Korean major leaguers look strong at All-Star break
After some rocky starts to the 2021 season, all four Korean major leaguers are looking good as the MLB breaks for the All-Star Game on Tuesday.
Pitchers Ryu Hyun-jin of the Toronto Blue Jays and Kim Kwang-hyun of the St. Louis Cardinals have both bounced back in the last couple of weeks after struggling at the plate in June.
Ryu threw seven strikeouts in five innings against the Baltimore Orioles on July 7, snapping an uncharacteristic cold streak with a big 10-2 win. The Korean pitcher entered the game coming off a run of six starts — the whole of June and the first game of July — where he posted a 5.35 ERA. He still picked up two wins during that difficult run, but shaky control allowed opposing hitters to post a .815 OPS against him.
Going into the halfway point, Ryu has eight wins and five losses in 17 starts with a 3.56 ERA. Ryu has kept that earned run average below 3.00 since 2017, and will be looking to get it back down throughout the second half of this season.
Kim had an even rougher time, ending up in a 10-game no-win tailspin that lasted from April 23 to June 30. That slump is now well and truly behind him, with 18 innings pitched with just one earned run in the last three games, picking up three wins for a decisive return to form.
Kim's most recent outing was against the Chicago Cubs on July 10, throwing seven strikeouts in six shutout innings to lead the Cardinals to a 6-0 win.
After a solid few weeks, Kim's ERA is now down to 3.11 going into the break. He has four wins and five losses in 15 starts so far this season. Last year, Kim's first in the big leagues, he started seven games in the shortened season, finishing with a 3-0 line and a 1.62 ERA.
Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays has been in and out of the squad with injuries this season, but still has a .252 batting average with 19 RBIs and three homers in 37 appearances this season. He has been a solid part of the Rays offense when on the field, with a .768 OPS — higher than last season, but below his career average .793.
Choi and the Rays are working toward a return to the postseason this year. Tampa are currently second in the American League East, just 1.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox with 53 wins and 37 losses.
Kim Ha-seong of the San Diego Padres, the newest Korean in the majors, hasn't had the smoothest start to his career, with a .208 batting average, 23 RBIs and five home runs on his line so far. Things appeared to be picking up in June, with a .263 batting average, but have dropped off again in July, down to .167.
Although Kim is still finding his feet, the Padres could be looking at a shot at the playoffs as well, currently holding the second wildcard spot with 53 wins and 40 losses.
After making eight appearances with the Texas Rangers, Yang Hyeon-jong was sent back do to the Triple-A Round Rock Express. In the majors, he has a 5.59 ERA with no wins and three losses.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]