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Korea’s Best Fastball Belongs To Samsung’s Kwon

Posted June. 15, 2007 09:26,   


Pitchers who throw fastballs are common in professional baseball. But there are not many pitchers who can throw balls more than 150kmph. Being able to throw a ball 150km per hour is a pitchers’ dream. A ball which is over 150km is called “heat.” In the United States, a fastball pitcher is sometimes called a ‘fireballer.’ Joel Zumaya of the Detroit Tigers has a fastball that has reached 104 mph (167 kmph).

Recently a fastball battle like never before has broken out in Korean professional baseball. Kia closer Han Ki-joo reached 159kmph in a match against SK on May 27. Lotte’s setup man Choi Dae-seong threw 158kmph, while Samsung’s left-hand pitcher Kwon Hyeok recorded a 157kmph pitch.

It is impossible to decide who is better among these players just by considering their speed. So the opinions of 15 people, including players who experienced the fastballs right before their eyes, scorekeepers, and umpires gathered to gauge the power of their fastballs. The question was: who has Korean professional baseball’s best fastball?

SK’s left-hand batter Kim Jae-hyeon, who once had the best bat speed in the league, said, “All three of them are so good that I can’t pick just one.” He added, “When I meet them in a game, the first thought that comes to mind is that, “Today is going to be a hard match.” Apart from Kim who held back an answer, the pitcher who was chosen as the best fastballer on this day was Samsung’s Kwon Hyeok.

Eight people, including umpire Oh Seok-hwan, LG pitching coach Yang Sang-mun, Kim Dong-joo (Doosan), Kim Tae-gyun (Hanwha), and Lee Sung-yong (Hyundai) chose Kwon Hyuk as having the league’s ‘number one’ fastball. They took into consideration that Kwon is a left-hand pitcher, has a high release point, throws a “heavy” ball, and his dynamic pitching form.

Umpire Oh Seok-hwan said, “Ki-joo and Dae-seong’s balls are a bit light, but compared to them, Kwon Hyuk throws heavy balls that are like cannonballs.” Coach Yang Sang-mun also said, “His pitching motion from top to bottom is excellent. To a pitching coach, his mechanics are ideal.” Kim Dong-joo (Doosan) said, “Although they look similar when flying in, Kwon’s final speed is the best; he is the hardest to hit.”

Han Ki-joo won the votes of five people: Yoon Hyeok, the head of Doosan’s management team, Lee Jin-yeong (SK), Park Yong-taek (LG), Song Ji-man (Hyundai) and Lee Beom-ho (Hanwha). Park Yong-taek said, “More than anything, his ball is the fastest. I think his average ball speed is 3-4kmph faster than the other two players.” Lee Jin-young also said, “With almost all balls surpassing 150kmph, when a high ball comes in after a couple of low balls, it feels as if it’s reaching for the sky.” Manager Yoon Hyuk gave Han high marks, saying, “Not only does he gain control of his ball in a low position, but he follows through with his pitches, so that when he throws the ball, the ball breaks upwards.”

Choi Dae-seong received only one vote, from Jeong Seong-hoon (Hyundai), but his great potential was acknowledged. These days, Choi does not use a wind-up; he throws from the set position. He could gain more speed by doing a wind-up, but he chooses not to for the sake of his ball control.