In April and May, Moon Dong-ju (20-Korea) has been having ‘polarizing’ performances. What happened in between?
Moon made his first start on April 25 against the KIA in Daejeon, but left without a win after giving up three runs on five hits with three walks and two strikeouts in four innings. He was up to 87 pitches by the fourth inning and could have gone one more inning, but his stuff wasn’t good enough. The pitching struggles continued for the third game in a row.
After walking KIA’s Ryu Ji-hyeok in a seven-pitch at-bat to start the inning, Moon Dong-joo gave up a free base on a walk, and Choi Hyung-woo followed with a single to right to give up the go-ahead run. With one out in the second, Shin struck out Shin Bum-soo and Kim Kyu-sung with back-to-back 153-154-kilometer fastballs to settle down, but three more runs were allowed.
After getting two outs, Socrates Brito was hit by a pitch, and after a wild pitch to Choi Hyung-woo, four straight balls loaded the bases. A wild pitch put runners on second and third, and after an eight-pitch battle with Ko Jong-wook, he gave up an RBI double to right-center. On a full count, Ko Jong-wook fouled off Moon Dong-joo’s sixth and seventh 155-kilometer fastballs in a row, then timed his eighth 156-kilometer fastball for a long ball.
In the fourth inning, he gave up a leadoff walk to Lee Woo-sung and then a wild pitch put runners on second and third with no outs. He got out of the inning unscathed, but his pitches were jagged and his fastball was hitting the bats of the KIA batters. He threw a fastball (50 pitches) that topped out at 159 mph and averaged 154 mph by Trackman, along with a curve (25), changeup (8) and slider (4), but was shaky with three walks and two wild pitches in four innings.
Moon Dong-ju’s slump has been going on for three games now, which is nothing new. He hasn’t made it past the fifth inning in three straight games, following a loss to SSG in Munhak on May 13 (7 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks in 2⅓ innings) and a loss to LG Electronics in Jamsil on May 19 (3 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks in 4 innings). He won on May 7 against KT in Daejeon (5 innings, 3 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts, 1 run), but is 1-2 with an 8.22 ERA in four games in May.
In April, Moon went 1-2 with a 2.38 ERA in four games, but he is no longer the dominant pitcher he once was. His hard-hitting fastball is still there, but his control is noticeably shaky. His walks per nine innings spiked from 2.78 in April to 7.63 in May. For fireballers, walks are like taxes, but Moon’s pitches have never been this shaky before.
The first reason is psychological. Hanwha manager Choi Won-ho said, “When Dong-ju is in a hurry, his upper body goes out before his legs go up when he pitches. This causes the ball to go high or hit the ground.” The same thing happened in the game against KIA. It can be interpreted that he was trying to overcome his recent struggles.
Some say rest has become a poison. Moon Dong-ju was dropped from the first team roster the following day after the game against Doosan in Daejeon on April 18. He had no injuries, but took 11 days off, skipping the starting rotation once to manage his condition. Upon his return, he showed signs of a sensory issue, causing the ball to fly. He had trouble catching pitches after being off-balance once.
Coincidentally, the team lost three games in a row right after former manager Carlos Subero was fired. It’s also worth noting that Jose Rosa, the pitching coach who worked with Moon, also left the team. 안전놀이터
Every pitcher has bad periods in a long season. For a young pitcher who is only 20 years old, trial and error and growing pains are inevitable. You have to overcome them on your own, but you also need help. “I want to help him as much as possible to get back on track as soon as possible,” said catcher Park Sang-un, who received Moon’s ball. “If he lives, our team lives.