Josh Lindblom named MVP as Jung Woo-young picks up rookie title

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Josh Lindblom named MVP as Jung Woo-young picks up rookie title

American pitcher Josh Lindblom has captured the top individual award in Korean baseball.


Left: Josh Lindblom, who wasn’t able to attend the awards ceremony, was named the 2019 KBO MVP. Right: The KBO’s Rookie of the Year Jung Woo-young of the LG Twins speaks after receiving the award at the ceremony on Monday. [YONHAP]

The 32-year-old right-hander for the Doosan Bears won the MVP honor in the KBO on Monday by a landslide.

He earned 716 points in a media vote, beating the runner-up, NC Dinos catcher Yang Eui-ji, by 364 points.

Kia Tigers left-hander Yang Hyeon-jong, the 2017 MVP, finished in third with 295 points.

The players earned points for top-five votes: the first-place vote was worth eight points, followed by four points for the second-place vote and so forth.

Lindblom earned 79 first-place votes. Yang Eui-ji, the first catcher to win the batting title since 1984, had 14 first-place votes. Yang Hyeon-jong, who beat out Lindblom for the ERA title and denied the American a pitching Triple Crown, garnered nine first-place votes.

Lindblom was the KBO’s only 20-game winner this year and also led the league in strikeouts (189) and innings pitched (194 and two thirds).

Lindblom finished second in ERA with 2.50, 0.21 behind Yang Hyeon-jong.

Lindblom is the fifth foreign player to win the MVP in the KBO, after Tyrone Woods (1998), Daniel Rios (2007), Eric Thames (2015) and Dustin Nippert (2016). All but Thames played for the Bears during their MVP seasons, and both Rios and Nippert were pitchers.

Lindblom also becomes the second-straight Bear to win the MVP. Last year, Lindblom finished second to his teammate Kim Jae-hwan in MVP voting.

Lindblom, who is doing volunteer work in Jordan, didn’t attend the ceremony.

In a video message, Lindblom thanked everyone, from his teammates and interpreters to his opponents, for “challenging me and pushing me to prepare for every single day.”

“I’ve made countless memories in Korea,” he said. “A lot of highs and a lot of lows. Through it all, my goal has always remained the same - to be the best.”

Behind Lindblom’s stellar pitching, the Bears finished first in the regular season and went on to capture the Korean Series for their first championship since 2016.

Lindblom also led everyone in walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP) with 1.00, opponents’ batting average with 0.226 and strikeout-to-walk ratio with 6.52. He won 13 consecutive decisions in one stretch from late May to late August.

Lindblom kept his ERA below 2.00 through June and remained the leader in the category until mid-September. He ended up allowing 14 earned runs in four starts that month - by far the most he allowed in any single month this year - to finish behind Yang Hyeon-jong for the ERA title.

But coming up short of the Triple Crown did nothing to dissuade voters from backing Lindblom, who has gone 35-7 with a 2.68 ERA in two seasons with the Bears.

Lindblom also won the Choi Dong-won Award, presented to the best pitcher in Korea in honor of the late, eponymous pitching legend, in 2018 and 2019.

Lindblom, a native of Lafayette, Indiana, was drafted by the Houston Astros in the third round in 2005 out of high school, but chose to attend college instead of signing with them. Three years later, the Los Angeles Dodgers selected Lindblom in the second round of the draft out of Purdue University.

Lindblom made his big league debut with the Dodgers in 2011 and went on to make 110 total major league appearances with three other clubs before joining the Lotte Giants for the 2015 season.

He returned to the United States briefly in 2017 and pitched in four games for the Pittsburgh Pirates before rejoining the Giants in midseason.

Lindblom then signed with the Bears in December 2017 and hasn’t looked back since.

LG Twins’ sidearm pitcher Jung Woo-young was named the KBO’s Rookie of the Year.

Just like the MVP, players earned points for top-three votes.

Jung is the first Twin to nab the top rookie prize since outfielder Lee Byung-kyu in 1997.

Jung went 4-6 with a save and 16 holds in 56 appearances, while posting a 3.72 ERA in 65 and one third innings, with 38 strikeouts.

In an underwhelming rookie class compared to recent seasons, Jung beat out Kia Tigers outfielder Lee Chang-jin (171 points) and Tigers pitcher Jeon Sang-hyun (154 points).

Jung, drafted out of high school, hit the ground running from the onset of the season and began his KBO career with 11 and one third shutout innings across his first seven relief appearances. He carried a 1.83 ERA through May and established himself as the front-runner for the Rookie of the Year award.

Jung then hit a speed bump in July, as he went down with a right shoulder injury. He ended up missing a little over a month of action.

“At that point, I stopped thinking about trying to win the rookie award,” Jung said. “I wanted to relax and finish the season the best way I could.”

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