“Control is basic, and the faster the speed, the better.”
A long time ago, when I asked Hanwha Eagles manager Kim In-shik what is more important to a pitcher, out of control and speed, he gave this ‘wise answer’. It was a time when Ryu Hyun-jin conquered the mound in the KBO league with his fast ball and awl control that exceeded 150 km.
Korean baseball suffered the메이저놀이터 humiliation of being eliminated in the first round three times in a row in the World Baseball Classic (WBC), acutely realizing the gap with world-class baseball. In particular, there is an analysis that the pitching power has widened the gap. It was difficult to say that Korea was better than Japan and even compared to Australia, which had to be overcome.
There seems to be no disagreement in saying that it was a tournament in which Korean pitchers’ control and restraint were in place, while the United States, Japan, Central and South American countries as well as European countries on the periphery confirmed their progress. This is also evident in the statistics.
Among the data provided by MLB.com’s Baseball Savant, we compared the fastball velocity of each WBC country. Fastballs include four-seam, two-seam, sinker, and cutter, which he uses as his fastest pitch, such as Camilo Doval (Dominican Republic).
The average velocity of 242 fastballs thrown by Korean pitchers was 90.64 miles (145.9 km), which was 16th among 20 participating countries. Only four countries are slower than Korea: Australia, Taiwan, the Czech Republic, and China. Even baseball periphery countries such as England, Israel, and Italy were faster than Korea. Of course, it should be taken into account that most of the main pitchers in these countries are from American baseball.
The average speed of the fastball was ranked first in the Dominican Republic, boasting 95.74 miles (154 km). Japan was second with 95.38 miles (153.5 km) and Venezuela was third with 95.25 miles (153.2 km). Including them, there are 6 countries that showed an average fastball speed of 93.2 miles, or 150 km or more.
The numbers prove that one of the driving forces behind Japan’s defeat of the United States in the final was power pitching with speed. The average American fastball was 92.42 mph.
Among Korean pitchers, Eui-ri Lee, who threw 19 four-seams in the game against Japan, was the fastest with a maximum of 96.4 mph and an average of 95.2 mph. Kwak Bin was the second fastest with a maximum of 95.5 miles and an average of 94.1 miles. However, most of the Korean pitchers, such as Kim Kwang-hyun 91 mph, Won Tae-in 91.2, and Park Se-woong 91.7 mph, stayed around 90 mph.
On the other hand, the average speed of Japanese pitchers’ fastballs is on a different level. Rocky Sasaki was fastest at 100.3 mph, followed by Shohei Ohtani at 97.8 mph. The highest velocity was 101.9 miles for Sasaki and 102.0 miles for Ohtani. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who pitched in relief in the semifinals, had an average four-seam velocity of 95.3 miles, and Darvish judo four-seam and two-seam averages of 94.1 miles.
In addition, Hiroto Takahashi (96.6 miles), Shota Imanaga (94.4 miles), and most of the Japanese bullpen, including Shousei Togo, Hiromi Ito, and Daisei Ohta, threw fastballs with an average of mid-90s. It is an old saying that Japanese baseball relies on elaborate control and breaking balls. He showed off the world’s best mound at the WBC, using his speed and aggressive pitching as a weapon comparable to the major leagues.
The average velocity of fastballs in the KBO League and NPB was 87.6-87.9 miles in 2014, 88.6-89.3 miles in 2018, and 89.6-90.8 miles in 2022, with the difference gradually widening from 0.3 → 0.7 → 1.2 miles. In this WBC, which brought together the best pitchers from both countries, the gap was much larger at 4.74 miles (7.63 km).
Another thing to note is the percentage of fastballs. Among the 536 pitches thrown by Korean pitchers, 242 were fastballs, accounting for 45.15%. 18th overall. The first place in this category is also the Dominican Republic with 56.45%. Japan accounted for 52.46%, Mexico 52.64%, and Venezuela 51.11%, accounting for more than half of the fastballs in 10 countries.
This proves that Korean pitchers are highly dependent on breaking balls and have a high percentage of manned pitches. It will be efficient if the ball is backed up, but if it is not, or if the opponent makes a sign, the number of pitches and walks increases.
In the KBO League, 150km is still the top class speed. Last year’s major league average velocity was 93.9 miles (151.1 km). If the ball is not excellent and even the speed is lagging behind, there will be nothing to see in Korean baseball in international competitions.