In April and May, Moon Dong-ju (20-Hanwha) has been performing at the top of his game. What happened in between?
Moon made his first start on 25 April against the KIA in Daejeon, but was pulled after giving up three runs on five hits in four innings with three walks and two strikeouts. He was up to 87 pitches by the fourth inning and could have gone one more inning, but his stuff wasn’t good enough. For the third game in a row, he struggled with his pitches.
After walking KIA’s Ryu Ji-hyuk in a seven-pitch at-bat to start the inning, Moon Dong-joo gave up a free base on a walk and then gave up a single to Choi Hyung-woo in the ensuing two-out at-bat to take the lead. In the bottom of the second, he struck out Shin Bum-soo and Kim Kyu-sung with back-to-back 153-154km fastballs to settle down, but gave up three more runs.
After getting two outs, he gave up a single to Socrates Brito, and after a first-pitch strike 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-centre. On a full count, Ko Jong-wook fouled off Moon Dong-joo’s sixth and seventh 155km fastballs before timing his eighth 156km fastball for a long ball.
In the fourth inning, he gave up a leadoff single 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) that topped out at 159 mph and averaged 154 mph by Trackman, along with a curve (25), changeup (eight) and slider (four), but was shaky with three walks and two wild pitches in four innings.
Moon’s slump is nothing out of the ordinary, as it’s been three games in a row. He hasn’t pitched past the fifth inning in three consecutive games, after giving up seven runs on seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings against SSG in Munhak on the 13th and LG Electronics in Jamsil on the 19th. He won against KT in Daejeon on the 7th (5 innings, 3 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts, 1 run), but is 1-2 with an 8.22 ERA in four games in May.안전놀이터
Moon Dong-ju, who went 1-2 with a 2.38 ERA in four games in April, is no longer the dominant pitcher he once was. His hard-hitting fastball is still there, but he’s showing signs of pitching anxiety. His walks per nine innings spiked from 2.78 in April to 7.63 in May. For fireballers, strikeouts are like taxes, but Moon’s pitches have never been this shaky before.
The first reason is psychological. Hanwha coach 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,” he said. The same thing happened in the game against KIA. It can be interpreted that he was trying to overcome his recent struggles.
There is also a point that rest has become a poison. Moon Dong-ju was dropped from the first team roster the following day after playing against Doosan in Daejeon on the 18th. He took 11 days off, skipping one starting rotation to manage his condition. Upon his return, he showed signs of a sensory issue, causing the ball to fly. Once his balance was off, he struggled to catch pitches.
Coincidentally, the team lost three games in a row after former coach Carlos Subero was sacked. It’s also worth noting that Jose Rosa, the pitching coach who worked with Moon, also left the team.
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.