Can LG Twins closer Won-Tae Choi quickly turn a bad start around?
Choi Won-tae will take the mound for the 2023 KBO Baseball Classic against the KT Wiz at KT Wiz Park in Suwon on Friday.
Selected by the Heroes with the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, Choi is a right-hander whose strengths include a two-seam fastball and curveball. Until last year, he had a 60-44 record with a 4.39 ERA in 167 professional games, including three straight double-digit win seasons from 2017-2019.메이저사이트
This year, LG, which is aiming for its first “big title” in 29 years since 1994, embraced Choi Won-tae despite the midseason losses of Lee Ju-hyung (utility), Kim Dong-gyu (right-handed pitcher), and a 2024 first-round pick. It was a move to bolster their homegrown starting rotation, which had been noted as a weakness, and get one step closer to their goal.
However, Choi Won-tae’s pitching in LG’s pinstriped uniform has fallen just short of expectations. His record since joining LG is 2-2 with a 7.00 ERA in five appearances. The 25th of last month in particular was a nightmare for him. He started against the Changwon NC Dinos and fanned 93 batters in four innings, giving up 11 runs on 15 hits, two walks, five strikeouts, and nine earned runs.
The 15 hits were the most in a single game for Choi Won-tae (previously 12, May 7, 2019 at Gocheok LG Electronics), while the 11 runs allowed tied his career high (11, August 29, 2021 at Jamsil LG Electronics). As LG went 1-14 in the game, Choi suffered his sixth loss of the season (eight wins) and his ERA skyrocketed to 4.04. Why was Choi struggling so badly?
The next day, on August 26 at Changwon NC Park, LG manager Yoon Kyung-yeop said, “When (Won-tae) doesn’t have fastball control, his overall performance drops. The sharpness of his changeup and other pitches also drops. On such days, he gets hit a bit.” He analyzed it.
What the manager asked him to do was to keep the ball low. Choi’s pitches, including his two-seam, changeup, and slider, all need to be low in the strike zone to increase their value. For this reason, Yeom is even considering making Heo Do-hwan the designated catcher for Choi Won-tae.
“For the time being, (Choi) Won-tae is going to be (Heo) Do-hwan. I have to give (main catcher) (Park) Dong-won a break anyway, and if I put Won-tae and Do-hwan together, I can give him a break that day. Dong-won is a little higher and Do-hwan is a little lower. Won-tae needs the ball to come low. I think there is a difference between a high and low catcher.” Coach Yeom Kyung-yup said.
Initially, Yeom considered sending Choi to the second team for his fitness, but the frequent rain cancellations forced him to rest, and he finally got his chance to redeem himself against KT.
LG also needs Choi Won-tae to pitch well. Currently sitting atop the standings with 67 wins, two draws, and 43 losses, second-place KT (63 wins, two draws, and 50 losses) is their biggest threat. The gap is still relatively comfortable at 5.5 games, but they can’t afford to let their guard down. A strong performance from Choi Won-tae will help LG move closer to their ultimate goal, not only in this series, but also in the season.
Meanwhile, KT will counter with right-handed foreign ace William Cuevas. In 12 appearances this season, he is cruising with an 8-0 record and a 2.63 ERA. However, he has shown some weaknesses against LG. He has faced them twice this season, going winless with an ERA of 11.25 (10 runs in 8 innings).