Ilgan Sports publishes ‘Blowing TV (feat. Kim Tae-gyun)’ as a 2023 New Year series. Commentator Kim Tae-gyun, one of the best hitters in Korean baseball history, shares his theory and perspective on baseball, especially batting. Through this series, we hope that readers will share the fun of hitting and the depth of baseball. <Editor’s note>

Baseball is a battle between pitchers and hitters. The strike zone is a kind of battlefield. Combat doesn’t just happen in the strike zone. The pitcher also throws the ball, and the batter has to deal with it. In particular, the course toward the batter’s side creates a sense of tension, like a border between two countries colliding.

Don Drysdale (1936-1993), who received the Cy Young Award in the Major League Baseball (MLB) in 1962, said, “If a hitter sticks close to the home plate, even my grandmother would hit it.” This very extreme expression is like a declaration that the body side (even if it is a ball as well as a strike) is ‘the pitcher’s domain’.

The batter can stand anywhere on the plate. No matter how close you get to the home plate, it is difficult for a batter’s body (elbow to wrist) to invade the strike zone. Still, Drysdale would not allow a hitter to come near the strike zone. In fact, he threw a lot of sand dunes.

Even if you are right, you must move forward

From the hitter’s point of view, the ball that fits the body is something that must be overcome. The first page of “What is baseball?”, which is like a classic baseball book, begins with the sentence ‘The most basic point of batting starts with fear’. Overcoming the fear of being hit by the ball is the start of hitting.

Getting hit by a ball flying at 150 km/h is a pain that is hard to understand unless you experience it yourself. The number of four balls I hit in the 2015 professional baseball regular season was 108. Even if it wasn’t actually hit, the scene where it seemed to be hit by the ball came out in almost every game. I fought fear until the moment I put down my bat.

The pitcher attacks the batter who feels fear. Quite a few pitchers, even if not a belligerent pitcher like Drysdale, take advantage of the batter’s fears.

Looking back, when I was a player, the fear I felt the most was the first game of the three-game series, especially the first at-bat. In fact, a lot of the body balls that were close to the threat ball flew. After 2012, it was more so when my weight in the team’s batting line was high.

Being hit by a helmet not only causes severe pain, but it also shrinks psychologically. I am afraid of the ball flying inside the next time at bat. Unknowingly, I pull my body back 안전놀이터.  Swing balance is broken. In this way, the strategy of the opponent who threw the threatening ball from the first at-bat succeeds.

Even if the hitter is hit, he has no choice but to move forward. It’s easier said than done, but there’s no other way.

In that respect, I highly rate Choi Jeong (SSG Landers). Choi Jeong, who debuted in the KBO League in 2005, hit 313 four balls in 18 seasons until 2022. Although he is an active player who is still in his prime, he is the all-time No. The reason Choi Jeong was hit by so many balls was because he was advancing toward the home plate and hitting.

Each batter has a different position on the plate. There are hitters who stick exceptionally close to the home plate, especially Choi Jeong. Right-handed batters stand 10 to 15 cm away from the end of the batters box. If you look at his batting posture, you can see that both hands holding the bat are positioned at the end of home plate.

From the pitcher’s point of view, it can be thought that the batter has invaded the ‘border’. There is no reason for the pitcher who has the initiative (the ball) to step down. A pitcher like Drysdale would hit the batter on purpose.

Why aren’t you afraid of Choi Jeong? Why doesn’t he get sick when he gets hit? Still, he advances despite the risk. He wants to create a contact zone where he can use his strength the most. He wants to hit the outside ball like a center ball.

His home plate width is 17 inches (43.18 cm). Even if a pitch slightly crosses the border line, it is counted as a strike, so the actual width of the strike zone is about 55cm. If you divide it into 3 parts, it is about 18 cm. It is impossible to measure precisely, but it would be the distance that Choi Jeong advanced toward the home plate compared to other hitters.

To put it simply, Choi Jeong advances 18 cm toward the home plate. This moves his hitting range outward by 18 cm. In a normal stance, the ball in the middle is toward Choi Jeong’s body. The outside ball to the other hitters is the middle to him. In the same principle, an outside strike to other hitters is a ball that goes far out of the strike zone to Choi Jeong.

313 balls with 429 homers

This allows Choi Jeong to hit the outside ball like a center ball. There are quite a few scenes where he attacks an outside pitch and hits a home run. This ball is only outside from the pitcher’s point of view, but it flew to the middle for Choi Jeong.

Of course, there is also the opposite side. A strike to the inside of the batter usually becomes a ball to the inside of Choi Jeong. And the chances of getting hit by this helmet increase. Choi Jeong-eun takes this risk and strikes. There are many reasons why he hit more than 429 homers in his career, but I think this strategy and courage also played a big part.

Of course, it cannot be said that getting close to home plate is the correct answer. Even if he endures the pain after being hit by a pitch, there is no way the hitter will be fine. According to the experiment, when hit by a baseball at a speed of 140 km/h or more, the batter feels about 80 tons of pressure momentarily. Choi Jeong also suffered many small and large injuries after being hit by a sand dune. When his body hurts, there’s a problem somewhere in his swing. Then he falls into a slump.

Still, the reason why Choi Jeong advances to the home plate is because the profit from doing so outweighs the loss. He’s an excellent hitter at pulling and hitting inside balls. The outside ball is made like a center ball and hit. In this way, the pitcher has very few places to throw.

Between the 4 ball and the home run, Choi Jeong’s stance is firmly fixed. He is smart and courageous in the ‘space fight’.

KBS commentator, summary = Reporter Kim Sik

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