One of the ‘incidents’ that changed the ranking game ahead of the opening of the 2022 KBO League was major leaguer Kim Gwang-hyun’s SSG Landers U-turn. After the end of the 2019 season, Kim Gwang-hyun, who entered the Major League St. Louis through posting, was unable to renew the contract ahead of the 2022 season due to Corona 19. Kim Gwang-hyun returned to Korea after signing a super-large multi-year contract with SSG worth 15.1 billion won over 4 years.
Last year, Kim Gwang-hyun took the mound in 28 games and showed off an activity worthy of his reputation with an average ERA of 13 wins and 3 losses and an ERA of 2.13 and an OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) of 0.578. The WAR (based on the KB Report), which represents the contribution to victory compared to substitute players, was high at 5.21.
SSG suffered ups and downs on the mound due to the injury and sluggishness of foreign pitcher Nova, and the sluggish performance of Moon Seung-won and Park Jong-hoon, who returned from rehabilitation. However, thanks to the steady digestion of the starting rotation by ace Kim Gwang-hyun, the first regular season wire-to-wire championship in the history of the KBO League can be achieved. SSG defeated Kiwoom Heroes 4 wins and 2 losses in the Korean Series, achieving its first overall victory after taking over the club.
Ahead of the opening of the 2023 season, SSG’s goal was, of course, set to a combined two-game winning streak. However, there was also a cautious opinion that it would be difficult for SSG to make an overwhelming move like last year. It was because there was no special reinforcement such as recruiting an outside free agent last winter, and the main players including veteran Kim Gwang-hyun were one year older.
Kim Gwang-hyun has appeared in 4 games this season and is recording 2 wins and no losses. However, he has poor detailed indicators with an average ERA of 5.00 and an OPS of 0.871. The average home run per 9 innings last year was 0.52, the best in the KBO league since 2015. He proved his ability to suppress home runs while using the hitter-friendly Munhak Stadium as his home. However, this year, the number of home runs increased to 1.50, nearly three times that of last year.
The number of walks per 9 innings more than doubled from 2.34 last year to 5.50 this year, and it is difficult to hide the number of pitches. An increase in walks is directly related to an increase in the number of pitches and a decrease in the ability to digest innings. Kim Gwang-Hyun’s quality start (6 innings or more, 3 earned runs or less) is limited to 1 game.
The analysis that the root cause of the sluggishness is due to the low speed of the fastball is gaining strength. Kim Gwang-hyun’s average fastball speed dropped by 2.2 km/h from 145.4 km/h last year to 143.2 km/h this year, fading his reputation as a ‘left-handed fireballer’. Kim Gwang-hyeon is also trying to find a breakthrough by using various breaking balls as the power of his fastball has declined, but it is interpreted that the number of home runs and walks increased because the ball did not go as expected.
Kim Gwang-hyun made his body earlier than usual to compete in the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) held in March. From the 9th, due to shoulder inflammation, he was excluded from the first team entry for a total of 11 days, including being listed on the injured list. Currently, Kim Kwang-hyun’s physical condition may not be 100%, but there are also views that doubt the ‘aging curve’.
SSG is about to replace foreign pitcher Romero, and even Park Jong-hoon is excluded from the first team due to sluggish performance. It is noteworthy whether Kim Gwang-hyun, who was sluggish, will be able to regain his ace-down face and lead SSG’s second consecutive victory. 메이저놀이터