Earlier today, we took a look at some of the best and worst hitting performances from the first month of the KBO season. Now, we move on to the pitchers.
Former Mets Performing Well in Korea
In 2019, right-handed pitchers Drew Gagnon and Chris Flexen both spent time in the Majors with the New York Mets. Both Gagnon (8.37 ERA, 8.96 FIP, 1.73 WHIP) and Flexen (6.59 ERA, 5.56 FIP, 2.05 WHIP) struggled last season in the Majors, but 2020 has been a different story for the former Mets righties.
Let’s start with Drew Gagnon, who spent parts of two seasons (2018-2019) in MLB with the Mets. Now with the Kia Tigers, Gagnon finished May with a 3.95 ERA and 1.10 WHIP across 27.1 innings. Gagnon’s somewhat pedestrian, though, doesn’t the whole story. The 30-year old finished the month with the third-best FIP (min. 15 IP) in the KBO (1.85) and the highest K/9 rate (12.2) in the league.
As for Flexen, now with the Doosan Bears, the 26-year old’s stuff has played up quite nicely in the KBO. Even though his fastball, which sits in the 92-94 MPH, may not have blown away Major League hitters, it has beaten KBO hitters
The 26-year old’s secondary stuff also impressed thus far. Flexen’s curveball, which has a lot of vertical movement, has also been an effective pitch for the righty when he has needed it in outings.
Among qualified pitchers (min. 15 IP), Flexen has the sixth-best ERA in the KBO (2.61), and the California native also finished May in the top 20 in FIP (3.49) and struck out 28 batters (sixth-most in KBO) in 31 innings.
Straily Blowing Away Hitters
Four years ago with the Reds, Dan Straily finished 2016 with 14 wins and 3.76 ERA. But after a season to forget in 2019 with the Orioles (9.82 ERA, 9.34 FIP, 1.99 WHIP in 47.2 IP), the 31-year old now finds himself in Korea, and he’s been a strikeout machine thus far. Across 33.1 IP, Straily, now with the Lotte Giants, finished tied for second with Drew Gagnon in the KBO in strikeouts, as the righty struck out 37 batters in the month of May. Only left-handed pitcher Chang-mo Koo of the NC Dinos had more strikeouts (38) than Straily.
The right-handed pitcher also finished in the top 15 in FIP (12th-3.01), ERA (9th-2.70), and K/9 (3rd-10.0). Much of Straily’s success can be attributed to his slider, which works as intended, especially when you see the side-by-side comparison between his fastball and breaking ball:
The California native’s slider, as well as his change, which works well against left-handed hitters, have given him an edge in the KBO. However, one thing Lotte fans may want to see out of Straily this month is a bit better command. The former Oriole had the seventh-highest BB/9 rate (4.1) in the KBO last month.
NC Dinos Pitchers Come Through
The NC Dinos finished the month of May with an 18-5 record, so it shouldn’t come to a surprise that their pitching staff, was dominant.
Left-handed pitcher Chang-mo Koo finished May with the best ERA (0.51) and WHIP (0.60) in the KBO (min. 15 IP). Former Marlins right-handed pitcher Drew Rucinski finished May in the top 15 in WHIP (12th-1.18), K/9 (10th-8.4), and FIP (8th-2.70). And RHP Mike Wright, despite a high BB/9 rate (3.9), ended May with a 3-1 record, while striking out 24 over 28 innings.
The NC Dinos pitching staff finished May with the best ERA (3.73) and WHIP (1.30) in the KBO.
Pinto and Brigham Struggle
Not all foreign-born pitchers have found immediate success to start the 2020 season. SK Wyverns RHP Ricardo Pinto, a former MLB pitcher for the Phillies and Rays, finished May with the fifth-worst BB/9 (5.3) in the league. Pinto’s 4.71 ERA and 1.78 WHIP were less than stellar as well. Former Brave Jake Brigham also had a rough start to 2020. The Kiwoom Heroes RHP finished the first month with a 5.00 ERA across 16 innings and the tenth-worst BB/9 (4.0) in the KBO.
Best FIP and K/9
We’ll finish this article with the best FIP and K/9 figures in the KBO League for the month of May. Let’s start with the best FIP numbers:
Five foreign-born players made the top 10 (min. 15 IP), with former Cub Eric Jokisch being the best of them. The 30-year old finished May with a 4-0 record, along with a minuscule 0.90 ERA (second-best in KBO).
Now let’s look at the best K/9 numbers:
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