Last year, SSG Landers won the regular season wire-to-wire and won the Korean Series, making an unprecedented history, and veteran players cannot be left out. This year is no different, so even at the moment when the 2023 season has progressed by about 20%, SSG is number one in the league. Veterans who were active last year are also contributing to the team with results that are not much different from previous years.
Among them, the performance of veteran bullpens stands out. The bullpen, which was not good last year with an ERA of 4.68 (6th in the league), was a representative reason why SSG was expected to decline this season. However, the average ERA of the SSG bullpen this season is 2.20, and it is an overwhelming first place ahead of the 2nd place NC Dinos’ 3.51 by a large margin.
Hyojun Koh 메이저놀이터(40) and Kyungeun Roh (39), who joined SSG last year, and Lim Junseop (34), who joined SSG this season, cannot be left out to explain these results. Koh Hyo-jun is recording an average ERA of 3.38 with 2 wins, 1 loss and 3 holds in 15 games, Roh Kyung-eun is recording an ERA of 2.70 with 2 wins, 1 loss and 2 saves in 17 games, and Lim Jun-seop is recording an average ERA of 2.16 with 1 hold in 9 games.
It is common to think that they are doing their job in the twilight years of their careers or at an age where it would not be strange to retire. Among them, we met Koh Hyo-jun, the best pitcher in the pitching team, and Lim Jun-seop, a freshman, on the 11th ahead of the KIA game in Gwangju to hear why SSG has so many veterans who are particularly good at it. There were two main reasons why those who were judged unworthy as players by other teams changed.
Kim Won-hyung SSG director. /Photo = SSG Landers
First, it was the existence of director Kim Won-hyung (51). Recently, Koh Hyo-joon made headlines in a home game against KT Wiz on the 4th when he took the mound in the 7th inning with 2 outs loaded and finished the inning without conceding a run. At this time, he laughed, “Actually, I didn’t even know that I was laughing at that time. Later on, I saw it on TV (that’s me),” and laughed, “I went down to the Futures League a while ago to take a break, and I remembered a lot of what the coach said at that time. “he said.
“In the process of talking with the coach, I thought about how I played baseball last year. When I went back to my beginnings, I realized that I was putting too much pressure on myself. I thought I’d go up and enjoy it. I thought of doing what I can do best while enjoying it, and it led to good results, and answers began to come out.”
I approached Lim Jun-seop with a little more direct coaching. Manager Kim said, “(Lim) Jun-seop has a good slider and competitiveness, but he was playing baseball too hard. His first pitch strike rate dropped a lot. I asked him to try more boldly, and that seems to be working.”
He gave faith through his actions. Lim Jun-seop said, “The coach makes me feel really comfortable, and that’s really big. He always tells me not to give a walk and to throw a strike even if I get hit.” As a result, the thought that I had to somehow compete with the batter and produce a result (not a walk) grew,” he expressed his gratitude.
SSG Lim Joon-seop./Photo = Reporter Kim Dong-yoon
In particular, the policy of playing with the most confident pitch without having to do everything well helped veterans effectively prevent short innings. Both Lim Jun-seop and Ko Hyo-joon minimized fastballs and started throwing sliders intensively. Compared to last year, Lim Jun-seop’s pitch usage rate decreased from 52.9% to 42.8%, and his slider pitch increased from 25.7% to 50.3%. Ko Hyo-jun also lowered the direct purchase rate from 71.1% in 2021, when he was at LG, to 49.2% this year, and the slider nearly doubled from 22.2% to 47%.
Koh Hyo-jun said, “I felt really good about simplifying the type of pitch. The coach always says, ‘Throw the ball you are most confident in. Use that ball to count and make an out.’ Having such an advantageous ball count led to good results.”
Choo Shin-soo (left) and Kim Kang-min./Photo = SSG Landers
The second reason was the training part, coaching staff, and team atmosphere created by the best staff to help veterans display their best condition. Koh Hyo-jun said, “Each player has his or her own body care method or training. The coaches and the training part protect and manage that part well. I think that part of SSG makes it easy for senior players to run while maintaining their stamina.” said. In such a team atmosphere, Lim Jun-seop even fits well with his personality. He emphasized, “I’m not the type to have leadership, but the hyungs are more comfortable. It’s more comfortable to bury them together and help by the side. SSG has a lot of hyungs, so it’s so comfortable. I really like it.”
Last year, SSG’s veteran players played supporting roles and sometimes lead roles, suggesting a new path for juniors. For a baseball player in the past, 40 years of age would not be a strange age to retire, but SSG veterans show that they can play an active role anytime if they are based on thorough self-management.
Koh Hyo-jun said, “Everyone told me that I was at the age to retire. In the past, it could be.” If you look at veterans who are active recently, they are all people who take good care of themselves. Also, these days, the overall situation, such as training and body care, has improved a lot. So these days, that word feels like a prejudice, “he smiled.