Kim Kwang Hyun # 29
Position: Starting Pitcher (LHP)
Birth: July 22nd 1988, Korea
Height: 187 cm
Weight: 83 kg
Nickname: I think SK calls him the Korean Ace as he was once the top pitcher of Korea’s national team
Kim Kwang-hyun is an enigmatic young left handed pitcher. With obvious potential to be the ace of the staff for both SK and the Korean national team, it’s more frustrating to follow his career than it should be. As a high school player, Kwang-hyun led his team to the first ever Korean national highschool baseball title by absolutely dominating all comers. Later that year, he beat the USA in the junior world baseball championships, where he also threw a no-hitter against Japan. Tip: if you want to be loved by Korean baseball fans, throwing a no-hitter against Japan is a good start. Anyway, Kim graduated to the Wyverns in 2007 as a 19 year old (!!) and baffled the Doosan Bears in the Korean Series to help secure the victory for SK that year. In 2008, as a 20 year old, Kwang-hyun dominated the KBO and won the MVP award with a 16-4 record, a 2.39 ERA, and 150 strikeouts in 162 innings pitched. He missed the pitching triple crown as You(n)-Suk-min took the ERA title by .06. At that years summer Olympics, he was equally impressive guiding the Korean team to a gold medal and earning an exemption from military service… nice-eu!
Service to country: same-same
As a 20 year old with a 96 mph fastball and an array of pitches that baseballreference.com already called “major league average” It was pretty clear Kim would continue to improve, become the best pitcher in Asia, move to MLB and dominate until his baseball hall of fame induction… but then, 2 of SK fans most bitter rivals tried to derail young Kim’s career. Okay, they didn’t try to, but its more interesting as a story.
At the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Ichiro and a bunch of other players, scored 8 runs off Kim in less than 2 innings on their way to a 14-2 pummeling of Korea. Kim struggled with command of his pitches as he struggled through the tournament. Then, in 2009 Doosan star, the dreamy and totally boo-able, Kim Hyun-soo (우우우우우우우) added injury to insult by breaking Kwang-hyun’s pitching hand with a batted ball. This forced the SK ace to miss the rest of the 2009 season.
In 2010 Kim Kwang Hyun looked like a man on a mission. He led SK to another Korean series title going a ridiculously awesome 17-7 with a 2.37 and 183 strikeouts to only 84 walks. He took a no-hitter into the 9th with 2 out in a game against the Samsung lions only to have it broken up. The hit sucked too… just a little weak ground ball through the right side of the infield *sigh*. Kwang-hyun, still only 23, finished as a runner-up in MVP voting (to the dirty-hand-breaker Kim Hyun-soo)
While basking in the glow of another Korean series title Kim was struck by a… stroke! It was a mild stroke, but still pretty scary for a 23 year old pro baseball player. After months of rehab Kim was able to return mid-way through the 2011 season, but as a shadow of his former self. A lack of control and slight dip in velocity led to a mediocre season. in 2012 another injury, this time to his shoulder, led to a shortened season and a mediocre 4.20 ERA albeit with a respectable 65 strikeouts in 82 innings…
Shoulder injuries are usually tricky to comeback from, so hopefully while his return was unspectacular he can still regain his past form in 2013. Let’s hope we see more smiles from Kwang-hyun this year.