For Mets’ Seo, luck works both waysSeo Jae-weong, 26, a pitcher for the New York Mets, had just two days of Major League experience last year, and that included the day he went down to the minors.
On July 21 2002, Seo was called up by the Mets, threw one perfect inning with one strikeout against Cincinnati. The next day he was sent down to the Triple A Norfolk Tides.
When he began spring training this year, making the team seemed a remote possibility. Art Howe, the skipper of the Mets, said that he didn’t think Seo was going to survive the spring cuts. At the time, even Seo admitted that he was looking to start the season at Norfolk.
Nevertheless, with a quarter of the season done, despite low expectations, Seo has fared far better than expected. As of Monday, Seo’s ERA was 2.91, eighth best in the Major Leagues, with 74.1 innings under his belt. Although he has started 11 games, his record stands at 3-2, with his last two wins coming only recently. Hence, he’s called by some the “Tough Luck Pitcher.” In May alone he had five consecutive no-decisions.
Seo’s pinpoint control has kept him in the show and will keep him there, I’m certain. To date, he has given up only 16 bases on balls, and hit two batters. But he has struck out only 36 batters. All the pitchers with better ERAs show an average of 74 strikeouts, the fewest being 62.
That means that he is getting batters to ground out or pop up. In 10 of his 11 starts he has allowed three earned runs or fewer while his ERA for the last four games stands at a remarkable 1.93.
What makes his performance even more outstanding is that he has been pitching against some pretty tough teams. Against Seattle on June 6 he gave the Mets eight strong innings, allowing only two runs against a team that was leading the division and was on a nine-game winning streak. He also lifted the Mets from a two game losing streak against a weak Milwaukee Brewers team.
Before the Mariners, Seo pitched a strong game against the Atlanta Braves, holding the National League’s top offense to one run in seven innings.
With runners on base, batters facing Seo are averaging .209, meaning he has the ability to work his way out of jams. Seo’s arsenal includes a fastball and change-up. By mixing the two, he’s able to throw off the timing of many batters.
Meanwhile, his curve and slider are used as offset pitches, moving the ball around the plate.
In his final game of spring training, against the Orioles, Seo got hammered for three home runs. When he was in the minors, Seo said that he watched TV in motels, wondering whether his day would ever come.
Well his day has arrived and with an injury-plagued pitching staff it will be some time before he gets challenged from inside the organization.
At this point, the only concern seems to be Seo Jae-weong’s durability. Can he sustain his skills for a complete season? Consider this: In his last four games he pitched 28 innings, averaging 7 innings an outing.
It seems that his hunger to stay in the show has given Seo the energy to grind out inning after inning. Let’s hope that he can keep that up and that he’ll never have go back to Norfolk and those minor league motels.
by Brian Lee