Welcome to our first KBO roundup of June! We will be approaching our coverage of the overseas league a little differently moving forward by providing a weekly digest of what the four former Detroit Tigers currently active in Korea are up to.
While two players in Dixon Machado and Warwick Saupold have consistently been taking the field regardless of their up-and-down performances, the other pair has been essentially swapping out for each other due to injuries, with William Cuevas lost to a hip injury at the end of May while Chad Bell got over his sore elbow in time to take the mound before June began.
The former Tigers infield was mired in some serious doldrums after a hot start to his KBO career, but this past week he has been picking the pace back up. From June 2 through June 6, the 28-year-old Venezuelan went an abysmal 2-for-16 at the plate with five strikeouts and no runs or extra-base hits — a continuation of a trend that landed him ninth in the batting order. Since then, Machado has seen a bump with the bat going 9-for-21 with six runs batted in, three runs scored and a stolen base, while striking out just once.
His best performance over the most recent stretch came on June 10 against the lowly Hanwha Eagles, when he fell a home run short of a cycle, going 3-for-5 with a double, a triple, a stolen base, an RBI and three runs scored. On top of this, Machado has continued to provide gold-glove performances at shortstop for the Lotte Giants in his first year in Korea.
Similarly to Dixon Machado, the former Tigers pitcher got off to a strong start to his overseas stint, but has since regressed significantly, and unlike Machado has yet to bounce back. Since his opening day two-hit complete-game shutout against the SK Wyverns, the Aussie hurler has just one win and has progressively gotten worse and worse with each passing start. His ERA and WHIP have ballooned to 4.11 and 1.41, respectively, and he has failed to find his strikeout groove since that first game. His last three starts — all for losses — beginning with May 28 have been exceptional stinkers, allowing 34 hits (though only four walks) along with 16 earned runs while striking out just nine in 18 innings pitched.
His most recent outing on June 9 was his worst yet, throwing five innings of seven-run ball — all earned — on 13 hits, including a home run, against the Lotte Giants. While Saupold pitches for the worst team in the KBO that has now lost 18 games in a row, you cannot blame his teammates for his poor performances on the mound. Hopefully, the 30-year-old right-hander can get things figured out soon before he sinks too deep into his current slump.
It took a bit for Bell to get his season going after missing the beginning of the year due to elbow soreness. He finally got his 2020 debut on May 26 and the results have been, well, less than flattering over his four starts since, going 0-2 with an 8.80 ERA and a 2.02 WHIP and failing to complete more than 4 1⁄3 innings in any of his appearance. His opening game against the LG Twins was not too shabby, throwing 3 1⁄3 innings of shutout ball allowing two hits, two walks and striking out three. However, it has been all downhill since.
While Bell had a fine 2019 campaign in Korea, it has been anything but these past three starts, allowing 15 earned runs on 18 hits, nine walks and four home runs — including three off of the NC Dinos’ bats on June 6 — in 12 total innings pitched. He got deeper into the game in his most recent outing on Friday, but still gave up four earned runs in just 4 1⁄3 innings though he managed to strike out five for his season-best so far.
Cuevas, who had a quick yet bitter cup of coffee with the Detroit Tigers back in 2017, has been sidelined with a hip injury since his last start on May 30. Up until then, he had not found much success in his second year overseas, racking up a 1-2 record with a 6.28 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP and 23 strikeouts in 28 2⁄3 innings pitched for the KT Wiz. In 2019, the Venezuelan right-hander put up solid numbers, going 13-10 with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP along with 135 strikeouts in 184 innings pitched, so there is plenty of room for him to bounce back when he returns from his injury.
KBO Standings: June 12
|Rank / Team||W||L||D||PCT||GB||STRK/LAST 10G|
|Rank / Team||W||L||D||PCT||GB||STRK/LAST 10G|
|NC Dinos||25||8||0||0.758||0||1L / 7W 3L 0D|
|Doosan Bears||21||12||0||0.636||4||1W / 7W 3L 0D|
|2 LG Twins||21||12||0||0.636||4||3W / 5W 5L 0D|
|Kiwoom Heroes||19||15||0||0.559||6.5||1W / 7W 3L 0D|
|Kia Tigers||18||16||0||0.529||7.5||1W / 6W 4L 0D|
|Lotte Giants||17||16||0||0.515||8||1L / 6W 4L 0D|
|Samsung Lions||15||18||0||0.455||10||2W / 5W 5L 0D|
|KT Wiz||12||20||0||0.375||12.5||1W / 3W 7L 0D|
|SK Wyverns||11||22||0||0.333||14||3L / 4W 6L 0D|
|Hanwha Eagles||7||27||0||0.206||18.5||18L / 0W 10L 0D|