‘2000 innings, 132 wins’ veteran entry eliminated… Will his fall end like this?

 Doosan Bears veteran left-hander Jang Won-jun (38) was not named on the roster for the wild card game.메이저놀이터

On the 18th, Doosan released the list of 30 players who will participate in the wild card match without Jang Won-jun. Based on the 33 players who entered the final game of the regular season on the 17th, only three pitchers, including Jang Won-jun, Raul Alcantara, and Park Shin-ji, were excluded. What was surprising here was Alcantara. Alcantara pitched 6 innings in the Jamsil SSG Landers game on the 16th to fight for the last-minute rankings, making it difficult for him to participate in the wild card game. This is because there are not enough rest days. NC also had no choice but to exclude ace Eric Peddie due to the same circumstances as Doosan. Both Doosan and NC are in a situation where they have to face off except for the strongest cards.

Jang Won-Jun got the opportunity to stay in the first team last month when expanded entry was implemented. Doosan coach Lee Seung-yeop decided that Jang Won-jun was more valuable as a replacement starting pitcher than a left-handed bullpen, and he called him up every time there was a hole in the starting lineup to check his skills. So this year, the number of first-team registration days is only 64.

Still, it was a help to the household that I didn’t have. Jang Won-Jun started in 11 games (1 relief game) and recorded 3 wins, 5 losses, 41 innings, and an ERA of 5.27. He said his performance from late May to early June was good. Jang Won-Jun achieved his dream of reaching the 130-win mark by recording 7 hits, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts, and 4 runs in 5 innings against the Jamsil Samsung Lions in 5 innings. It had greater meaning for Jang Won-jun personally as it was a valuable win added 1844 days after winning his 129th career win against the LG Twins in Jamsil on May 5, 2018.

Achieving 130 wins was the 11th in KBO history and the 4th in history for a left-hander. At 37 years, 9 months, and 22 days, he is also the oldest left-handed pitcher with 130 wins. His previous record was Hanwha Song Jin-woo, who was 34 years, 4 months and 18 days old at the time of the game against Cheongju Haitai Tigers on July 4, 2000. Including right-handed pitchers, he ranks second after KIA Lim Chang-yong (September 29, 2018, Gwangju Hanwha game, 42 years, 3 months, 25 days).

Jang Won-jun, who achieved 130 wins, was unstoppable. He recorded three consecutive wins as a starter, including the game against the Hanwha Eagles in Jamsil on June 6th (5⅓ innings, 1 run) and the game against the Changwon NC Dinos on June 13th (6 innings without a run), and recorded a total of 132 wins.

It was the result of an attempt at change. As Jang Won-jun begins the season in the second team ahead of the opening of this season, he is equipped with a two-seam fastball at the suggestion of pitching coach Kwon Myeong-cheol. In the meantime, he struggled as his fastball velocity fell to the low 130 km/h range, or around 141 to 142 km/h at the fastest, but he found a new combination that could fool batters by installing a two-seam fastball. He used a mix of sliders and changeups to target every corner of the strike zone, which led to good results.

However, there were limits to seeing the light while playing full time. Jang Won-jun filled the vacancy when domestic starting pitcher Kwak Bin was called up to the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games and another starting pitcher Choi Won-jun faltered, but he did not have a place in the postseason entry.

Since there was no specific way to utilize it during the postseason, Coach Lee and his coaching staff had no choice but to make a cool-headed decision. Starting pitchers include Kwak Bin, Brandon Waddell, Alcantara, Kim Dong-ju, and Choi Seung-yong, so there is no room for Jang Won-jun. Kim Dong-ju and Choi Seung-yong can be used as a bullpen at times, but Jang Won-jun’s pitch is too slow to be used as a bullpen. There were Choi Seung-yong and Lee Byung-hun as left-handers, so Jang Won-jun was pushed out in the end.

Jang Won-jun took the mound against Incheon SSG on the 17th, the final game of the regular season, and suffered a defeat (0-5 loss) as he collapsed with 5 runs in 4⅓ innings, but he set a personally meaningful record. Reaching 2000 innings in his career. This is the 9th record in KBO League history.

Jang Won-jun pitched 1,326 innings in 258 games while playing for Lotte from 2004 to 2014, and since 2015, he has appeared in 188 games and pitched 674 innings in a Doosan uniform. It is such a rare record that in the history of the KBO League, which is just over 40 years old, there are only 9 pitchers, including Jang Won-jun, who have exceeded 2,000 innings.

132 wins and 2,000 innings are records that prove Jang Won-jun’s sweat and value as a player. However, the reality was that there was no place for Jang Won-jun on the fall stage right now.

Doosan is at a very disadvantage in the wild card match. Since NC, ranked 4th, is given one win first, NC has an absolute advantage. While the wild card match was introduced in 2015, there has never been a case where the 5th place team advanced to the semi-playoffs. If Doosan wants to write a new history, it must win the first game and win the second game to secure two wins. NC will advance to the semi-playoffs even if it records 1 win, 1 win, 1 draw, or 1 win and 1 loss.

Even if Doosan miraculously advances to the next series, it will be difficult for Jang Won-jun to secure a spot in the entry list. Jang Won-jun packed his bags after ending the season. Still, I wonder if there will be a glimmer of hope for Jang Won-jun in the next series.

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