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Trio of foreign players not up to par for defending baseball champions

All Headlines 11:32 May 30, 2018

SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) -- When they won the South Korean baseball championship in 2017, the Kia Tigers got plenty of production from their trio of foreign players: pitchers Hector Noesi and Pat Dean, and outfielder Roger Bernadina.

So far in 2018, the same three players haven't quite matched their strong performances from a year ago, which at least partially explains why the Tigers are just in fifth place in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) at 26-26.

In this file photo from April 12, 2018, Hector Noesi of the Kia Tigers throws a pitch against the Hanwha Eagles in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Noesi won 20 games last year to tie teammate Yang Hyeon-jong for the league lead, while posting a 3.48 ERA. So far this year, Noesi has gone 5-2 in 11 starts, but with a 4.43 ERA. Opponents are batting .310 off the right-hander, compared to a .279 clip in 2017.

He's given up 83 hits, including eight long balls, in 65 innings in 2018. Noesi has allowed at least nine hits in a game six times already, including in his most recent start last Friday against the NC Dinos. Noesi was touched for 10 hits over 6 2/3 innings against the worst-hitting club in the KBO but still escaped with a win.

Dean, a lefty who overcame a slow start last season for a 9-7 record and a 4.14 ERA, has been even worse than Noesi. Dean is 26th among 28 qualified pitchers with a 5.35 ERA across 65 2/3 innings this year, with a 2-3 record in 11 starts.

He's been hit particularly hard in May, going 0-2 with a 7.53 ERA in five starts. He's given up eight homers in 28 2/3 innings this month alone, including three in four innings against the Nexen Heroes on Tuesday.

In this file photo from May 2, 2018, Roger Bernandia of the Kia Tigers hits a triple against the Lotte Giants in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Bernadina was an MVP candidate in the 2017 Korean Series and put up strong regular season numbers across the board as well, with a league-best 118 runs scored, 27 homers, 111 RBIs and 32 steals.

He may be acquitting himself better than the other two in the Tigers' foreign contingent, batting .283 with seven homers, 23 RBIs and 11 steals in 41 games.

But his slugging percentage has taken a dip from .540 last year to .458 this year. After not making any errors in 927 1/3 defensive innings all of last year, Bernadina has already made three in 319 2/3 innings this year. That's more errors than any other outfielder this year.

Of the three, Dean may be on the shortest leash given his recent run of bad results. In 2017, he had a similarly rough stretch from June to August before settling down in September and rolling into the postseason in decent form.

The Tigers will need Dean to bounce back again if they are to contend for their second straight title. They have only the seventh-best team ERA at 4.88.

In this file photo from April 22, 2018, Pat Dean of the Kia Tigers throws a pitch against the Doosan Bears in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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