While MLB Summer Camps are (trying to) ramp up, baseball continues across the ocean in Korea with the KBO. The action is starting to heat up in the KBO as teams approach 60 games and tiers start to become more defined.
The Lotte Giants managed to eke out a 5–4 win over the Doosan Bears on Saturday as their starter, 24-year-old Park Se-woong, held the potent Doosan lineup to just 2 runs (both unearned) in 5+ innings. It was an up and down start for Park, the second of his that I’ve seen this season, and I think that he and the Giants were lucky to escape with a win.
Park hasn’t performed very well this season for Lotte, posting a 5.61 FIP and 5.71 ERA, both of which are near the bottom for qualified KBO starters. Interestingly, some of his peripheral numbers, like his K/9 of 7.10 and BB/9 of 2.94 are pretty good, but he’s allowing 1.73 HR/9 (2nd-most in the KBO), a good indicator of allowing a lot of hard contact, and a LOB% of just 67.2%
A similar story played out in his start against Doosan. The left-handed heavy lineup of the Bears had a hard-contact rate of 41% and had 8 base runners from their 5 hits and 3 walks.
Park had a lot of trouble throwing strikes consistently against Doosan, posting a 60% strike rate and a first-pitch strike rate of 58%. He tried to work away from the left-handed hitters in the Doosan lineup but had a tendency to miss too far outside and wasn’t able to get calls at the edges of the zone, leading to visible frustration on the mound. That inconsistency reflected itself in Park’s per-inning pitch totals, jumping wildly between 30 pitches in the 2nd inning to just 9 in the 3rd and so on.
Thanks to his approach of attacking away from LHH, Park was able to induce a GO/FO rate of 1.40, which helped mitigate the effects of all the hard contact he allowed. Not every hard-hit ball was a ground out, but enough were that it limited the damage that could have come from having hard hits with multiple runners on base.
Park threw 4 pitches against the Bears. His primary pitch is his fastball, coming in around 89 mph and being thrown about 40% of the time. Overall, he located his fastball lower in the zone and was able to get strike calls on it. He followed that up with his loopy curveball around 74 mph 27% of the time, primarily throwing it in the zone for a strike, rather than using it to induce and swings and misses.
That’s because Park’s swing and miss pitch is his splitter/changeup-type pitch that comes in around 81 mph. He induced 5 whiffs on the 17 times he threw the pitch, a phenomenal rate overall without even breaking it down by swings and misses out of swings. He threw his splitter away from LHH and down to the 2 righties in the lineup. He threw his slider at 83 mph just 15% of the time, locating it either in the dirt to induce a whiff (which didn’t work very much) or in the zone for a strike.
With Park’s overall inconsistency, hitters rarely swung against Park, only taking a swing 39% of the time. When they swung, it was on a pitch that they wanted and were able to drive. He threw lots of fastballs early in the count, in addition to using his curveball for a strike. I’d recommend letting hitters draw out the at-bat, waiting until Park proves that he is capable of locating his pitches for a strike. At 24-years-old, Park still has some potential and flashed some of his swing and miss ability, but needs to improve his ability to throw in the zone.
*Stats from FanGraphs.com, myKBO.com, and the ESPN broadcast*