Kim Sa-Yul is a 33 year old right-handed pitcher for the Lotte Giants of the KBO. Listed at just under 6 feet and about 210 pounds, Kim is making the Korean equivalent of about $170,000.
The veteran has been a league average pitcher according to the ERA WAA this year. However, he had served as Lotte's closer in the previous two seasons, and was worth 4 runs over average in 2012 and 3 runs above average in 2011. Despite this, he doesn't have a Naver scouting report, which is the reason for this post.
So far this year, he is throwing 17.75 pitchers per inning, with 4.07 pitches per plate appearance. League average in 2012 was 17.41 per inning, 4.4 pitches per plate appearance. In 2013, out of the 20 pitchers with the most pitches, they average 3.86 pitches per plate appearance and 16.7 pitches per inning. Obviously there is a survivor bias here, mostly because they are a little bit better on average, so teams don't mind making them throw a lot of pitches (4.11 ERA to the league average 4.40 ERA in 2013. The KBO average earned run average in 2012 was 3.82. This means that we will have to change the baseline for the KBO WAA and WAR, and that Kim has been better than league average, at a similar rate to what we saw last year. I'll do it at the end of the season when I do my KBO WAR post, but for now, we will use .49 runs per inning as average and .65 for replacement for ERA. League average FIP has only increased a little, up to 3.98. It might be easier to use kwERA in the KBO going forward, though it is a little more manual work considering Korean sites like to use at-bats instead of plate appearances or batters faced).
This year, Lotte has turned over the closing duties to Kim Sung-bae (1.18 ERA RAA so far this year according to the 2012 baseline, a sidearmer who throws a 83 MPH median fastball according to Naver), and it appears that they are using Sa-Yul as a spot starter and as a reliever. I watched his latest start and charted it, attempting to classify and break down his pitches. Even though he was a closer masquerading as a starter, he showed a starter's pitch selection, with at least four pitches he threw frequently.
Fastball averaged 86.82, went from 84-89 MPH. He didn't hold his velocity very well throughout the outing, probably because he hasn't been a starter consistently. He threw some 2-seamers along with the 4-seam fastball, and also used the fastball as a sinker.
Curve averaged 75.04, was mostly 73-76 MPH, but did throw one 67 MPH curve. The pitch has a lot of loop and straight down movement. I think it is his best pitch.
Changeup 81.13, was usually between 79-82 MPH, but some of the harder ones looked like forkballs. This was his least frequent pitch, but he still threw it at least 7 times in his short outing.
Slider 78.16, between 78-81 MPH. He used this pitch as much as he did the curveball, even though I didn't think it was as good.