Pitcher on his way to yet another stellar season

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Pitcher on his way to yet another stellar season

Yakult Swallows closer Lim Chang-yong is having another dominating season.

After establishing himself as one of the top closers in the Nippon Professional Baseball league last season, the 34-year-old closer has been close to perfect this season. Through July 5, Lim has posted 15 saves with an ERA of 0.74. Having pitched 24.1 innings over 24 games, Lim has given up just two runs total.

Lim lowered his ERA below one while notching his 10th save of the game against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on June 13, and his ERA has been on a steady decline ever since. Although he has recorded the third most saves in the NPB so far, that number is largely deflated due to his limited number of appearances. Lim leads his peers in all other categories.

Most important of all is that Lim does not have any blown saves this season, the only closer in the NPB with that distinction. He earned a loss against the Saitama Seibu Lions on May 19, but he gave up that run only after entering a tied game.

In addition, Lim has not given up a home run so far this season. The Chunichi Dragon’s Hitoki Iwasei, the top closer in the central league with 23 saves, has allowed one home run, while Shun Yamaguchi of the Yokohama Bay Stars has recorded 16 saves but allowed five home runs in the process. Kyuiji Fujikawa of the Hanshin Tigers and Marc Kroon of the Yomiuri Giants are tied for fourth overall with 14 saves apiece, but have allowed three and one homers, respectively.

At around this time of the season last year, Lim was unhittable. Up until a game against Yokohama on July 10, Lim had not allowed a single run. But after having participated in the World Baseball Classic before that season began, Lim grew tired as the games piled up. He managed to finish his second season in the NPB with 28 saves and a 2.05 ERA, allowing a total of four homers.

Playing in a contract year, Lim has not had as dominating a start to this season as last year, but this time around he is getting stronger as the season goes on. His pitches have consistently clocked in at over 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour and he seems to have better command.

Having been selected to the All-Star team last season, Lim learned on July 5 that he has been named to this year’s team as well.

By Kim Seek [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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