KIA started the bullpen early in the game against SSG held at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field on the 10th. When the trusted foreign ace, Sean Anderson, was shaken, they started fighting in the bullpen early in the 4th inning with 1 out.
Starting with Choi Ji-min, 안전놀이터 who neatly organized 2⅔ innings with 29 pitches, a total of six pitchers opened the bullpen door, starting with Kim Ki-hoon (1 inning), Lee Jun-young (⅔ innings), Jang Hyun-sik (⅓ innings), Kim Dae-yu (⅔ innings), and Jeon Sang-hyun (⅓ innings). came out Although he did not win because there was no response from the batting line, the bullpen played a role in holding the game until the end.
All 4 KIA games from Gwangju KIA on May 4th to Changwon NC on May 7th were canceled due to rain. I rested for 5 days until my Monday break. In addition, in the match against SSG in Gwangju on the 9th, starter Hyeon-Jong Yang played 8 innings, so only one finisher, Hae-Young Jeong, came out of the bullpen. It was a situation where the bullpen could be mobilized. On the other hand, the fact that there are more cards that can be used in the bullpen this year also led to a bold bullpen fight challenge.
KIA is evaluated that the bullpen power has been strengthened this year. Although no top-class players have been added, the bullpen has been completed with even skills overall. Kim Ki-hoon joined the team after being discharged at the end of last season, Kim Dae-yu was recruited as a compensation player for Park Dong-won, and Choi Ji-min grew up, adding to the existing power. In fact, at times, most of the players have good skills and experience to the extent that they seem to be in a winning group. To that extent, KIA coach Kim Jong-guk’s bullpen operation is also becoming bolder.
On the 11th, as the team faced tight competition until the middle of the game, bullpen pitchers began pouring out following starter Yoon Young-cheol (5 innings). Ki-Young Lim (1⅓ innings), Dae-Yoo Kim (⅓ innings), Joon-Young Lee (⅓ innings), and Sang-Hyun Jeon (1⅓ innings) were also dazzling in their technique of splitting innings. However, Jeong Hae-young (22), the finisher who should most reliably follow him, dedicated the finish line. It was also a game that showed that the concerns about Jung Hae-young were still ongoing.
In the ninth inning, with a score of 3-3, Jeon Sang-hyun was in danger of 2 out 1st and 2nd base, and KIA tried to extinguish the fire by putting out Jung Hae-young’s card. It was a difficult situation with runners in scoring position. Still, the crisis was over with one out count after two deaths. It was a situation Jung Hae-young must have been through a lot. However, the victory was not drastic. It felt like going too hard.
▲ Director Kim Jong-guk is not considering replacing the finisher yet ⓒ Yonhap News
It was the root cause of Shin-soo Choo’s 7-pitch game and eventually giving up a walk. In a situation where the bases were full, the match with Park Seong-han was bound to become more difficult, and in the end, in a full-count game, 2 RBIs fell to the right of the right fielder and came close to defeat. Park Seong-han hit well, but it was clear that Jung Hae-young failed in the first two batters.
Jung Hae-young is the finisher for KIA, with 34 saves in 2021 and 32 saves in 2022. He settled for the finishing position this year without any objection. However, he also struggled when his redemption did not come up at the beginning of the season. His overall velocity has been steadily on the rise, but his stability has been lackluster, with one loss and two blown saves in 14 games. It is a player whose strength was a strong pitch rather than a variety of pitches, but this year, it is evaluated that such a refreshing taste is somewhat lacking.
Even if the average ERA (2.70) is not bad, the ratio (44.4%) of allowing home runs to 4 out of 9 successors is high. Considering that Jung Hae-young’s scoring rate for successive runners last year was very low at 17.6%, you can feel the shaking in the presence of runners. While the strikeout rate (9.1%) was cut in half compared to last year (18.1%), the OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) rose from 0.668 last year to 0.733 this year.
Manager Kim is not thinking about changing the finishing position yet. He continues to emphasize that Jung Hae-young must survive. In fact, there is not a single player who can be replaced. This is a problem Jung Hae-young has to solve on her own. When the finish falters, the bullpen is bound to falter. If the bullpen is shaken, KIA’s season plan will also be shaken.