up as much, but if he was a really fast player, he’d be whipping around. When I asked him, he said he thought about it (going to third base) beforehand. I thought he was a great player,” he said.
Yang is now well on his way to making KBO history. Putting aside his less-than-stellar defense, Yang has a .307 batting average, 240 home runs, and 997 RBIs in 1,692 KBO games. Only the legendary Lee Man-soo has produced more offensive production than Yang. He is also closing in on the number of games played by Park (2043), who is considered the best defensive and leadoff catcher of all time. Yang, who signed a 4+2 year, 15.2 billion won contract this year, still has three more years left on his guaranteed contract with Doosan.
Could Yang retire with a record that could challenge the legacy of the best catchers of all time? Lee, the best player in KBO history, is cautiously optimistic, but says it’s possible. “There are great seniors,” he said, but he also summarized, “Yang Ji-do is not just a catcher, but an all-around baseball player, including offense and defense.”
Lee’s cautious nuance is that it’s hard to say for sure that we’ve moved on, and it’s hard to say for sure what the future holds. However, he is not ruling out the possibility that Yang’s career is over while the senior catchers are still playing. At the rate things are going, Yang’s cumulative stats upon retirement could be even greater than those of his predecessors. It remains to be seen if the best catcher of all time can complete his career under the best player of all time. 메이저놀이터