There’s never been a time in baseball when veterans have been more prominent than this year. Through 28 days, the combined 스포츠토토 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic for players aged 35 and older across 10 teams is 50.1. With 75% of the season already played, it has already surpassed last season’s record of 46.8.
On a percentage basis, this is the best year ever. The 50.1 WAR total for players 35 and older to date is 17.1% of the league’s total of 292.77. This is well above the previous highs of 14.6% in 2017 and 14.4% in 2007.
Hitters have been particularly impressive. Of the total WAR of 162.21, 33.85, or 20.9%, came from hitters aged 35 or older. After struggling the past two seasons, Choi Hyung-woo (40-KIA) bounced back with 15 home runs and an OPS of 0.867. Choi Jung (36-SSG) is back in contention for the home run title, while NC’s Son Ah-seop (35) is looking for his first batting title in his 17-year pro career. Don’t forget about Doosan’s Yang Yang-ji (36) and Samsung’s Kang Min-ho (38), who are 1-2 in WAR among catchers.
At this rate, this will be the first season in KBO history where hitters over the age of 35 account for more than 20 percent of WAR. The previous high was 17.6% in the 2006 season.
It’s not easy for veterans in their mid-30s and approaching 40 to maintain their skills. “When I was younger, once I started hitting, I kept going,” Choi said, “but now I sleep one day and wake up and it’s zero again. Doosan’s Kim Jae-ho, 38, who has been batting .369 since June, had to travel to the Futures League after struggling to find his footing early in the season.
The mainstays of the 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medal team are now veterans over the age of 35. SSG Kim Kwang-hyun (35) was the national team ace alongside Toronto’s Ryu Hyun-jin (36), and LG’s Kim Hyun-soo (35) was the center fielder. Fifteen years later, they still dominate the league. It’s a combination of natural talent and strict self-management.
On the one hand, Korean baseball has been struggling with the lack of players who can follow in the footsteps of the Beijing ‘Golden Generation’. The members of the Beijing team were getting older, and the younger players were underperforming.
In recent years, that problem has been gradually resolved. The “Beijing Kids,” who grew up watching Olympic gold medals, are starting to take over. The WBC disaster earlier this year raised concerns about generational change, but new faces are steadily emerging. Among those under the age of 25 are Kiwoom’s Ahn Woo-jin (24) and Kim Hye-sung (24), Doosan’s Kwak Bin (24), and Hanwha’s Noh Si-hwan (23). While the first generation of Olympic gold medalists is still going strong, there is a process underway for those who grew up watching them to rise to the top.