Awakened ‘light speed sidearm’ Um Sang-baek, will he lead kt’s return to the top?

The 2021 combined winner, kt Wiz, ended up with an unsatisfactory performance of 4th in the final rankings last year. Ahead of the opening, there were also many rosy prospects that it would be possible to win an integrated championship for two consecutive years and build a ‘dynasty’. However, from the beginning of the season, he fell into the bottom ranks due to a series of injuries and suffered difficulties. After the second half, they succeeded in a dramatic rebound and finished the regular season in 4th place, but eventually fell to the 3rd place Kiwoom Heroes by a narrow margin in the semi-playoffs.

The end of kt’s last season was full of regrets, but it also reaped a great harvest. Right away, sidearm fireballer Eom Sang-baek is settling into the starting rotation. Eom Sang-baek, who graduated from Deoksu High School and received kt’s 1st nomination in 2015, was a large-scale prospect who received considerable opportunities as a starting pitcher from the first year of his professional debut.

However, he never achieved 10 wins or an earned run average below the 3-point range through 2021. In 2018, as a bullpen pitcher, he recorded a double-digit hold for the first time in 12 holes with a fastball with an average speed of 147.9 km/h. However, his average ERA and OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) of 0.776 were not very good. 

※ KT Eom Sang-baek’s major records in the last 5 seasons

Eom Sang-baek, who returned to the first team in August 2021 after completing his military service, showed considerable competitiveness as a sidearm starting pitcher with an average fastball speed of 146.6 km/h. However, the average walk per 9 innings reached 4.78, so the pitching could not compensate for the chronic weakness. Eom Sang-baek, who appeared in 10 games, ended the season with an average ERA of 4.10 and an OPS of 0.686 with 4 wins and 1 loss. 

Last year, Eom Sang-baek pitched in 33 games as a swingman, going back and forth between starting and bullpen. After his professional debut, he threw 140.1 innings, the most, approaching the regulation innings of 144. kt’s starting lineup was greatly shaken by the injury replacement of Cuevas and the accompanying sluggishness of Despine and Exclusion. In such a difficult situation, if Um Sang-baek had not exploded his potential as a starting pitcher, kt would not have been able to guarantee even advancing to the postseason.

Last season, Eom Sang-baek went 11-2 with an ERA of 2.95 and an OPS of 0.674, reaching 10 wins for the first time since his debut. He even won his first individual title, Odds King, with an odds ratio of 0.846. WAR (Based on Kaby Report), which represents the contribution to victory compared to substitute players, never exceeded 1.0 until 2021, but in 2022 it was 2.82, approaching 3.0.  안전놀이터

The average fastball velocity was 146.3 km/h, which was similar to the previous year, while the average walk per 9 innings was greatly reduced to 2.95, which was the driving force behind the good performance. In particular, in the second half, he appeared in 12 games and was very impressive with 5 wins, an undefeated ERA of 2.31 and an OPS of 0.624. Eom Sang-baek was recognized for his performance in the regular season, and his annual salary increased by 150% from 80 million won last year to 200 million won this year, recording the highest increase rate in the team.

However, it was a semi-playoff against Kiwoom Heroes. He appeared in two games, including the heavy duty of starting the first game, but was sluggish with an earned run average of 4.50 without a win or loss. The pitch of the main weapon changeup was shaken and struggled. kt was unfortunately eliminated with 2 wins and 3 losses and failed to advance to the playoffs.

Eom Sang-baek was mentioned to be selected for the World Baseball Classic (WBC) national team scheduled for March, but unfortunately he was not included. It seems that it was difficult to select three starting pitchers from only one team, including kt’s other starting pitchers Koh Young-pyo and Sohn So-jun, who joined the national team and Um Sang-baek. Attention is focusing on whether Eom Sang-baek will take the lead in kt’s second overall victory this season by taking off the disappointment of failing to qualify for the WBC national team and leaping forward as a starting ace.

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