Is this the end of the road for Lee Seung-yeop? The Korean slugger of the Orix Buffaloes is in one of the worst slumps of his career in his seventh spell at the Japanese top-division baseball league.
It is still early in the 2011 season, but the opening games saw the veteran hitter struggle to connect on pitches, picking up just two hits in the past seven games.
On Tuesday, Lee went 0 for 3 in the team’s 8-2 loss to Nippon Ham. In the ninth inning, in particular, the veteran hitter struck out with two runners on base, much to the disappointment of his fans and manager.
Lee Seung-yeop. (Yonhap News)
Lee, who is regarded by many as the best Korean slugger ever, has now gone hitless in the past four games, dropping his batting average to .087.
Orix manager Akinobu Okada revealed Tuesday his disappointment in the Korean hitter, noting that Lee needs to be back in form quickly.
“He’s let himself down. I think he is under a lot of pressure,” the manager said.
The fortunes of the Orix Buffaloes this year could well rest on the veteran hitter. While Lee is struggling, the Buffaloes are currently running at the bottom of the Pacific League with two wins, four losses and one tie.
Lee, 35, signed a two-year deal with the Buffaloes at the end of 2010, after his former club, the Yomiuri Giants, decided not to keep him.
Last year, he suffered the worst season of his career, appearing in only 56 games and recording a .163 batting average with five home runs and 11 RBIs.
Before the 2011 season, the Korean star vowed to prove that the Giants were wrong to ditch him. Yet, he still seems unable to get back to his usual form.
Debuting in 1995 with the local Samsung Lions, Lee became the youngest player to hit 300 career homers in 2003.
He also hit a record 56 home runs in the 2003 season before heading to the Japanese club Lotte Marines in 2004.
He signed with the Yomiuri Giants at the end of 2005.
By Oh Kyu-wook (email@example.com