The San Diego club said on the 4th (Korea Standard Time) that it has signed a two-year contract with right-handed relief pitcher Ko Woo-suk.
Ko Woo-suk thus made history as the seventh player in the KBO league to advance to the Major League through a posting system (closed competitive bidding) after Ryu Hyun-jin, Kang Jung-ho, Park Byung-ho, Kim Kwang-hyun, Kim Ha-sung and Lee Jung-hoo. He is the first bullpen pitcher.
Ko Woo-suk realized his dream to advance to the Major League, but LG, the winner of the 2023 season’s unified championship, suddenly lost its closing pitcher. Ko was a top-rated closing pitcher in the league, earning 138 saves for five seasons from the 2019 season to the 2023 season. Although he was shaken with eight losses in the 2023 regular season, the presence or absence of Ko greatly affected the weight of LG’s bullpen.
For LG, it is necessary to select a closing pitcher to fill Ko’s absence. LG, which has a strong bullpen, has various candidates. Who is the best closing pitcher among them.
In terms of speed, he is Jung Woo-young. Having fastballs with mid-heavy two-seam and early 150 kilometers per hour, Jung was sluggish with five wins, six losses and 11 holds with an ERA of 4.70 in the 2023 season, but he grabbed the hold title with two wins, three losses and 35 holds with an ERA of 2.64. In his fifth year as a pro in the 2023 season, he has surpassed the 100-hold mark. He also has the special advantage of inducing the most grounded ball in the league.
However, Jung has been showing weaknesses in quick motion. Due to slow quick motion, he allows runners to easily steal bases. As the era of pitch-clock is set to begin in the 2024 season, Jung’s weaknesses are fatal. Until he improves slow quick motion, he cannot play the role of a closer who must prevent a one-point game.
Kim Jin-sung and Ham Deok-ju are the best candidates in terms of their experience as closer pitchers. Kim Jin-sung led LG to the 2023 season with 5 wins, 1 loss, 4 saves, and 21 holds ERA of 2.18. Fork ball is one of the best pitches in the league. He has ample experience as a closer to the point where he garnered 38 saves while playing the role of closer during the NC Dinos.
Ham Deok-ju also has a lot of experience in saves. He garnered 59 saves during 11 professional seasons. In the 2023 season, he also posted an ERA of 1.62 with four wins, four saves and 16 holds. He boasts of excellent changeups that fall to the outer part of the right-handed batter and accurate ball control as if cutting the right-handed batter.
However, Kim Jin-sung and Ham Deok-ju also have weaknesses. Kim Jin-seong, who is entering his 39th season, is difficult to play as a long-term closer for LG, considering his age. If LG chooses Kim Jin-sung as its closer, it may have to find another closing pitcher replacement resource in the near future. Ham has yet to prove his durability due to various injuries in recent years. He also failed to play well in the second half of the 2023 season due to injury.
Excluding Kim Jin-sung and Ham Deok-ju, Yoo Young-chan and Baek Seung-hyun of the 2023 Cinderella season are strong candidates. Both pitchers have fastballs and sliders that exceed 150 kilometers per hour. Yoo also has forkballs that easily drop off. Due to this, he can be more free when dealing with left-handed hitters than Baek. However, his weak point is that he sometimes loses control of the ball. On the other hand, Baek boasts more stable control than Yoo.