If a pitcher’s pitch is simply divided in half, it is either a fastball, commonly called a fastball, or a breaking ball. No pitcher can make a living with either one. SSG is, if you really want to call it that, a team with a curve ball. In particular, the rate of breaking balls used has increased sharply this year.
According to the statistics website ‘Statistics’, SSG’s four-seam fastball percentage among all pitches last year was 41.6%. Including the sinker (two-seam), which has recently been thrown in place of a four-seam, the score was exactly 50%. It was a slightly lower figure than the league average (51.2%). However, this year, the speaking rate fell further. The combined percentage of four-seamers and sinkers this year is 47.8%. There is only one team in the league that cares more about fastballs than SSG: KIA.스포츠토토
Fastballs, including four-seamers, are the basics of a pitcher. Not only is it easy to throw a strike, but it also serves as a stepping stone for other breaking balls. There is also an analysis that the reason SSG’s walk rate has fallen to a miserable level this season is because they overuse breaking balls at important moments. This is because breaking balls are also used to induce swings and misses by throwing them outside the strike zone. If you are not fooled, you will be fine. As a pitcher, frustrating moments continue.
SSG coach Kim Won-hyung interpreted this drop in numbers ahead of the Hanwha match against Daejeon on the 8th as being due to the high proportion of breaking balls among starting pitchers. Although the starting rotation has a limited number of players, these players account for more than half of the team’s total innings. The more breaking pitch pitchers there are in the starting lineup, the higher the percentage of breaking pitch pitches will inevitably be. However, SSG is not a group with many pitchers who are good at throwing sinkers or two-seamers. Yes and now, this is the same.
It is in line with coach Kim Won-hyung’s theory that you should throw the ball you are most confident in at a critical moment and face the batter. As long as your grades are good, it doesn’t really matter what your fastball percentage is. However, this year, there are many cases where a walk is given or the ball count is disadvantageous while competing for a breaking ball. It is not impossible to understand the feelings of fans who scream, “Throw a fastball in the middle even if it means getting hit.”
To put it another way, it could be evidence that not many SSG pitchers have confidence in their fastballs. Even in a full-count game, if you are confident in your fastball, you can boldly go head-to-head. However, it has become very difficult to find scenes like this at SSG this year. This is even more so after Wilmer Font, who was in charge of this ‘scene’, disappeared last year. However, among young players, players who boldly use powerful fastballs are emerging.
The hottest player in the SSG bullpen recently is right-hander Lee Kun-wook (28). Although he is now too old to be considered a young player, he was once one of SSG’s top pitching prospects. He is gaining strength after completely transitioning to the bullpen this year, leaving behind the time when he wasted his talent due to frequent injuries. As of the 7th, he has pitched 31⅔ innings in 20 games of the season and has an ERA of 2.56.
Lee Geon-wook was a pitcher who usually threw balls at an average speed in the low to mid 140 km/h range. But even then, he was evaluated as having a good fastball. This is because he has good vertical movement, giving hitters the impression that he comes alive with power. He often hit the bottom of the ball, resulting in a fly ball. He was an innate talent. Through biomechanics training, Lee Kun-wook has raised his velocity to the mid to late 140 km range and is throwing a more powerful fastball.
Among the current SSG bullpen pitchers, he is almost the only player who can throw the ball in the high zone and induce a missed swing or a missed fly ball. Lee Kun-wook’s four-seam fastball usage rate is over 60%. Coach Kim also hinted at his involvement as a sure-to-win team in the future, saying, “He is the player with the best fastball power in the team compared to velocity.” In the end, it was a case where he turned around and succeeded in re-entering the first team with his fastball, which was his strength.
High school rookie Rookie Lee Roun (19) is currently the fastest thrower in the SSG bullpen. The maximum speed in each game is often recorded at over 150 km/h. Although it is not as powerful as Lee Kun-wook, the power of the four-seam, which lies low and flies like a ballistic missile, is quite strong. Recently, the rate of using breaking balls such as sliders and changeups has increased somewhat, but he still looks to the middle and throws fastballs. If he maximizes his rotation further, he has the potential to be a 150km fireballer.
Shin Heon-min (21), who was selected in the 2nd first round (2nd overall) in 2022, is also a player with potential in the fastball. He also knows how to throw a fastball that can reach 150 km left and right. Four-seamers account for 67.6% of this year’s pitches. He is the highest in the SSG team. In the match against Hanwha in Daejeon on the 7th, he escaped a critical situation in the 9th inning by throwing a fast ball up to 150.4 km (based on Trackman).
In particular, it was amazing that he escaped the crisis with a combination of a fastball and a curveball with bases loaded and 1 out. Even in times of crisis, he was not intimidated and threw his ball. In particular, it is worth paying attention to the fastball that grounded Noh Si-hwan, a league MVP candidate, to second base with the bases loaded and two outs. The last two balls were fastballs, but Noh Si-hwan’s bat was late. He pitched well enough to give hope. What stood out the most in the three-game series against Daejeon were Lee Kun-wook, who had good fastball power, and Shin Heon-min, who had the advantage.
There are also players who throw the ball faster than these players. Right-hander Seo Sang-jun (23), who was recently promoted to the first team, threw the ball over 155km without hesitation in the second team. Although ball control is the key, the fastball produced by a strong physique attracted attention early on. It is a clear candidate for the ‘average 150km’ that is insufficient for the current SSG.
Jo Yo-han (23), who is serving in the military, is one of the best speed players in any of the 10 teams. He is a player who can hit the ball in the mid-150km range even if he throws it lightly. Left-hander Kim Taek-hyeong (27), who enlisted and was discharged at the same time, also had the best velocity among left-hander bullpens. Attention is being paid to whether they will be able to rekindle SSG’s fastball dream in the future.