“After SSG…baseball didn’t go my way” Overcoming the First Trial, the 160km Monster Grew Bigger

For Moon Dong-ju, the KBO’s official 160km fireballer, May was a trial for the first time in his 20-year baseball career. After a good start in April with a 1-2 record and a 2.38 ERA in four games, he suddenly struggled in May with a 1-2 record and an 8.22 ERA in four games. His batting average (.179 to .302) and walks per nine innings (2.78 to 7.63) increased significantly.

It all started on March 13 against the SSG in Munhak. On that day, Moon gave up seven runs on seven hits, three walks and two strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings. It was the most runs he had given up since his debut last year and his lowest innings pitched in a start. The effects carried over to the next two games against LG Electronics in Jamsil on the 19th and KIA in Daejeon on the 25th. In both games, he failed to make it past the fifth inning with three runs in four innings. His velocity wasn’t down, but his pitches were shaky and he couldn’t manage his pitch count.

However, he returned to the Moon Dong-ju we knew from his first appearance in June. On June 1, he pitched seven innings of two-hit ball with one walk and four strikeouts against the Kiwoom in Daejeon. He pitched a near-perfect first seven innings of his debut, allowing no runs. Moon said, “I was a little more nervous than usual because I haven’t pitched well lately. I wanted to do well, but I knew I couldn’t play baseball as I wanted to,” he said. “I think I’ve been thinking more since the SSG game. I had to compete with the batters, but I was trying to throw with power, which led to a lot of balls.”

Even the best pitchers have one or two bad days in a long season. But for Moon, who is only 20 years old and doesn’t have much experience, the shock of giving up seven runs against SSG must have been quite strong. It carried over to the next game, and the next, and the mental pressure grew. Being such a high-profile player, his slump was highlighted even more. “I said I didn’t care about it, but I think I cared a lot about it, and I felt a lot of pressure about the results,” Moon confessed.

The people around him also gave him many stories and advice. During the slump, even a word could have been stressful and burdensome, 먹튀검증 but Moon didn’t let it get to him. “A lot of people told me a lot of things,” he says. The common opinion was the zeppelin. “Before the game with Choi Jae-hoon, we talked about ‘winning in three pitches’ and ‘throwing only at the catcher’s mitt,’ and it worked well,” he said.

His fastball was still fast, up to 158 kilometers per hour and averaging 153 kilometers per hour, but he didn’t squeeze it and threw it with a little less force. In May, he was often seen shaking his head at the catcher’s sign, but on this day, as soon as he got the ball, he was ready to pitch. With less effort and less thought, Moon made simple but strong pitches. From the top of the first inning to the top of the third inning, he threw 15 consecutive strikes against seven batters. His strikeout rate reached 71.3% (62/87) in the game.

In May, Moon was getting hit by fastballs because his changeup was too fast, so he changed his grip on his changeup on the advice of coach Choi Won-ho. He only threw three changeups on the day, but the fifth pitch against Kim Dong-heon in the third inning completely slipped out of his hand and headed toward the backstop bleachers. Even though there was a net, the spectators instinctively ducked out of the way.

Moon said, “I changed my grip on my changeup, but it wasn’t good today, and I didn’t throw it much. Actually, I don’t think of Moon as a changeup. I’ve never thrown more than 10 changeups before. I used other pitches more,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t care about the changeup. It definitely makes the game a little easier if you have a changeup. I’m going to keep working on it,” he said. “I studied baseball more,” Moon said of his May slump. He is looking forward to the summer with more growth.

Regarding Moon’s pitching schedule, which will be twice a week on Tuesday and Sunday next week, Choi Won-ho said, “It was bad after Dong-ju took ten days off last time. Dong-ju himself said that he wants a normal rotation through the pitching coach. “It’s okay to take him out once in a while when he’s not doing well, but I don’t think it’s advisable to force him out when he’s doing well,” he said.

Hanwha plans to limit Moon to 130 innings this year. “If Dong-ju is selected for the Hangzhou Asian Games, we’ll have to stop (the regular season) at around 110 innings. If he averages around five innings, I think he’ll be able to fit it in,” Choi said. Until the last five days, 35.4 percent of the way through the season, Moon had thrown 45 innings in nine games. That’s a math pace of 127 innings.

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