When Lotte Giants ace Park Se-woong takes the mound tonight against the Hanhwa Eagles, it will be the young starter’s fifth attempt at collecting his 10th win of the season. However, while Lotte fans and observers have enjoyed the success of their star rookie, there have been recent concerns raised about his health and condition.
On June 25, Park collected his ninth win of the season, throwing 6 2/3 innings of 2 run ball against the Doosan Bears. However since then, he has had 4 starts without collecting a win.
Park’s 10th win would make him the first Lotte pitcher in his 20s to win double-digit games since Jang Won-jun won 15 for Lotte in 2011.
Lotte Giants pitcher Park Se-woong delivers a pitch in a game against the Samsung Lions on July 20, 2017. (Yonhap)
Park is currently having a stellar season, and though a rookie, is ranking among the Korean Baseball Organization’s top pitchers. His 9 wins is fifth in the KBO, and his 2.80 ERA is top in the league. He has made 18 starts this season and thrown 112 2/3 innings.
However, one statistic is cause for concern. In his 18 starts, Park has thrown 1,845 pitches, the seventh-highest in the league. Only five other pitchers have a higher average of pitches per start than Park’s 102.5, and all are veteran hurlers aged 30 or older. Meanwhile, Park is just 22, and pitching in his first KBO season.
Initially Lotte had him on a pitch limit; his first 9 starts he was only allowed to get up to 100 pitches. However the situation as Lotte has begun to take aim at the playoffs and fight for one of the two wildcard spots. Lotte’s management has grown distrustful of their shaky bullpen, and their increased reliance on their starting rotation has meant even more pitches thrown for Park.
Park threw 115 pitches in a start against Samsung on May 30, and since then has eclipsed 110 pitches 6 times. This increase in workload has had a detrimental impact on his performance. Before May 30 he had not allowed a single home run, but in his 8 starts since he has allowed 9.
Park’s workload may be stretched even further as the season wears on, particularly if Lotte makes the postseason. In addition, he is likely to be one of new national baseball team manager Sun Dong-yol’s picks for the upcoming Asia Professional Baseball Challenge under-24 competition in Tokyo in November.
Lotte, which has won four straight, is just 2 games off the final playoff spot. But while Park’s pitching is crucial to his team’s current success, it would do Lotte well to keep an eye on future seasons. At 22, Park stands to be force in Lotte’s rotation for years to come, but only if the team is mindful of his health and condition.
By Alex Park / Intern reporter (firstname.lastname@example.org)