There’s an old joke that might have been told in the dawn of sports history. It’s about a baseball player who, in the midst of a very winnable game, gives up a run and then, after a close call, says, “I did it on purpose to be funny.” It’s a joke that’s often heard in baseball these days, with the chorus “It must have been fun for the people watching”.안전놀이터
This season, SSG closer Seo Jin-yong (31) seems to be doing it on purpose. Seo has been dominating the save competition. As of the 24th, he has 23 saves, putting a huge gap between him and Doosan’s Hong Gun-hee (15 saves). He has no losses and only one win, and his ERA is a stellar 1.44, with no blown saves.
Seo is at her best as a closer. But when you break down the process, the results he’s been producing this season are even more impressive.
Closers are the pinnacle of a team’s bullpen. The pitcher with the best basic metrics in the bullpen is usually the closer. This is not the case with Seo’s metrics this season. For starters, his WHIP (walks allowed per inning) of 1.53 is higher than the average WHIP of SSG bullpen pitchers (1.43). It’s also higher than the league-wide average for bullpen pitchers (1.46). However, Seo’s performance as a reliever this season is at the top of the league among all pitchers. His 2.03 WAR this season ranks first among relievers.
Jinyong Seo is running a race where the process and the result are very different. In the physiology of professional sports, where a good result makes everything beautiful even if the process is a little uneasy, Seo is having a season with a good ‘ending’ in every game.
On the 24th of this month at Samsung Electronics in Munhak, Seo added one more common match to his list. SSG’s defense in the top of the ninth inning after taking a 13-10 lead. Seo struck out the leadoff batter, Kim Jae-sung, but gave up a walk to Lee Jae-hyun and a single to Ryu Seung-min to put runners on 1-2. One run could have tied the game. But Ahn Ju-hyung, the No. 9 man in the order, induced a grounder to second base that looked like a hill to climb, preserving the win and his 23rd save of the season.
It wasn’t just luck or coincidence that led to 23 saves without context. This season, Seo has shown a tendency to be a “slow starter,” even though he is usually a one-inning closer.
With no runners on base this season, Seo had a 0.743 OPS, but with runners in scoring position, he quickly regained his ideal closer’s metrics. With runners in scoring position, he pitched an exceptional shutdown with a 0.451 WAR. It’s not even close to the league average (0.738). His BABIP with runners in scoring position was also extremely strong at 0.118.
Another strength was that he left runners on base often, but allowed few long balls. One of the reasons why Seo has been so nervous in his starts this season is because of the high number of walks he’s allowed. In 31.1 innings pitched, he gave up 26 four-pitchers. However, he only hit one home run and three doubles. What’s more, he didn’t allow more than two long balls in scoring position. It’s a bizarre record that makes for a bizarre race.