Youngsters Choi Sung Young and Je Yeong Jo Duel in the KBO
The NC Dinos and Doosan Bears’ offense take advantage of the inexperience
While negotiations between the MLB Player’s Union and the owners of the big-league clubs drag on, the Korean Baseball Organization has begun its season, with a game per day broadcasted on ESPN, helping to fill our need for baseball.
Action in the KBO rolls on and the NC Dinos beat the Doosan Bears 12–8 in the first game of the three-game series that the 1st and 2nd ranked teams in the league are playing. Both teams, the Dinos and the Bears have been very offensive heavy this season and each threw a very inexperienced starter out, resulting how you’d expect.
Choi Sung Young, a 23-year-old LHP, started the game for the NC Dinos and had a decent game until things started to fall apart towards the end of his outing.
Choi threw 77 pitches over 3.2 innings of work, allowing 4 runs. Two things jumped out to me initially; Choi did a pretty good job of throwing strikes, throwing a strike 66% of the time, but he also only induced 4 whiffs off of 40 swings for a 10% whiff rate, which is bad, even for the KBO where strikeouts tend to be on the rare side. Because of that inability to miss bats, hitters put a lot of balls in play against Choi, frequently getting hits with his BABIP allowed of 0.400. That’s something you could live with if Choi was limiting the Bears hitters to soft contact. He did not do that.
As you can extrapolate from his SLG allowed of 0.686, the Bears were hitting the ball far against Choi. All 4 of their runs came off of either an HR in the 3rd inning or from a pair of doubles in the 4th. There just wasn’t very much deception on Choi’s part.
Against the Bears, he threw four different pitches. His fastball averaged around 85 mph, about average for the KBO, his changeup hovered around 76, and his slider was around 73 mph throughout the game, with his curveball, which only threw a couple of times, all the way at 67 mph. There just wasn’t anything exciting about any of those pitches, either in the way they moved, how he threw it, or how he used them in sequence.
As noted earlier, Choi managed a pretty good strike:ball ratio of 51:26, but he still struggled with his location. He missed the strike zone more than that ball % indicates, with balls in play coming off of a lot of pitches just off the plate; the ump in this game was calling a very wide strike zone, which benefited both pitchers. Choi worked inside to RHH a lot, using his slider to cut in towards righties. Unfortunately, he left quite a few of those pitches up in the zone when they failed to break, resulting in the HR that he allowed.
Choi’s counterpart, Je Yeong Jo wasn’t any better.
The 19-year-old Je Yeong Jo struggled mightily, allowing 6 earned runs over his 3+ IP of work. Three of those runs came on an HR in the 1st inning when he hung a changeup at the top of the zone and the other three came after he exited the game in the 4th inning with the bases loaded. He struggled with his command, throwing a ball 48% of the time and walking five batters, including walking the bases loaded in the 4th before getting pulled, which doomed him.
Jo displayed an interesting array of pitches against the Dinos. His fastball came in around 88 mph, with his slider averaging 80 mph, his changeup around 78 mph, and his curveball around 73 mph. Early in the game, both his slider and fastball were working pretty well; he was getting calls on the edge of the zone from the ump and RHH struggled to hit his slider which breaks away from righties. Unfortunately, he didn’t record a swinging strike in either the 3rd or 4th inning as his velocity ticked down and his command became more erratic.
Despite that, he managed to induce 6 swings and misses, good for a 24% whiff rate, which is pretty good (of course it helps that the Dinos were barely swinging because he was walking them so frequently, but if they did swing, they missed 24% of the time, not bad).
His Whiff rate and 4 strikeouts give me some hope. As a 19-year-old Futures League call up, Jo looked tired entering the 4th inning with 61 pitches and it came back to bite him. Overall, his arsenal is interesting, but he really needs to clean up his command if he wants to be successful. His counterpart, Choi Sung Young is the opposite, with pretty good control, but no swing and miss stuff. The two youngsters paint an interesting juxtaposition and thought experiment about how to succeed in the KBO.