Lee Yong-chan is back on form, but is it too little, too late?As the KBO’s 2019 regular season nears its end, Doosan Bears’ starter Lee Yong-chan has finally picked up his pace.
Things quickly went downhill. In June, Lee had an ERA of 8.28 and things didn’t get dramatically better in July, when his ERA was 4.97.
But once he got into August, Lee was back to his old self. Throughout the month, Lee picked up two wins and a loss with a 2.82 ERA in four starts.
Things have started looking even better over his last few games. During a game against the SK Wyverns on Aug. 27, Lee gave up just one run, a feat he repeated during a game against the Samsung Lions on Sunday.
For the season, Lee has picked up six wins and nine losses with a 4.25 ERA in 22 games.
Lee’s return is also good news for the Bears as the club is narrowing the gap with the Wyverns for first place in the KBO ahead of the postseason.
Below are edited excerpts from an Ilgan Sports interview with Lee.
Q. You picked up two wins last week. How do you feel?
A. I felt great and at the same time, I felt relieved that everything worked out.
You struggled throughout June and July. What happened?
When I wasn’t playing well, I gave up a lot of runs at the beginning of each game, especially in one inning. I was getting intimidated and lost confidence because I wasn’t able to control my mental game. At the same time, I lost balance. I just had a lot of thoughts going through my head.
I tried to get it back as quickly as possible. Now that I look back at it, I think confidence is the most important thing. Once I started struggling for three straight games, I lost confidence and started to think that it’s really hard to recover [my pace].
You’re main pitch is a forkball. How was your control while you were struggling?
When I was struggling, my forkball was unimpressive. I’ve been comparing my performance from last year and studied what I need to work on. There was a big difference in the angle of my arm. As I tried to pitch more accurately because I lost confidence, the angle of my arm went down and I think that effected my forkball.
It seems like you’ve found your pace now. Do you also think you’re back on track ahead of the postseason?
Yes. I am a little disappointed because I could’ve helped the team a lot more if I got back earlier. I feel responsible.
There were games where you had quality starts but walked away with no-decisions. Even worse, you picked up a loss in nine of those games. Were you ever disappointed about that?
Honestly, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any regrets. If I picked up wins in the games I pitched well in, I could have picked up my pace early or would have felt less pressure, feeling that I’m being chased. But that is part of the game. I think the most suffocating part while I was struggling was that I couldn’t throw my own pitches. If I gave up a hit or a home run after I pitched at 100 percent, I would have accepted it, but since I couldn’t perform on the mound, it was suffocating me.
You had the highest hit against batting average in the first inning, both last season and this season. Does it feel like a task you need to get over somehow?
I think so. Whenever I didn’t play well, I gave up runs in the first inning. When I give up runs at the beginning of the game, I feel like I lose energy.
This is your second season playing as a full-time starter and you are about to fulfill the regulated innings for the second straight season. How do you feel?
When I fulfill the regulated innings, there’s a personal meaning behind it. But since I got back on my game, I want to maintain that more than anything.
Rather than thinking about the postseason, my priority is to finish the regular season strong.
BY LEE HYEONG-SEOK [email@example.com]
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