Thursday, 28th September 2023

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‘Second-to-last’ Choi Won-jun, can he rebound in the second half?

Won-jun Choi, 28, has been a mainstay on the Doosan Bears’ mound for the past three years. Since becoming a starter in 2020, he has posted a 30-19 record with a 3.55 ERA in three seasons. That’s the best among all Korean pitchers.

Choi’s presence was a huge boost for a Doosan mound that was on the cusp of a dynasty. Especially when the departure of foreign pitcher Walker Lockett in 2021 and Ariel Miranda’s injury in 2022 left a serious starting gap, Choi became part of the one-two punch. It was a huge coup for Doosan, which had struggled to develop domestic starting pitchers after Jang Won-jun and Yoo Hee-kwan.

The 2023 KBO Baseball Game between the Doosan Bears and the SSG Landers was held at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on the afternoon of April 21. Choi Won-jun sticks out his tongue after giving up an RBI double to Choi Ji-hoon with runners on first and second in the fifth inning. 카지노

It’s been a slow start to the season. She went 2-7 with a 5.08 ERA in the first half. It is not without the aftermath of his high pitch count in the past three years. His average fastball velocity has dropped by more than 2 km/h this year (137 km/h) compared to 2021 (138.3 km/h). His batting average on fastballs, which was 0.244, has risen to 0.294 this year, and his on-base percentage on fastballs has risen from 0.392 to 0.472.

Unlike the past two years, Choi’s struggles have been more pronounced as the Doosan starting rotation has improved significantly. The one-two punch of Raul Alcantara (9-3, 2.03 ERA) and Kwak-Bin Kwak (8-2, 2.08 ERA) has been solid, and replacement foreigner Brandon Waddell (2-1, 1.04 ERA) has been scary. Young-gun Kim Dong-ju (2-4, 3.31 ERA) is also impressive. As a result, Choi Won-jun, the Korean ace, was effectively reduced to five starts.

The NC Dinos and Doosan Bears play in the 2023 Baseball World Series at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Sunday afternoon. Doosan starter Choi Won-jun celebrates as he heads to the dugout after finishing the sixth inning. Photo by Yonhap

Despite his struggles, Kwak is still a reliable senior and mentor to the younger players. Kwak Bin said, “Since 2021, I’ve always been roommates with (Choi) Won-jun. I think I’ve gotten to this point because of him,” he said. “He always slept with me, stayed with me, and asked me questions whenever I wanted to know (about pitching). He helped me a lot when I was frustrated because I couldn’t throw,” he said, adding, “I think my grades are coming out now because I listened to his know-how and accumulated it. I learned so much from him that it’s hard to single out one thing. From one to ten, he taught me how to play according to the situation.” He expressed his gratitude.

There are also signs of a rebound. Choi Won-jun pitched five innings of two-run ball against the Kiwoom Heroes on April 9, so it’s possible that his performance could improve with less innings pitched. In games this season, his OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) is 0.732 the first time he faces a batter and 0.622 the second, which isn’t bad, but that number jumps to 1.295 when the opposing batting order rotates three times. With only five or six innings of work, we can expect a seasoned pitcher. If Choi is able to take the pressure off and reclaim the No. 5 spot, he could be the “key” to Doosan’s upswing.

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