When asked to pick a Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the end of the first half, SSG Landers coach Kim Won-hyung pondered, “I don’t usually pick just one…”. After a moment’s hesitation, he brought up Seo Jin-yong’s name.
The defending champions SSG, who won the wire-to-wire title last year, finished the first half of this season in second place (46 wins, 32 losses, 1 draw, and a winning percentage of 0.590) after 12 days. After battling with the LG Twins for the top spot since the start of the season, they were unable to regain the top spot until the 26th of last month. However, they are only 2.5 games behind the leaders LG (49 wins, 30 losses, 2 draws, 0.620 winning percentage). Having survived a bad first half of the season with injuries, SSG is looking to reclaim the top spot in the second half.
Coach Kim Won-hyung usually doesn’t single out one player when he talks about Suhoon. This is because he doesn’t want to draw attention to a specific player. When asked about the MVP of the first half, Kim said, “I’m usually good at passing scrolls,” and praised “(Seo) Jin-yong for playing really well in the first half.”
With 25 saves in the first half, Seo leads the division. He has a significant lead over second-place Doosan Bears’ Hong Gun-hee (20 saves) and third-place Lotte Giants’ Kim Won-joong (16 saves). Seo has already surpassed his single-season record of 21 saves set last year. At this rate, he’s well on his way to breaking Ha Jae-hoon’s franchise record for saves in a single season (36), which he set in 2019. Mathematically, he is on pace to reach 44 saves.
Compared to the beginning of the season, his pitches have been shaky and his walks have increased. His walks per inning allowed (WHIP) was as low as 1.03 in mid-May, after a 20-game scoreless streak to open the season, but spiked to 2.00 over the next two months. His struggles with his velocity are starting to show.
However, Seo has zero blown saves this season. He is the only closer in the top 10 without a single blown save. The other six closers with double-digit saves have had as few as one and as many as four blown saves in the first half.
Seo is known for his “iron-clad closing,” where he never allows a tie or a comeback, even with runners on base. His record this season is 1-0 with 25 saves and a 1.21 ERA in 37 games, and he’s also striking out one batter per inning, which is a must for a closer.
SSG’s bullpen was shaky coming into the season. It was one of the weakest spots in the team’s lineup due to military enlistments, 메이저도메인 and the same goes for the back end. Last year, Seo Jin-yong, Kim Taek-hyung, Noh Kyung-eun, and Moon Seung-won took turns in the closing role. However, once Seo established himself as the closer this season, the bullpen traffic became smooth. In the first half of the season, SSG’s bullpen ERA was stable at 3.31. This is how Seo won the hearts of the managers. Coach Kim Won-hyung said, “Especially the pitchers did a good job. In particular, Seo Jin-yong pitched so well behind the plate that he really surprised many people this season.”
Seo aims to finish the season as a closer. In 2017