The last time Kim Sehyeon wore the Nexen Heroes uniform was on a hot and humid Wednesday night in Jamsil. The KBO 2016 save leader was summoned to close out a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 9th against the LG Twins.
Andy Van Hekken had put Nexen within touching distance of a series win after tossing 8 excellent innings (93 pitches, 4 hits, 0 walks, 7 strike outs). He gave up a solo home run to Jeong Seong-hun in the 8th inning and maybe that had inspired the Nexen coaches to make a change.
I was in Jamsil that night, sitting in the left outfield seats. It was quiet apart from the small Nexen following to our right. With Van Hekken in complete control, the Twins had very little to get excited about.
Lead-off Chae Eun-seong grounded out to third base for the first out. Who would have guessed that at that moment, a man with a career-best 36 saves in 2016 would be one more out from finishing his Nexen career? It all started to unravel so dramatically.
Lee Cheon-woong walked before Park Yong-taek hit an RBI double off the centre field wall. 3-2. A second out looked to steady the ship but Lee Hyeon-jong tied the game with the help of the video reply and that meant the end of Kim Sehyeon’s time in Nexen colors. He was replaced by Kim Sang-su who performed abjectly, hitting Oh Ji-hwan either side of two base on balls. A walk-off walk. Kim Sehyeon with the loss.
That was his second loss since All Star and his third of the season. He has 10 saves and an ERA of 6.83 from his 29 innings pitched. His WHIP is very high at 1.83.
Kia Tigers haven’t traded one 18-year-old lefty prospect (Lee Seung-ho) and a 28-year-old Future’s League LHP (Son Dong-uk) for the 2017 edition of Kim Sehyeon.
The team with the second worst bullpen ERA in the league wants the league leading 2016 version.
62 games. 62.1 innings pitched. 2-0 record. 36 saves. 2 home runs. 18 earned runs. 1.17 WHIP. 2.77 WAR.
Naver Sports points out that Kim’s fast ball, which he throws 63.7% of the time, is slightly faster at 146km/h than the league average of 141km/h. The slider is used at just under 30% with his two-seam on 4.5%. Worryingly for the Tigers, Kim’s ERA versus NC Dinos, second in the league, is a ghastly 20.25.
On Friday night, Kia’s Kim blew a 3-2 lead against Doosan Bears, also at Jamsil. The game ended in a tie with Kim throwing 52 pitches in 3.1 innings. He did okay but the 9th inning walk and hit (the only two men he allowed on base) were crucial.
Elsewhere, Im Chang-yong is 6-5 with 7 saves and a 4.26 ERA. He, too, has blown too many saves in 2017. Shim Dong-seob has a 5.23 ERA, and he allowed Doosan back into Friday’s game, conceding a run in the 8th inning. Hong Geun-hee (0-1, 8.07 ERA), Kim Jin-woo (1-5, 7.46), Ko Hyo-jun (2-1, 4.68 ERA) and Han Seung-hyeok (1-1, 6.94 ERA) are the Tigers’ main bullpen options now. Kim Gwang-su and Son Young-min are deemed too terrible. At least manager Kim Ki-tae has started to trust some young guys recently. Options, though, are severely limited.
As for the other players in the trade, only time will tell if they are any good. Nexen are quietly confident about Lee Seung-ho, especially, with the young lefty currently recovering from elbow surgery. Danny K has published an interesting piece on www.mykbo.net comparing 3 of the 4 players involved (Lee has yet to pitch in the KBO).
This is a roll of the dice from Kia. Kim Sehyeon is 30 and is about 15 months from becoming a free agent. But they can’t think about league titles in 3 or 4 years time. They’ve built a team for 2017 and one good arm from the pen looks like the missing piece of the jigsaw. Will it be Kim?
The last big Tigers trade has been incredibly successful. Tigers fans have to trust the judgement of the coaches.
*Feature image from OSEN sports.