The batting average is in the teens, but the nutritional value is different. Every day he hits a home run, KIA wins. Four wins already. The star of the show is Byun Woo-hyuk (23), a big bat acquired in a trade from Hanwha.
Byun hit a solo home run in the fifth inning of the 24th game against Daejeon Hanwha to break the 0-0 tie. He pulled a 136km fastball in the middle of a four-pitch at-bat from Hanwha starter Jang Min-jae, who was dominant until last year, over the left field fence. It travelled 125 metres and was his fourth home run of the season. It was a shot that set the stage for KIA’s 4-2 victory.
Kia has won all four games in which Byun has hit a home run this year. Three of the four homers came in tiebreaking situations, and the other was a nutritious cannonball with a one-run lead.안전놀이터
Against Munhak SSG on the 2nd of last month, he hit his first home run of the season with a leadoff solo shot off Kirk McCarty in the second inning to give the team its first win of the season. Then, on the 22nd of the same month against Gwangju Samsung Electronics, he took a 1-0 lead in the first inning and blasted a grand slam off Won Tae-in to lead the team to a 6-2 victory.
Fast-forward to May, and against SSG in Gwangju on 9 May, he hit a leadoff home run off Kim Kwang-hyun in the fourth inning to give the team a 3-0 victory. It also proved to be the game-winner. Until the 24th against Hanwha, Byun Woo-hyuk has a pleasant jinx that if he hits a home run, KIA wins.
“Woo-hyuk hit four home runs and we won that game,” said Kia head coach Kim Jong-guk. There were leadoff homers, wedge homers, and they all came at key moments. He hit against McCarty, Kim Kwang-hyun, Won Tae-in, and Jang Min-jae, so the purity of his home runs is high.”
Byun Woo-hyuk, who came to prominence as a big-hitting prospect in 2018 when he hit a season-high eight home runs in his third year at Cheonanak North High School after using a high school baseball wooden bat, joined the Hanwha team in the 2019 first round. He also completed his military service early with the Merchant Marine, but didn’t get much of a chance with Hanwha due to overlapping players at the first and third base positions, including Noh Si-hwan, Kim In-hwan, and Jung Min-kyu. Last year, a combination of back injuries limited him to just 2-for-6 with two doubles (16 in 61 at-bats), three home runs, eight RBIs and a .721 OPS in 21 games with the first team.
He left Hanwha after the season and was traded to KIA. In exchange for two pitchers, Han Seung-hyuk and Jang Ji-soo, KIA received top prospect Byun Woo-hyuk. Byun quickly picked up the pace in spring training and made the opening roster, and has been playing with the first team ever since. He has played first base, third base, designated hitter, and pinch-hitter, increasing his playing time from his Hanwha days.
He has started only 20 of the team’s 39 games, so he is not a complete starter. He also has a very low batting average, batting just 1-for-83 (15 RBI) in 29 games this season, including nine substitute appearances. However, he is making a strong impact with his long batting average.
Manager Kim Jong-kook said, “What I want from Woo Hyuk-i now is not his batting average. I traded him for his long ball. He won four games with four home runs, so he’s doing a great job.” “It’s still his first year full-time, and as he continues to gain experience, his batting average and on-base percentage will increase.”
KIA ranks eighth in both team home runs (22) and on-base percentage (.349) this year, so the team needs a hitter who can go the distance. Byun’s four home runs are tied for first on the team with Choi Hyung-woo among KIA’s domestic hitters outside of foreigner Socrates Brito (six).