“Even if I have a career-high season, I think I’ll still be disappointed.”
Moon started the visiting LG Twins’ game against the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on March 3, throwing 105 pitches in 4 1/3 innings, giving up 11 hits (one home run), two walks and three runs with two strikeouts.
He’s at the top of the Rookie of the Year race, but it’s a shame he couldn’t add more wins to his record (8) as he ended the season on a high note. His ERA also rose from 3.62 to 3.72. He’s probably more disappointed in himself than anyone else, but he’s matured and accepted the reality.
Before the game, Hanwha manager Choi Won-ho emphasized the fact that it was Moon’s last game of the season, saying, “You can be a plus or a minus in about 100 pitches,” adding, “He has improved his control and his pitches have improved a lot. He’s got a wider range and he’s got a lot of room. I don’t even try to throw it hard. Even if I throw it gently, it goes over 150 kilometers,” he said with a smile.
Facing the strongest LG batting lineup, Moon Dong-joo’s pitch count skyrocketed… With only two outs to win, he was struck out.
Moon Dong-ju, who pitched 7⅓ innings of one-run ball against LG in July to secure the win, didn’t look good in the first inning. After giving up a double to Hong Chang-ki, Moon gave up a single to Kim Hyun-soo in the first inning and a double to Moon Bo-kyung in the second. He also gave up a single to Oh Ji-hwan. It took him 35 pitches to get out of the first inning.
In the second inning, he gave up three consecutive hits to Hong Chang-ki, Shin Min-jae, and Kim Hyun-soo. In the third inning, they got through five batters without allowing a run, but it wasn’t easy. He struck out Moon Bo-Kyung and Oh Ji-Hwan, but he threw nine pitches each against them and threw 32 pitches in the third inning.
By the fourth inning, he had already surpassed 90 pitches. In the fifth inning, Moon Dong-ju returned to the mound and retired Moon Bok-kyung on a fly ball to left field. He was two outs away from the win in his final appearance of the season, but he couldn’t take two steps.
A five-pitch, 140.7-kilometer-per-hour slider from Oh was caught and launched over the right-field fence for a solo home run. It didn’t end there. Park Dong-won and Moon Sung-joo followed with consecutive singles. His pitch count had already reached 105 pitches.
Eventually, the Hanwha bench decided to make a change. He threw 58 fastballs, with a top speed of 157 kilometers per hour and an average of 145 kilometers per hour, and mixed in curveballs (24), changeups (15), sliders (7), and cutters (1), but it left a lot to be desired.
Hanwha manager Choi Won-ho declared “special management” for Moon when he took over midseason. The attention was focused on the pitcher, who throws a fastball that reaches 160 kilometers per hour, and while his 8-8 record with a 3.72 ERA this season makes him the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award, Moon’s season came to an end in the 23rd game, after 118⅔ innings.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for promising pitchers to show promise in their rookie seasons and then fizzle out after logging a lot of innings. As the importance of player management has recently become more prominent, the topic of innings pitched by rookie pitchers has spread, and Choi Won-ho, a “studying leader,” has included Moon Dong-ju in his management.
Moon made his debut last year and went 1-3 with two saves in 28⅔ innings in 13 games. Injuries and inconsistency prevented him from getting many opportunities, and he enters this season still eligible for the Rookie of the Year award.
He is still arguably the favorite to win the award. However, it’s hard to see how the game will change as his rival, Yoon Young-chul (KIA), is 8-5 with a 4.13 ERA and has the potential to reach 10 wins. The fact that he didn’t get one more win on this day makes it all the more painful.
“I wanted to show a lot of good things, but I took a lot of hits,” he said after the game, adding, “There were many times when the count was unfavorable, and overall, I was very disappointed. If I had gotten fewer hits while pitching like this, the result would have been better, but I’m even more disappointed because the result was bad.”
Moon Dong-ju also emphasized the meaning of ‘last’. “Today, I really threw my best at every pitch, rather than controlling my strength and weakness,” he said, “I wasn’t in perfect condition. My pitches weren’t working the way I thought they would, and I knew I had to play through that, so I tried to get as many innings as I could.”
The three hits in the first inning put even more psychological pressure on her. “I think the count got longer because I was trying not to get hit,” Moon said, explaining, “I threw with the same feeling (as usual), but I was off-balance.” Moon is now in the second team camp in Seosan.
The team will now head to the second team camp in Seosan to rest and get in shape. The team will convene on Feb. 22 to train before heading to China for the Asian Games, which begin next month.
“I want to help the team win, but I have to be grateful for the club’s consideration,” Moon said, adding, “I’m determined to go to the Asian Games and come back with good results.”
He did not hide his disappointment at not being able to throw more. “I want to throw more, even in the off-season,” he said, “but that’s my mind, and I should have thrown well when I had the chance. Even if I had a career-high season, I would still be disappointed. Every athlete has regrets, so I think I can prepare harder for the Asian Games because of that.”안전놀이터
Praise has been pouring in for Moon this season. Looking back on the season, he gave himself a passing grade. “I’m very happy that I’m not sick and I’m doing well. I think I’ve achieved my goal because I’m not sick and I’m doing well,” he said. “I didn’t approach this year with a record-breaking goal. It’s a 100 because I stayed healthy and stayed in the rotation. I’ll have to rethink the baseball part of it.”