‘Tiger Legion’s New Finisher Choi Ji-min, 2nd Year Newcomer, Takes Over~’ KIA, May’s End of the Year Showdown
KIA manager Kim Jong-kook has made a decision ahead of June, when the heat begins in earnest.
He removed Sean Anderson, who suddenly slumped in May, Jung Hae-young, who hasn’t shown stability in the closer’s role, and Hwang Dae-in, who is in a slump in his early 20s, from the first team.
Anderson and Hwang Dae-in can be filled in at first base. However, the loss of closer Jeong Hae-young is no small one. The loss of Jeong, who recorded more than 30 saves for the second consecutive year despite several shaky outings last year that led to seven losses, is a sign of a new closer.
The alternative is Choi Ji-min, who is just entering her second year. It could even be argued that Choi Ji-min is the reason Jung Hae-young has been demoted to the second team.
Of course, Jang Hyun-sik and Park Joon-pyo are still there, but with Jeon Sang-hyun, Kim Ki-hoon, and Kim Dae-yu all down to the second team, Choi Ji-min is the new closer.
Choi has come out of nowhere this year. Last year, his rookie year, he appeared in just six games. He only pitched two innings once and was pulled after giving up two runs without striking out a single batter.
Entering the 2023 season, Choi Ji-min is a completely different pitcher.
His velocity has increased dramatically since he changed his pitching form last winter with the Geelong Korea of the Australian Professional Baseball League. His fastball averages in the low 140s and can reach over 150 kilometers when he wants to. Unlike his left-handed counterpart Lee, who is a year older, who gets into trouble with his fastball, Lee is a fellow lefty and has good control.
He struggled a bit in the first four games, giving up three runs in five innings, but went 17 consecutive games without allowing an earned run from April 20 against the Lotte Giants to May 27 against the LG Twins. Lee did not allow a run. He pitched two innings three times. Of course, he has the ability to pitch well. In 11 games in May, he had a zero ERA and a batting average of 0.146. He left KIA with an untouchable record, which is among the best in the entire KBO.
On May 17 against the Samsung Lions in Daegu, with the score 7-3, Jung Hae-young gave up three runs on two hits and one walk in ⅓ of an inning, leaving the bases loaded, and Choi Ji-min came in and got Samsung’s top hitter, Koo Ja-rook, to ground out to second base and Kang Min-ho to ground out to shortstop for his first career save.
Then, on July 27 against the Gwangju LG Twins, he faced a 3-5 deficit with runners on first and second in the seventh inning, but pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to help pitcher Yang Hyun-jong become the all-time wins leader with 162 career wins. 토토사이트
Of course, the bullpen and the closer are completely different. There are many pitchers who pitch well in the bullpen, only to have a shaky outing in the closer’s role.
KIA hasn’t yet identified Choi Ji-min as a solid closer. However, Choi seems to be the only pitcher who can fill the void left by Jeong.
Although she’s only in her second year, she’s already a Rookie of the Year candidate. It will be interesting to see what she does in the future.