Behind KT’s first three consecutive 10-win seasons was the strikeout instinct of Ko Young-pyo, 32, who would rather hate a walk than die.
In the 12th game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League against Doosan at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on April 6, Ko pitched seven innings of six-hit ball with one walk and five strikeouts to earn his 10th win of the season.
Ko has now pitched a quality start in 10 consecutive games and a quality start plus in five consecutive games, reaching the 10-win plateau for the third straight year. It was the first 10-win season for a starting pitcher in KT’s history in three consecutive seasons, surpassing the previous records of William Cuevas (2019-2020), Bae Jeong-seong (2019-2020), and Odrisamer Despaigne (2020-2021).
When asked after the game, Ko said, “I heard that (10 wins in three consecutive years) is a first for KT, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. If you pitch well, wins come naturally. Of course, it feels good to achieve this record and I want to thank my teammates.”
Ko neutralized the Doosan bats with a fastball that topped out at 140 mph (43), followed by a changeup (44), curveball (15) and slider (1). In the sixth inning, Jose Rojas doubled and Kim Jae-hwan singled to put runners on second and third with one out. In the seventh, Kang Seung-ho walked and Heo Kyung-min singled to put runners on second and third, but Jung Soo-bin flied out to left field to complete the quality start.
Ko didn’t pay much attention to Dasung. However, when the topic of quality starts came up, his face changed. “I am conscious of my quality start record. It’s my job,” he said. “I always aim to get a fast count on the mound and avoid long innings with fewer pitches. My goal this year is to have at least 20 quality starts.”
He also explained why he’s so eager to record a quality start. “If I get more than 20 quality starts, I can do the math for the manager. Even the middle pitchers can win if they finish two innings. I think it has a good effect on the team,” he said, adding, “It can also create an atmosphere for juniors to pitch aggressively rather than run away.” He pointed out the net effect.
“I may have 10 wins, but winning is not something you can do on your own,” he said, “I’m not after wins, I’m after something else. If you look at the record, there are a lot of better metrics than 10 wins. There are many interesting records, such as innings pitched and strikeout-to-walk ratio, so I want to be recognized for those as well.”
With his performance, Ko ranked first in WHIP (1.00), first in quality starts (16), third in ERA (2.44, tied for first), tied for fourth in wins (tied for first), and fourth in innings pitched (125⅔, tied for second). He also utilized his precise delivery, allowing just 11 walks in 125⅔ innings, one of which was a high four.
“I hate strikeouts more than I hate death. I don’t want hitters to walk. I’d rather be hit.” “I was disappointed that I gave up a walk today after a long time, but I want to play a walk-free game in the future. When you give up a walk, the defense gets tired and the runs go up. It can lead to a lot of runs. Therefore, if we reduce the number of walks, the team’s runs will naturally fall and the probability of winning will increase.”
His son, who was born in November last year, is another reason why he works so hard to throw strikes. “My family gives me a lot of strength. Looking at him gives me strength when I’m struggling. When I have a good game and post a picture of him, the fans like it a lot, so it motivates me even more.”
KT’s starting pitching staff was led by ace Ko Young-pyo, with William Cuevas, Wes Benjamin, Uhm Sang-baek, and Choi Byeong-seong putting together relay performances to lead the team’s miraculous comeback. The starting pitching came alive, and the team’s win-loss margin went from -14 in early June to +5 in less than two months.안전놀이터
When asked about his motivation, he said, “I feel like if the guys are pitching well in front of me, I have to pitch well. Somehow, our team has gotten into the mindset lately that if you can’t pitch six innings, you’re not good. All the juniors say, ‘You made me do it,'” he laughed, “That’s the synergy. “It’s not just me, it’s the other starters as well, going long innings with fewer pitches and the team rebounding. It’s a good ritual for the starting pitchers.”
Finally, we asked him about his goals for the second half of the season. “Our team doesn’t focus on the standings. We focus on each game and tomorrow. If you’re conscious of the ranking, you’ll be chased and rushed.” “The goal is always first place, but you have to do what you can in your position and do it as best you can. That’s what I’m going to do.”