The middling Kia Tigers have taken extraordinary measures to overhaul their roster. They’ve given their struggling starters and relievers time to get back on track.
The Tigers removed foreign pitcher Sean Anderson, 29, and reliever Jung Hae-young, 22, along with first baseman Hwang Dae-in, 27, and left-handed bullpen pitcher Kim Dae-yoo, 32, from the first team roster.
Anderson struggled in May, going 3-3 with a 7.71 ERA in four starts. Only one of his starts lasted longer than five innings, against the Samsung Lions on May 16. He faced the most hits (10) in his KBO debut against the Hanwha Eagles on May 23.
In six starts in April, Anderson went 3-2 with a 2.58 ERA, making him the No. 1 starter in the KIA lineup. He even earned the nickname “Gwangju Thor” (a Marvel character) because of his long blonde hair and heavy delivery.
However, his four-seam fastball and his main weapon, a slider, have faltered significantly since May. After totaling just six walks in April, his strikeouts soared to 16 in May.
It wasn’t an injury. The only variable was pitch spacing. Kia was rained out for four games after the Lotte Giants on March 3. Anderson also had to go 10 days after his last start against the LG Twins on May 29.
The club’s diagnosis was a pitching balance issue. Kia manager Kim Jong-kook said, “Both his fastball and changeup are shaky. The power analysis team and pitching coaches found something wrong with his pitches, and he knows about it,” Kim said.
Kim Jong-kook had hoped that Anderson would work on his issues by pitching out of the bullpen, but he didn’t show any improvement. Eventually, he removed the foreign pitcher from the first team due to injury. The team decided that Anderson’s pitching balance was a priority.
The same goes for Jeong Hae-young. He is the league’s “young gun closer” with 67 saves in his third year. His fastball has a good finish, and his slider and forkball are also highly regarded. This season, however, he has been unsteady, especially with his fastball, whose average velocity dropped from 144.6 km/h last season to 141.1 km/h this season. 안전놀이터
The club has already recognized the problem with Jeong. Manager Kim Jong-kook said before the game against Hanwha on May 25, “We’ve noticed the difference between when Jeong is balanced and when he’s not. However, it will be difficult to fix the problem in the actual game, where we need to focus on the battle with the batter in front of us.”
For a while, Jung tried to make changes to her pre-game long toss. However, she was unable to make any changes in practice. Eventually, the coach gave her time to make adjustments.
Until last week, KIA was in sixth place in the league with 20 wins and 22 losses. At one point, they were as high as fourth place, but they have been unable to climb. Despite the lack of time to spare, the team acted quickly to take two steps forward.