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Doosan’s Yoo Hee-kwan joins list of lefty legends

Sept 23,2019
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Doosan Bears pitcher Yoo Hee-kwan, right, celebrates his 10th win of the season with his teammates and manager Kim Tae-hyung, left, after the game against the Kia Tigers at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul on Friday. [YONHAP]
Doosan Bears pitcher Yoo Hee-kwan achieved another milestone over the weekend.

By picking up a win against the Kia Tigers on Friday, Yoo reached his 10th win of the season for a seventh consecutive year. Throughout seven and two thirds of an inning, Yoo gave up five hits while giving up a run and striking out five.

Although 10 wins may not seem like a big number, doing it for seven straight seasons is quite an achievement. Among left-handed pitchers in the KBO, Yoo is only the fourth ever to do so. For the Bears, Yoo is the second left-handed pitcher to hit the record, after Jang Won-jun, who reached eight seasons between 2008 and 2017 while playing for the Lotte Giants and the Bears. Yoo played all seven seasons for the Bears.

KT Wiz manager Lee Kang-chul, then playing for the Haitai Tigers, and former Hanwha Eagles pitcher Jung Min-cheul are the two others to hit the milestone. Lee managed 10 consecutive seasons from 1989 to 1998, while Jung also recorded eight consecutive seasons from 1992 to 1999.

Yoo’s achievement is a lot more impressive as he throws the slowest pitches in the KBO. His fastest ball averages in the high 120-kilometer-per-hour (74.6 mile-per-hour) range. Despite the slow pitches, Yoo has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the KBO.

Having made his debut in 2009, it wasn’t until the 2013 season that Yoo started to earn his spot in the full-time starting rotation. Yoo first picked up 10 wins in the 2013 season with a 3.53 ERA in 41 games. Then, in 2015, he reached his peak in terms of wins by picking up 18 wins and five losses with a 3.94 ERA in 30 games.

He had the worst season of his career last year, finishing with a 6.70 ERA. He still managed to pick up 10 wins, but also 10 losses. Following a disappointing 2018 season, Yoo was on the verge of losing his spot in the starting rotation but he successfully earned it following his performance in spring training and is having the best season of his career in terms of ERA.

This season, Yoo has tossed two complete games - against the Samsung Lions on May 16 and against the Kia Tigers on Sept. 13.

Yoo now has a 3.37 ERA with 10 wins and eight losses in 26 games this season. Looking at his career, Yoo has picked up 86 wins, 51 losses, one save and four holds with a 4.40 ERA in 237 games.

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