For the Korean pitchers, it’s all about control

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For the Korean pitchers, it’s all about control

The pitching trio of Park Chan-ho, Kim Byung-hyun and Seo Jae-weong have been around the Major Leagues for a while, but each has failed to consistently show solid performances. In the midst of a strong comeback season, starting pitcher Park of the San Diego Padres landed on the disabled list last week.
In 21 games, he has a 7-6 record with a 4.63 ERA and has piled up a staff-leading 126 1/3 innings. While there is no doubt that Park has managed to prolong his career in the past two seasons, his revival is still on shaky ground. One game Park is good, the next game he struggles to survive. Park was never a control pitcher, but thrived on an effective fastball. Now in his early 30s, he still has the fastball, but with diminished velocity. When he has control of the pitch, his results usually are good. Park throws aggressively, and his fastball enables him to set up the batter for his breaking ball, which throws off the hitter’s timing.
Against the L.A. Dodgers last week, Park showed what an effectively controlled fastball could do. Despite 10 hits against him, he managed 12 groundouts at crucial points in the game and scattered the opposition’s attack.
Contrary to Park, Seo, of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, is a finesse pitcher who has tried to make his living by living on the edge of the plate.
Seo dropped seven games in a row, before ending the streak last week. When he has his control, he has had impressive outings. Last season, he had an 8-2 record with a 2.59 ERA with the New York Mets. When Seo is on, he works the corners of the plate effectively and uses his change-up to fool the batters. But you can’t throw a change-up too often, because once a batter gets familiar with it the pitcher gets in trouble. Seo is usually on a roll when he throws strikes early in the count. When that does not happen, he gets into trouble. His arsenal, apart from his change-up, is not spectacular. If Seo wants to anchor his position as a starter on a Major League team, he needs to develop his pitches and learn the strike zone of each umpire.
In the case of Kim Byung-hyun of the Colorado Rockies, it’s been a roller coaster ride of a season. On July 17 against the Pirates he struck out nine while only giving up three runs and throwing 127 pitches over 7 1/3 innings. The next game, against his former team Arizona, Kim lasted 3 2/3 innings and gave up nine hits, four walks and seven earned runs. Kim is not afraid to pitch in any kind of situation and his submarine delivery style covers what he lacks in velocity. Perhaps the hardest-throwing submarine-style pitcher in the major leagues, Kim’s main problem is not his stuff. It’s his temper. In critical situations Kim gets mad at himself for being beaten by the batter and loses control of his ball, throwing balls or wild pitches to the next batter in the lineup. It has happened over and over. There is no other cure for that but for Kim to grow up.


by Brian Lee
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