New foreign pitchers armed and dangerous
In particular, getting 10 wins in their first KBO season has not been an easy task of late for foreign pitchers. From 2012-4, 37 foreign pitchers combined for 210 wins in their first season in Korea. Taking into consideration nine of them joined the KBO in the middle of the season, that works out to an average of 7.5 wins each.
Last year, no foreign KBO rookies won 10 games.
This season, 11 foreign starting pitchers are in the KBO for the first time.
As the number of regular season games grew from 128 to 144 with the addition of the KT Wiz as the 10th club this year, many foreigners could achieve 10 or more wins in 2015.
Four clubs have two new foreign pitchers on their rosters. The defending champion Samsung Lions recruited Alfredo Figaro and Tyler Cloyd, while Lotte Giants signed Josh Lindblom and Brooks Raley.
The Kia Tigers brought in Philip Humber, who threw a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox against the Seattle Mariners in 2012, and Josh Stinson. The KT Wiz signed Phillip Irwin and Andrew Sisco.
Three more clubs have one new foreign pitcher: Ryan Feierabend with last year’s runner-up Nexen Heroes, Lucas Harrell with the LG Twins and Merrill Kelly with the SK Wyverns.
So far, three of the new foreign starters have three wins.
In 2012, there also were 11 foreign pitchers who were playing in the KBO for the first time and four of them had 10 wins or more.Considering that Scott Proctor was a closer for the Doosan Bears and Henry Sosa of the Tigers, now with the Heroes, joined the KBO in the middle of May, it wasn’t a bad result for rookie foreign pitchers in the KBO.
In 2012, Mitch Talbot and Shane Youman, now with the Hanwha Eagles, were the top two foreign pitchers. Talbot had 14 wins for the Lions and Youman collected 13 for the Giants.
With those two, the Eagles hope to see at least one foreign starter with 10 wins this season for the first time since Cedrick Bowers won 10 in 2007.
In 2013, it was a poor season for new foreign pitchers as only two of 12 were in double digits in wins. Former Wyverns pitcher Chris Seddon, who now plays for the Lamigo Monkeys in Taiwan, went 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA in 30 games, while Charlie Shirek was 11-7 with a 2.48 ERA in 29 games for the NC Dinos.
Seddon, formerly with the Florida Marlins and Seattle Mariners, tied Lions pitcher Bae Young-soo for the most wins. He also was an MVP and a Golden Glove candidate that year. Shirek led the lead in ERA.
However, while these two shined in their first KBO season, seven new foreign pitchers failed to get even five wins.
But last season was worse than 2013, as no foreign pitcher was able to win 10 games. There were 14 foreign pitchers experiencing Korean professional baseball for the first time, and they combined for 72 wins.
While no one hit double digits, four foreign pitchers came close with nine wins: John Dale Martin of the Lions, Cory Riordan of the Twins, Thad Weber of the Dinos and Travis Banwart of the Wyverns.
Nine of the new foreign pitchers, including four who joined their teams in the middle of the season, had five wins or less.
For KBO clubs, finding foreign pitchers who can perform well in their first season of the league is an important goal.
Dustin Nippert of the Bears, who had 10 wins or more in each of the past four seasons, including 15 in his KBO debut in 2011, and Andy Van Hekken of the Heroes, who had 11 wins in his 2012 KBO debut year, 12 wins in 2013 and 20 wins in 2014, represent hitting the jackpot.
Experts say adjusting to a new culture and new league is becoming more important to scouts for KBO clubs as the number of new foreign pitchers getting 10 wins has decreased the past three years.
“When teams sign new foreign pitchers, probably what they want from them is at least 10 wins,” said Heo Koo-youn, a baseball analyst for MBC. “But for many, it’s not going to be an easy task because they need time to adjust.”
BY HAN YONG-SEOB, JOO KYUNG-DON [firstname.lastname@example.org]