Jimin Choi? A group effort?
KIA Tigers manager Kim Jong-kook demoted five players from the first team to the second team on Monday. Pitcher Sean Anderson, pitchers Jung Hae-young and Kim Dae-yu, and infielders Hwang Dae-in and Yoon Do-hyun were designated for assignment. The implications are significant. The team had already designated pitchers Jeon Sang-hyun and Kim Ki-hoon for assignment in the middle of last week. The team is trying to shake things up with a major shakeup.
In particular, the move of goalkeeper Jung Hae-young, who has 73 saves in three years, to the second team signaled the team’s intention to use a new closer. It was Jung’s first trip to the second team since signing up for the first team in late June 2020 as a rookie. He was promoted from the chase group to the must-win group, and in the 2021 season, he recorded more than 30 saves for the second straight year as the closer.
This year, he struggled with his fastball and velocity from spring training. He hasn’t pitched a clean inning since opening day. He finished with a 3-1 record, six saves, a 3.46 ERA, a 1.58 WHIP, and a 2.9 K/9 ratio. It’s likely that Kim decided it was better to give him time to readjust his mechanics in the secondary.
It will also be interesting to see who replaces Jung as the closer. For now, second-year left-hander Choi Ji-min (19) is the favorite. In 21 appearances this year, he has a 2-1 record with three saves and a 1.07 ERA. He has a fastball that reaches up to 150 kilometers, a slider, and a changeup. He has a 1.9 K/9 ratio against lefties and righties alike.
His velocity has risen sharply from 140km last year, and he has perfected his secondary pitches, making him an impregnable pitcher. He has one of the strongest pitches in the KIA bullpen. He was originally assigned to the chase group, but was promoted to the must-win group. This time, he is poised for another promotion, this time as a closer.안전놀이터
However, he will have to overcome the psychological pressure of being the ninth inning closer. He has save experience. On May 17, Jeong Hae-young, the ninth inning closer for Samsung Electronics in Daegu, came in to save the day. If Choi Ji-min can overcome the pressure of the ninth inning, it could be a big hope for KIA.
It would allow them to use a group closer system instead of just Choi. Left-hander Lee Jun-young is also showing off his excellent stuff. In 19 appearances, he has four holds and a 1.50 ERA. However, he has a higher batting average against righties (.375) than lefties (.135). Right-hander Jang Hyun-sik is still not 100% with his pitches. It will be interesting to see if Choi Ji-min will be used as a backup.