Lim Ki-young struggles, Choi Ji-min leaves… KIA bullpen in crisis, fate hinges on reuniting ‘Triple J’
September 16, 2023 | by cabarettoenennu.com
KIA lost 6-8 in a tightly contested game against Doosan at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field on Friday. The team took a 6-5 lead into the fifth inning thanks to Lee Woo-sung’s grand slam in the fourth, but couldn’t hold on in the final inning.
It was more than just a one-run loss, as they had a day off due to rain the day before (14th), but lost despite using their entire bullpen. KIA turned to its bullpen after two outs in the fourth inning as starter Yoon Young-cheol was not looking good. They used a total of seven bullpen pitchers, including Kim Jae-yeol, Kim Dae-yoo, Choi Ki-young, Choi Ji-min, Jeon Sang-hyun, Jeong Jung-young, and Jang Hyun-sik. The team lost after using Im Ki-young (30), the most reliable man in the bullpen, for two innings.
Until he was dropped from the starting rotation this year, there was little reason to think that Lim would turn things around in the bullpen. At first, he was more of a long reliever than a starter. However, his role has gradually expanded and now he takes the mound whenever the team needs him, regardless of the score, time of game, or lead. If the team is winning a game, or if they’re trailing, but they feel like “we need to win today,” they often call on Lim.
In the process, Lim threw the ball diligently without any major breakdowns. “It’s okay to throw a lot,” he said proudly. By the 15th, he had a record of 4-3, 3 saves, 15 holds, and a 2.62 ERA in 55 games this season. He is the biggest contributor to the KIA bullpen this year, but fans are nervous about him. Despite his assurances that “you don’t have to worry too much,” the pace of his innings is too extreme.
Lim has already thrown 75⅔ innings “only in the bullpen. That’s a lot of multi-inning digestion. Of course, he’s not a power pitcher, and his pitch-to-pitch ratio (1120) is surprisingly efficient. Still, that’s a lot of pitches. Plus, KIA still has 27 more games to go. The most innings pitched in the KIA bullpen since 2014 was Kim Yoon-dong in 2018 (82⅔ innings), and he’s on pace to surpass that.
Throwing more doesn’t make you stronger, it makes you more tired. Even if you don’t consider the risk of injury, there’s a chance that his pitches will decline. The KIA bullpen is also under pressure. Left-hander Choi Ji-min, 20, who anchored the team’s bullpen in the first half of the season, is going to the Hangzhou Asian Games. When he is called up on Sept. 22, we won’t see him for nearly 20 days. Choi was the centerpiece of a KIA bullpen that posted a 2.24 ERA in 55 games last season.
Of the two guys who have been dragging down the KIA bullpen all season, one has been out for quite a while, and the other has accumulated enough innings that it wouldn’t be surprising if he were to drop off in the future. That’s not to say that KIA has a strong starting rotation. Mario Sanchez is out with an elbow injury. Lee Yi-ri is traveling to Hangzhou holding the hand of Choi Ji-min. It’s important to be conservative with the number of innings the alternate starters will get. The bottom line is that the bullpen will continue to be a big drain. KIA needs to find an alternative quickly.
In fact, there was a pitching staff in place before Lim Ki-young and Choi Ji-min. They are Jung Hae-young, the closer, and Jeon Sang-hyun and Jang Hyun-sik, the set-up men. They were nicknamed “Triple J” after their last names. It’s been a long-standing formula for KIA, with Jeon taking care of the seventh and eighth innings and Jang closing out the ninth. In the two years since 2021, Jang Hyun-sik has collected 53 holds and Jeon Sang-hyun 23. Closer Jung Hae-young compiled 66 saves.
This year, the trio hasn’t been together all season. Jang Hyun-sik was late to the party after undergoing bone chip surgery on his elbow at the end of last season. He struggled to find his groove for a while. Recently, he has found a fastball that reaches 150 kilometers per hour, but his command hasn’t returned. His BABIP in his last 10 games is 0.345. That’s not exactly inspiring confidence.
Jeon Sang-hyun and Jung Hae-young have both been sent to the second team in the middle of the season to make adjustments. It wasn’t just for a few days either, but for quite a while. Since returning to the first team, they’ve both shown signs of improvement. Jeon Sang-hyun has been a reliable set-up man, while Jeong Jung-young went from August 17 against Kiwoom to September 10 against LG Electronics without conceding a goal.
However, in the game on the 15th, the synergy between the three players has been lacking, with Jeong failing to close the back door. It’s been a rare occurrence for KIA to have one player take charge of an inning from the 7th to the 9th and have a clean matchup. This is a situation where players are pitching more and more, which puts more pressure on certain players’ stamina. The sooner Triple J can be stabilized, the better for KIA to get through the final stretch. 소닉카지노