The LG Twins were determined. There was no reason to take a risky gamble, even if it meant hemorrhaging power메이저놀이터. The team officially announced the parting of ways with foreign pitcher Adam Plutko and accelerated its preparations for the Korean Series.
On July 27, LG announced, “Plutko left for the United States this afternoon. He has been working hard on his rehabilitation, but after discussions with the team, it was determined that it was difficult for him to pitch in the Korean Series.”
Plutko played a key role this year in helping LG win the top spot in the regular season for the first time in 29 years since the 1994 season. He was one of the best starters in the league, going 11-3 with a 2.41 ERA in 21 games.
The first half of the year was particularly stellar. He went 11-1 with a 2.21 ERA in 17 games, living up to the title of “ace. Given Kelly’s 6-5 record in 18 games over the same period, it was impossible for LG to advance to the Korean Series without Plutko.
However, Plutko faltered a bit in the second half of the season, going 0-2 with a 3.38 ERA in four games. His physical condition deteriorated due to a cold and the aftermath of the COVID-19 infection, and he even complained of feeling out of shape.
After giving up one run on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts in four innings against the NC Dinos on Aug. 26, he disappeared from the first team altogether. He was diagnosed with a left pelvic bone contusion and worked hard to rehabilitate.
The LG coaching staff initially expected Plutko to be back on the mound in early October, but his rehabilitation hasn’t progressed. LG manager Yeom Kyung-yeop said, “We have to wait and see. But I don’t think it’s going to be easy,” he said, adding, “I can’t do anything if he’s sick and tired. I can’t force him to play.” He also expressed his regret.
This is not the first time LG has had trouble with Plutko. In the 2022 season, his first year in the KBO, Plutko went 15-5 with a 2.39 ERA in 28 regular-season games, but struggled in the postseason.
Plutko was pulled from the game against the SSG Landers on September 25 last year after facing just one batter due to gallbladder symptoms. With LG finishing second in the regular season and heading directly into the playoffs, he had a month to recover, but Plutko insisted on playing fall baseball without a real game.
The results were disastrous. Plutko started the second game of the playoffs against the Kiwoom Heroes on Oct. 25 last year, but he was roughed up for six runs (four earned) on eight hits in 1⅔ innings. LG was unable to build on the momentum of their Game 1 win, falling 6-7. They dropped Games 3 and 4, falling victim to an upset and ending their season in vain.
However, LG still valued Plutko’s overall performance in the regular season more than the disappointment of the second semi-final of the 2022 season. They re-signed him for a total of $1.4 million (approximately KRW 1.9 billion).
Plutko responded in kind, emerging as an ace in the first half of the 2023 season before becoming a liability in the second half. LG ultimately sent Plutko to the U.S. early to prepare for the Korean Series.
The sobering realization was that Plutko’s current form and lack of practice would not allow him to play a significant role in the Korean Series. More importantly, I was concerned about the impact on the team.
The decision to play the postseason without a foreign pitcher is not an easy one to make. In LG’s case, the company has invested everything it can in Winnow, hoping to win the Korean Series for the first time in 29 years, but the company believes that Plutko is not helping at all.
The ‘Jamsil rival’ Doosan Bears had a similar situation to LG in the 2015 season. When foreign pitcher Anthony Swarzak showed signs of struggling, they boldly dropped him from their roster for the playoffs. In fact, Swarzak’s disloyalty to the coaching staff led to him leaving the team shortly after the season ended.
Doosan finished the 2015 season in third place in the regular season and qualified for the semi-finals, but the team wasn’t exactly a powerhouse on the mound, with starting ace Dustin Nippert having his worst season since joining the KBO with a 6-5 record and 5.10 ERA in 20 games, and the bullpen wasn’t exactly strong either.
In 2015, Doosan’s bullpen had a 5.41 ERA, which ranked ninth in the league. With the exception of closer Lee Hyun-seung, who went 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA in 41 games with 18 saves, the team had no reliable late-game options. The decision to leave a foreign pitcher off the roster in this situation is not an easy one to make.
However, Doosan’s decision paid off. In the semifinals, they swept Nexen (now Kiwoom) three games to one and won the series. In the playoffs, they swept the NC Dinos, who finished second in the regular season, three games to two to advance to the Korean Series.
With momentum on their side, Doosan swept the Korean Series. They swept the Samsung Lions 4 games to 1 to win their first Korean Series title in 14 years, since 2001. Nippert, Jang Won-jun, and Yoo Hee-kwan did their jobs, and Noh Kyung-eun, who had struggled in the regular season, pitched so well in the playoffs and Korean Series that it was hard to remember him as a swaggerer.
If you compare Doosan in 2015 to LG in 2023, LG’s lineup is much stronger, especially with Kelly rebounding from his second-half slump and backed by the league’s best bullpen (3.43 ERA), which should minimize the void left by Plutko.
The die is now cast. The only thing left to do is prove in the Korean Series that the decision to let Plutko go was the right one.