Yang, Kim and Lindblom get Choi Dong-won nod

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Yang, Kim and Lindblom get Choi Dong-won nod

Three aces, including one American, have been nominated for the top pitching award in Korean professional baseball.

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Yang Hyeon-jong, Josh Lindblom, Kim Kwang-hyun

Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers, Kim Kwang-hyun of the SK Wyverns and Josh Lindblom of the Doosan Bears were announced as three nominees for the sixth annual Choi Dong-won Award.

The award, named after the late former star pitcher as an equivalent of the Cy Young Award, was created in 2014 to recognize the best homegrown pitcher in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). Foreign pitchers were considered for the honor for the first time last year, and Lindblom, a 32-year-old American, became the first non-Korean winner in 2018.

Yang was the inaugural winner in 2014 and earned his second award in 2017. Kim is going for his first Choi Dong-won Award this year.

The Choi Dong-won Memorial Foundation, which presents the award, said the three candidates met five of the seven criteria. The criteria are: at least 30 starts, 180 innings pitched, 12 wins, 150 strikeouts, 15 quality starts, a sub-3.00 ERA and 35 saves.

Yang, Lindblom and Kim ranked first, second and third in ERA with 2.29, 2.50 and 2.51, respectively. They all threw more than 180 innings, with Lindblom leading all pitchers with 194 2/3 innings.

Yang Hyeon-jong had one of the most dramatic seasons this year. He started off with a career worst 8.01 ERA in his first six starts, picking up losses in five of them. Since May, he’s picked up 16 wins and three losses with a 1.17 ERA across 23 starts. That performance allowed Yang to lower his ERA all the way to 2.29, and it also was good enough to top the league in ERA.

While Yang made a great comeback as the season went on, Lindblom had been consistent throughout the season.

Lindblom only picked up three losses this year and also topped the KBO with 20 wins and 189 strikeouts.

The Wyverns’ Kim didn’t top any of the major pitching rankings this season but he’s still had a solid year. Kim picked up 17 wins and six losses, with 180 strikeouts, and Yang picked up 16 wins and eight losses with 163 strikeouts.

Kim did end the season tied for the KBO lead with 24 quality starts - with at least six innings pitched and no more than three earned runs allowed - and Yang and Lindblom tied for third with 22 each.

Yang and Kim are currently training with the Korean national baseball team ahead of the upcoming Premier12, while Lindblom is not done with his season as the Bears are competing for the Korean Series title, starting today at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul.

In a major change for this year, the Choi Dong-won Memorial Foundation said it will let fans vote on the winner. Previously, a panel of judges was put together by the foundation to determine the winner.

Starting this year, fan voting will account for 30 percent of the selection process, while the foundation’s judges will make up the remaining 70 percent.

The judges will meet on Oct. 29, and the winner will be announced on Nov. 5.

The award ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 11 in Busan, the late Choi’s hometown.

BY KANG YOO-RIM, YONHAP [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]

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