The KBO has fully implemented an automated ball-and-strike system (ABS) ahead of the 2024 season. Major League Baseball, which experimented with the system earlier, has yet to adopt it due to opposition from the players’ and umpires’ unions. The KBO has also been experiencing a lot of mistrust and controversy over the umpire’s strike-ball calls, and is finally implementing it this year to ensure consistency.

The jury is still out on this system. Only time will tell if it favors pitchers, if it favors hitters, and if it favors pitchers, if it favors off-speed or fastball pitchers. Initially, there was some speculation in the field that fastball pitchers would have a slight advantage, as they are not as affected by the zone and can induce the most obvious false swings. However, there is one pitcher who has proven that the zone can be utilized by fastball pitchers as well. That’s second-year left-hander Yoon Young-chul (20).

Yoon is not a hard-throwing pitcher. As of last year, his fastball velocity was in the low 130s to high 140s mph. However, his excellent deception motion and uncharacteristically sophisticated delivery helped him perform well in his rookie season. Yoon won the starting rotation battle from the start of last year and went 8-7 with a 4.04 ERA in 25 games and 122⅔ innings pitched in his first season.

Typically, rookies compete with their pitches rather than their stuff. They don’t have the confidence in their pitches to hit every corner of the zone. Even players who are recognized as having a “good fastball” often lose that advantage when they step onto the first team mound. But Yoon is different. He can throw the ball wherever he wants with a high percentage of success. He can control each pitch to lure hitters in, and he has the guts to throw a high changeup if he wants to. That’s what sets him apart.

It was a big topic to see how he would perform with the ABS system, and in his first appearance, he showed some positive aspects. Yoon threw 53 pitches in 2⅔ innings in an exhibition game against NC at Changwon NC Park on Tuesday. He gave up two runs on three hits, but showed promise in his ability to utilize the ABS zone.

Yoon had a tendency to call strikes against the high side of the plate and the high side of the body last year. It’s a zone that he pitches with a strategy, but he struggled with it. This is one of the reasons why Yoon struck out so many batters despite having good control and command. Yoon, who is not yet at the peak of his pitches, has to pitch borderline pitches as much as possible, and since umpires are human, each umpire’s zone is different, so he struggled with the wrong umpire. But with the ABS system, there is no room for error.

On this day, Yoon tested the ABS system by throwing many balls to the borderline as if it were an experiment. Most of the balls that crossed the borderline were called strikes. In 안전놀이터 particular, there were more calls on the high side than last year, which helped him fight the count. At the very least, it was a vague confirmation that it was not a loss compared to last year.

Of course, you can’t overpower hitters with borderline pitching alone. Eventually, there comes a time when you have to use your power and strength to overcome them. Yoon has clearly shown promise with his velocity this year, but he’s still not a fireballer. The fact that he gave up a run in the 10th inning shows that he needs to work on this aspect of his game. How he refines his velocity, or at least maintains it at the level it is now, will determine his career going forward.

However, Yoon is still in his second year, and his body will only get better and better as he progresses. Barring any major injuries, we can expect his stats to continue to rise. In four to five years, when everything is in place, he will evolve into an ace who has a lot of stuff and can take on hitters. As long as he doesn’t lose his strengths, there will be plenty of opportunities to improve his weaknesses. That’s why it’s worth keeping an eye on Yoon’s progress.

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