The hard-throwing pitcher struck out LG’s key hitters Austin Dean, Kim Hyun-soo, and Oh Ji-hwan.
In the ninth inning of the game between the NC Dinos and LG Twins in the ‘2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League’ at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on April 4, with NC leading 3-1, Kim Si-hoon (24) took the mound as the closer. 안전놀이터 Kim took over for Lee Yong-chan, who was suspended from the roster due to the WBC drinking epidemic, and pitched in relief to preserve the win.
This season, Kim has been a bullpen resource. As of May 5, he has a 4.76 ERA in 21 games, 17 innings pitched, with a 1-1 record, two saves, and seven holds. In the broadest sense, a closer is a bullpen pitcher, but they are often called upon in the toughest or most difficult situations. There are many pitchers who pitch well in the bullpen, but struggle in the closer’s role. The closer’s job is not an easy one, as the psychological pressure is always there.
As expected, I didn’t get off to a good start. A somewhat nervous Kim Si-hoon took the mound and faltered, throwing three straight pitches to the leadoff hitter, Hong Chang-ki. He then drew a three-pitch, two-strike, full-count contest, but eventually walked the leadoff batter.
The next batter was LG’s most feared hitter, Austin Dean. But he didn’t run away. He went toe-to-toe with Dean and got him to swing and miss with a 120km slow curveball. However, he gave up another walk to Moon Bo-Kyung and was hit by Kim Hyun-Soo with runners on first and second. Despite his recent hitting slump, Kim is one of the best hitters in the league. However, Kim was not intimidated. He threw a pitch of his own, a 133-kilometer forkball that deflected off Kim’s bat for a strikeout, and Oh Ji-hwan followed with a 137-kilometer forkball to preserve the win.
As a closer, it’s important to be able to strike out batters, and Kim showed great command of his pitches, using his curveball and forkball as his deciding pitches. But Kim was once a forgotten pitcher.
A graduate of Masan High School, the 2018 first round pick was born and raised in Masan. He was the first player drafted by the NC Dinos to come from the Masan area of Changwon. When he joined the team, he was hailed as the “next big thing,” but he was quietly forgotten without making a single appearance in the first team. After returning from active military service with little to show for his time in the pros, Kim became a different player. His velocity, which was in the low 140s before joining the military, rose to 149 last year, and he solved his delivery issues.
Kim was a forgotten first-rounder who was drafted in 2018 but didn’t make his professional debut until last year in 2022. He finally got his chance last year, splitting time between the starting rotation and the bullpen, going 4-5 with a 3.24 ERA in 11 appearances.
Kim has starter’s aspirations, but his record shows he’s more effective out of the bullpen. Last year, he had a 4.83 ERA in starts and a 2.26 ERA in relief. Kim Si-hoon has the ability to be the closer when Lee Yong-chan is not available. After his performance in the bullpen, he could be a future NC closer.