WBC misfire and 3437 pitches of Ahn Woo-jin

3437 phrases. This is the number of pitches Ahn Woo-jin (24, Kiwoom Heroes) recorded in an official professional baseball game last year.

An Woo-jin is one of the ‘hit products’ in the 2022 KBO League. He started 30 regular season games, going 15-9 with a 2.11 earned run average. He left a strong impact by winning two pitching crowns (ERA and strikeouts) and even winning the Golden Glove. However, he completed the regular season without injury, and as his team Kiwoom stepped on the Korean Series (KS) stage, the cumulative number of pitches snowballed.

Last year, An Woo-jin’s regular season pitches were 3,003. Foreign pitcher Drew Luchinski (former NC Dinos, 2974) and Albert Suarez (Samsung Lions, 2959) ranked first in the league. It was the first time in five years since 2017 that a domestic pitcher had 3,000 pitches in the regular season. It far exceeded the highest number of pitches in a season (previous 1867) recorded in 2021. 

An Woo-jin also added 434 pitches in the postseason (PS), and the cumulative number of pitches for the season reached 3,500. As a starting pitcher in Game 1 of KS, he suffered a not minor injury of bursting a blister on his right middle finger, but returned to Game 5 of the series and had a series of forced marches to the point of digesting 100 pitches. After a successful year, ‘management’ emerged as the biggest offseason topic.

In particular, the rapid increase in the number of pitches is a worrying point. The number of pitches by Ahn Woo-jin in the last three years is 579 → 1867 → 3003. Considering his age, born in 1999, it corresponds to the ‘Verducci Effect’ argued by Tom Verducci, a prominent MLB columnist in 2008.  안전놀이터

Verducci said, “If a pitcher under the age of 25 throws at least 30 more innings compared to the previous year, he is likely to be exposed to injury risk.” At the time, when MLB pitchers were tested as samples, it was confirmed that the hit rate was over 80%, and his theory was strengthened. An increase in 30 innings can be interpreted as an increase in the number of pitches. An Woo-jin’s innings increased to close to 90 innings.

In that respect, the failure to participate in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) can be an ‘opportunity’ in a different sense. Ahn Woo-jin was unable to board the WBC final entry due to a history of school violence (school violence) committed during high school. At the time of joining in 2018, he received a ‘3-year suspension of qualification’ from the Korea Baseball Softball Association due to school violence, and was permanently deprived of the national team selection qualification according to the rules of the Korea Sports Council. As a result of this discipline, organizations under the Korea Sports Council cannot play in the Olympics and Asian Games, which manage the selection of national teams. It was possible to participate in the WBC, where the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), not the Korea Sports Association, constitutes the national team, but the KBO’s conclusion after repeated struggles was ‘impossible’. The hopes of Ahn Woo-jin, who desperately wanted the Taegeuk mark, were also dashed.

However, he bought time to take care of his condition. If he competed in the WBC, he would have to pitch in practice at an early point ahead of the March tournament. The fact that the offseason break was short was burdensome for Ahn Woo-jin, who was overloaded last year. After finishing the WBC, you have to digest the professional baseball demonstration game and immediately welcome the season opening (April 1).

An official from a club said, “The clubs that have key players in the WBC feel burdened. If they get injured, it can take a direct hit to the overall performance of the season.” As an individual player, there may be some regrets, but it is not bad news for Kiwoom.”