Korean closer to Watch: embarks on record ERA

Posted by at 5 August, at 15 : 00 PM Print

Yakult Swallows closer Lim Chang-yong is on pace to record the lowest ERA in a Nippon Professional Baseball season.

To achieve the feat, Lim can give up no more than two runs in his remaining appearances.

In a game last Monday against the Yokohama BayStars, Lim entered the match in the ninth inning with the Swallows ahead 4-3.

But the 33-year-old closer gave up his first home run of the season and allowed the opposition to get back into the game. Although Lim earned a win thanks to the help of the Yakult batters, his ERA rose to 0.42 after he gave up what was only his second run so far this year.

Lim’s personal goal this season is to reach 30 to 35 saves. Although he has been one of the best closers in the NPB this season, Lim has not had as many save opportunities as some other closers in the league. Lim is currently second in the Central League with 24 saves, while Hitoki Iwase of the Chunichi Dragons leads with 31 saves.

Lim is more focused on maintaining a low ERA than on earning more saves, though. If he manages to keep up his solid performance, Lim has a shot at keeping his ERA below the 1.00 mark.

Current Samsung Lions manager Seon Dong-ryeol managed to achieve the feat twice in the Korea Baseball Organization. He posted a 0.78 ERA on 10 wins and 31 saves in 1993 and a 0.49 ERA on five wins and 38 saves in 1995. Seon pitched as a reliever in the NPB, where his best season came in 1997 when he recorded one win and 38 saves with a 1.28 ERA for the Dragons.

In terms of Japanese closers, Kazuhiro Sasaki of the BayStars and Kyuji Fujikawa of the Hanshin Tigers rank among the all-time best. In 1998, Sasaki recorded a 0.64 ERA (four runs in 56 innings) – the best in NPB history – with 45 saves. Fujikawa tied Iwase for the all-time saves record in 2007 with 46, recording a 1.63 ERA along the way.

If Lim manages to maintain his current pace, he can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the NPB’s best.

As of Aug. 3, Lim had given up two runs in 42 and two thirds innings pitched.

It is expected that he will pitch about 15 to 20 innings in the Swallows’ remaining 58 games.

By Kim Seek [jason@joongang.co.kr]

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