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KBO players begin throwing a wide variety of pitches

May 19,2017
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[JOONGANG PHOTO]
As a result of establishing a wider strike zone, pitchers in the KBO League are increasingly adopting a more varied approach to pitching.

Fastballs, for instance, constituted 59.2 percent of pitches in 2014, 51 percent in 2015, 50.8 percent in 2016 and 47.1 percent this year. Meanwhile, there are 1.1 percent more change-ups and 0.6 percent more curveballs.

The pitch colloquially known as the fastball is in fact a four-seam fastball, which differs from modified fastballs such as cut fastballs, or cutters, which move toward home plate, or two-seam fastballs, or sinkers.

The number of pitchers pitching modified fastballs is also on the rise. Last year, 4.4 percent of pitches were sinkers, but this year that figure grew to 6 percent. The percentage of fastball splitters, or forkballs, also grew from 6.3 percent to 7 percent.

KIA Tigers ace Hector Noesi, who played as starting pitcher eight times with 6 wins, 0 losses and 0 ties and an average ERA of 2.18, pitched change-ups 14.3 percent of the time last year but 21.5 percent of the time this season. After topping 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour) with his fastballs, he began throwing slower changeups.

Meanwhile, KT Wiz’s Ryan Feierabend is experiencing success with his knuckleballs. In the middle of last season, Feierabend was released from Nexen and now calls the Wiz home. Last year, his performance (7-13-9, ERA 4.45) was average and it was unclear whether he would be re-signed, but he now has a record of 5-3-0 with an ERA of 1.42, thanks to his knuckleball.

Knuckleballs are thrown using three fingers and have no spin, which makes it difficult for batters to predict where they will go.

Change-up pitchers such as Ko Young-pyo of KT and Im Gi-yeong of KIA are also making an appearance as starting pitchers. The Dinos’ Jeff Manship, who used to be a bullpen pitcher for most of his time in the majors, has begun using change-ups after coming to the KBO. He now throws sinkers 46.7 percent of the time. The average speed of a sinker is 143.7 kilometers per hour, whereas a four-seam fastball travels at 143 kilometers per hour on average.

Raising LG’s fortunes, righty Ryu Jae-kuk has been focusing more on his cutter lately, with a record of 6-2-0 and an ERA of 3.33 this season.

When he was in the Minors in the early 2000s, his fastest fastball was 158 kilometers per hour. But now, he has been reborn as a slowball pitcher. His mid-range cutter travels at 130 kilometers and curves to the outside of a right-handed batter. His curveball moves at 100 kilometers per hour, effectively confusing a batter’s timing.

“According to pitchers, there are many pitches to throw with the development of diverse curve balls,” said Cha Myeong-seok, an MBC Sports Plus analyst. “Since there are many batters who have difficultly against a curveball attack, pitchers are using the curveball more.”

BY KIM WON [hwang.hosub@joongang.co.kr]