‘Fireballer Evolution’ Ji-min Choi…Left-handed quartet ensemble, power of KIA bullpen

The KIA Tigers are showing off their ‘left-handed kingdom’.

KIA has won 8 wins (1 loss) in 9 games since the match against Samsung Lions on the 21st of last month. It dropped to 10th place with 10 losses (4 wins) until the second week of opening, but rose to 5th place (12 wins and 11 losses) before I knew it.

The batting line showed concentration in the scoring zone and made an effective attack. The starting lineup, which consists of Yang Hyeon-jong, Sean Anderson, Adonis Medina, Lee Eui-ri, and Yoon Young-chul, also has a sense of stability.

The most encouraging change is the bullpen. In the opening two games against SSG Landers, closer Jung Hae-young was shaken, and setup man Jeon Sang-hyun also showed ups and downs. However, in the recent upswing, he has led ‘baseball to protect’.

The growth of second-year left-handed pitcher Choi Ji-min (20) draws attention. He has been scoreless in six consecutive games since the match against the Lotte Giants on the 20th of last month. He did not have a mound recording more than two hits.

In the game against the LG Twins on the 29th of last month, he fulfilled his mission by maintaining the lead even in a crisis situation. At the end of the 7th inning, with KIA leading 5-0, he took the mound with no bases loaded, and struck out Seong-joo Moon, who had good contact skills, with a 150 km/h fastball and a mid-130 km/h slider combination. Afterwards, he was shaken after a push walk by Oh Ji-hwan and a left-handed hit by Austin Dean at the right time, but prevented additional runs by inducing a double hit to league representative hitter Kim Hyun-soo, who had a batting average of over 40% in scoring range before this game. The 8th inning was also blocked with a triple-trial.

Choi Ji-min, a first-rounder in the 2022 rookie draft, only played six games in the first team stage in his debut season (2022). He performed poorly, giving up 9 runs in 6 innings. However, he gained practical experience in the Futures League in the meantime, and did not neglect his weight training. After the season, he played for Geelong Korea in the Australian Professional Baseball League. 메이저놀이터

In the process, I received a lot of advice from seniors on other teams, and my mental and number fights increased as I faced strong hitters on every pitch. Above all, the speed of the four-seam fastball (fastball), which was in the early and mid-140 km/h range, increased to 150 km/h. It’s an amazing leap. The average velocity, which was only 141.1 km/h in the 2022 season, increased to 145 km/h this season. In the match against LG on the 29th, he threw 10 fastballs over 148km/h.

The reason Choi Ji-min was nominated in the first round even with a slow ball was because he was evaluated for his good control and breaking ball skills. Here, even his arrest was accelerated. He continued to work hard and study for this by himself. Offensive pitching is leading to good results as his increased velocity gives him confidence. KIA coach Kim Jong-guk also expressed his expectations for Choi Ji-min, saying, “The position is not limited to a relief pitcher, but a pitcher who can be used in various ways.”

Each of the KIA left-handed bullpens appeals with different strengths. Kim Ki-hoon has a good pitch and has the ability to digest innings. He stopped more than one inning in three games this season as well.

Lee Joon-young is excellent at controlling the pace. He has a fast ball speed of 142 ~ 3 km / h, but he throws more sliders and steals opponent batter’s timing. As he gained experience, he also became proficient in hand fighting. Recording an average ERA of 2 points (2.91) in 75 games in the 2022 season, he marked 2.16 in 11 games he started this season as well.

Kim Dae-yu, who was recruited as a compensation player for Park Dong-won, who transferred to LG as a free agent, has definitely fallen in form compared to the previous two seasons. Both pitching and zeroing this season are worse than before. However, he is a pitcher with rare value as a left-handed sidearm. He is a player who can play his part well enough when his condition improves.

KIA’s domestic starters (Yang Hyeon-jong, Lee Eui-ri, Yoon Young-chul) are all lefties. The bullpen is to the point of falling into ‘happy troubles’ over resource utilization. The key is to properly utilize Choi Ji-min’s growth, Kim Ki-hoon’s utilization, Lee Jun-young’s sense of stability, and Kim Dae-yu’s rarity.

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