He is the KBO’s No. 2 native after Ahn Woo-jin (Kiwoom). Right-hander Na Kyun-an (25) has surpassed Lotte to become the KBO’s leading pitcher. He pitched well against KIA in Busan on March 3, allowing three runs on six hits with three walks and two strikeouts in six innings. In 11 games this season, he is 5-1 with a 2.55 ERA.
He ranks 5th in ERA (2nd in Korea), 5th in wins (1st in Korea), 5th in innings pitched (67, 2nd in Korea), 5th in WHIP (1.06, 2nd in Korea), and 6th in batting average (0.224, 2nd in Korea). In all of these categories, Ahn ranks second in Korea. She even ranks fifth in the league and second in the country with 25.5 Cy Young points per Baseball-Reference.com. Ahn leads the nation with 31.4 points.
Na Gyun-an was a catcher and is only in his third year as a pitcher. Considering that he has reached the top of the league in just three years, his growth has been tremendous. He throws a mid-90s fastball with a four-seam fastball, a forkball, a slider, and a curveball. He has the highest percentage of four-seam and forkballs, and a very good slider and curveball.
There are two characteristics of a forkballer who represents the KBO beyond Lotte. SBS Sports commentator Lee Soon-cheol, who broadcast the Busan KIA game on March 3, emphasized this aspect several times and praised Na Kyun-ahn.
He said, “Na Gyun-ahn has a short pitching career, but he pitches exactly where he wants to and pitches menacingly. He pitches exactly where the catcher, Yoo Kang-nam, opens his mitt. He’s really sharp. He has a good fastball, so he can get a good count. You have to utilize it.”
It’s not just that he’s good at throwing forkballs, it’s that he puts all of his pitches exactly where the catcher wants them, so he doesn’t lose control of the game. I wonder if he realized that he had this advantage from his time as a catcher, not just his strong shoulders. Na’s transition to pitching has been a complete success.
Another is runner control. Commentator Lee Soon-cheol said, “Because he was a catcher, his catching motion is quite fast. It is inevitable that the 안전놀이터 runner’s lead will be narrower than a pitcher with a slower blocking motion.” In fact, earlier in the game, KIA’s Park Chan-ho failed to steal second base after reaching first base. Park is third in the league with 11 stolen bases this season and boasts an 84.6% success rate.
This also helps to limit runs. “Normally, when a runner steals a base, they use their right leg and left leg in a 7-to-3 ratio,” says Lee. However, Na Gyun-ahn is fast, so the runner has no choice but to use 5-to-5 strength. If there is even a slight reverse motion, it’s time for the out.”
On the contrary, Lee sees Na Gyun-ahn’s complementary strength is his forkball. First of all, Lee said that Na’s forkball is “a little bit of index finger on the seam end of the ball, twisting it and slowing it down to induce a false swing.” The forkball itself is quite powerful. The forkball itself is quite powerful. It’s almost indistinguishable from a fastball all the way to home plate.
However, he suggests that it would be better if the forkball was dropped toward the body rather than away from the batter, especially for left-handed hitters. This makes sense. When a batter sees a pitch, they have to react faster to it than to the outside. The faster the bat comes off the plate, the more surely the forked ball will be swung away, giving the pitcher an advantage.
“You need to get him to throw to the body when the lefty comes in,” says Lee. The batter will try to react quickly to the body. If the pitch is close to their eyes, they will react faster and swing away quickly. This increases the chances of a hit. He has a good fastball, so it’s possible.”
Looking at his performance over the past two months, Lee believes he has exceeded expectations. “I’ve been pitching for 11 games, and my velocity hasn’t dropped. I’m consistently hitting the mid 140s. His command is good and his game management is good even though he hasn’t pitched for a long time. It depends on whether his velocity drops or not, but I’m looking forward to the future.”