Thursday, 13th June 2024

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In the end, I went to the second team… KBO’s first history challenge

Lotte Giants pitcher Koo Seung-min, 34, has been dropped from the first team.

Lotte made a major roster change ahead of their game against the Samsung Lions at Sajik Stadium in Busan on Tuesday. Outfielder Kim Min-seok, who was sidelined with an adductor muscle injury just before the start of the exhibition game, returned to the first team after recovering from his injury. Left-hander Lim Jun-seop was also called up to the first team at the same time.

And Koo Seung-min, who was one of the centerpieces of Kim Tae-hyung’s bullpen plan, was removed from the first team. Koo Seung-min has been struggling since the start of the season. In six appearances this season, he went winless with an ERA of 30.38 (9 earned runs in 2⅔ innings), and was dismissed from the first team.

Koo Seung-min’s struggles this season have been shocking. He is the first pitcher in Lotte’s history to record 100 holds. He was also one of the most consistent bullpen pitchers in KBO history.

In the four-year period from 2020 to 2023, he tied for first in games played (265) and second in holds (88) with SSG’s Seo Jin-yong for most appearances. During this time, Koo achieved 20 holds in four consecutive years from 2020 to 2023, which is only the second KBO record in history behind Ahn Ji-won (2012-2015). This year, Koo is on pace to become the first player in history to reach 20 holds in five consecutive seasons, as well as his first free agency season.

But to date, Koo hasn’t shown any signs of being one of the league’s top bullpen arms. While he’s generally been a slow starter over the past four years (3.86 ERA in the first half of the year / 3.50 ERA in the second half of the year), this shocking lack of success should be embarrassing not only for Koo, but also for manager Kim Tae-hyung, who unquestioningly included him in his plans for the bullpen.

He allowed runs in all but one of his six games. Worst of all, he didn’t complete a single inning.

Koo Seung-min’s 2024 pitching diary

March 24, Incheon SSG – ⅓ inning, 3 hits (1 HR), 1 walk, 3 runs (W)
March 26, Gwangju KIA – ⅓ inning, 2 hits, 1 run (loss)
March 31, Sasik NC – ⅔ innings, 1 hit, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts, 2 runs allowed
April 4, Daejeon vs. Hanwha – 0 innings, 3 hits, 1 walk and 2 runs allowed
April 7, Sajik vs. Doosan – ⅔ innings of scoreless relief
April 9, Resignation Samsung Electronics – ⅔ innings, 2 hits (1 HR), 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 1 run allowed

Heading into his last nine starts, his ERA was 36.00. However, his ERA 안전놀이터 dropped to 30.38 after giving up a run in his last nine starts. This shows how bad Koo Seung-min’s current performance is.

Head coach Kim Tae-hyung was left scratching his head at the poor performance. “Something seems to be going wrong with him right now,” he said, “When he throws pitches, batters don’t hit them, and the pitches that go into the count seem to go straight to the bat.”

“I think it’s probably because he’s shrinking, so he can’t get the ball in more confidently, and his main weapon, the forkball, is not going in as well,” said manager Kim Tae-hyung, who believes the overall pitching is not bad.

First of all, according to the PTS (pitch tracking system) measured by Sports2eye, Koo’s velocity is not as good as last year. His average fastball velocity was 145.2 kilometers last year and 143.2 kilometers this year. That’s two kilometers less.

However, there is no significant difference in other indicators of his pitches, such as his up-and-down movement (28.2 cm in 2023 / 28.8 cm in 2014) and his revolutions per minute (2495.6 in 2023 / 2569.7 in 2014). In fact, the numbers are slightly better than last year. Once he regains his velocity, Koo will be able to pitch with more confidence and power.

For now, Koo Seung-min will have time to reorganize in the second team. The shorter that time is, the better for the Lotte bullpen to get back on track. Then, the free agent will be able to properly evaluate his dedication.

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