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What Makes Korea`s Top Pitchers Successful?

Posted December. 14, 2009 09:30,   


Among Korean ace baseball pitchers, is there one who does not throw the fastball or cannot hurl a slider?

The answer is yes, according to the results of an analysis of data on types of pitches and speeds among ace pitchers of the eight teams in the domestic league.

The Dong-A Ilbo acquired the data from the Doosan Bears. One pitcher who does not throw a straight ball is the Samsung Lions’ setup man Jong Hyun-wook. According to a study conducted by Doosan’s competitiveness analysis team, he threw no fastballs this past season.

Samsung’s competitiveness analysis team also said Jong does not throw the fastball, though he used to throw one of up to 152 kilometers per hour.

Analysts came up with the new results because Jong did not throw the most common fastball known as the four-seam fastball.

The four-seam fastball is the most basic pitch. A pitcher throws by grasping the seams on the ball. Since he snaps the stitches with his fingers, this pitch is the fastest.

Jong, however, throws the two-seam fastball by sustaining his fingers on two stitches. The two-seam is similar to the four-seam, but the former’s speed is a bit slower since it faces stronger air resistance.

Since this type of fastball minutely fluctuates right before the batter, many pitchers like to throw it.

Among pitchers on the eight teams, Jong is the only one who does not throw this kind of fastball. The Doosan data suggest that he relied on three pitches: the two-seam fastball, curves and forkball.

Heo Sam-yeong, an assistant manager at Samsung’s competitiveness analysis team, said, “Jong threw the two-seam fastball until three years ago, but has thrown the two-seam fastball only since last year by focusing on the ball’s movement at its destination.”

“Since he is so powerful, he throws the two-seam fastball as if he is pushing the ball. Hence, when he is in good condition, his fastball can reach up to 150 kilometers per hour.”

If the four-seam fastball is the most basic of the fastball, the most common slow ball is the sliders. High school as well as professional players can throw this kind of pitch.

LG Twins left-handed ace Bong Jung-keun has never thrown the sliders. He had no chance to learn the pitch after trying U.S. pro baseball when he was junior at Shinil High School. He went 11-12 this season using the fastball, curve and changeup.

“I’ll learn the slider in winter training camp for next season without fail, and would like to use the pitch in real games,” he said.

The secret of Lotte Giants’ pitcher Cho Jung-hoon, who led the league this season in wins thanks to the forkball, is apparently a wide gap in speed of pitches. He threw forkballs of up to 137 kilometers per hour and slow balls as slow as 119 kilometers per hour, a difference of 18 kilometers. The difference in speed of other players is around 10 kilometers.

Park Jong-ha, a manager at the Kia Tigers’ competitiveness analysis team, said, “The forkball Cho often uses to strike out batters takes a sharp plunge like a slider. So it’s difficult to hit even when a batter expects the pitch.”

Kia pitcher Yoon Seok-min is known for throwing a diversity of pitches in an accurate fashion. He uses fastballs, sliders, curves, changeups, two-seam fastballs and cut fastballs.

Park said, “Yoon is that rare pitcher who can even throw two types of changeups (changeup and circle changeups), and has good ball control with the ability to use any pitch he wants more than 90 percent of the time.”

Hanwha Eagles pitcher Brad Thomas, who will play in the U.S. next season, had the fastest fastball in the league this year at 154 kilometers an hour. His sliders and forkballs were also timed as fast as 142 kilometers per hour, according to the analysis.