Casey Kelly, 34, has been the most reliable pitcher on the LG mound in recent memory. After opening the month of April with a 1-2 record and a 5.66 ERA in six games, Kelly seemed to rebound in May, but he’s faltered again. In 14 games and 80⅔ innings this season, he’s 6-4 with a 4.69 ERA. It’s worth noting that he already has 23 walks. Last year, Kelly had 35 walks in 27 games and 166⅓ innings.
In 2019, Kelly is in his fifth season in the KBO. Since 2019, he has won 10 or more games in every season, and last year he won 16 games. He lasts at least five innings in every start and is the only LG ace to pitch at least five innings in 75 consecutive games.
But this season, he hasn’t been the same Kelly we know. Why has he struggled so much?
Some say it’s the aging curve. However, if you look at his Trackman data, you won’t find a significant drop from last year. His velocity and spin rate are still strong. The problem is his velocity. Kelly has the command to throw a variety of pitches exactly where he wants them, but this season he hasn’t been able to do it. He’s not only getting strikeouts, but he’s getting pitches up the middle.
The result is a whopping .323 batting average against his four-seam fastball. Kelly had never had a BABIP above 0.240 since his KBO debut, but this season, his BABIP has risen significantly. It’s hard to survive as a starter with a four-seam fastball like that.
Kelly’s curveball, his main weapon, is still in the low 2s and is still very effective. But he can’t rely on his curveball to get hitters out. He needs his fastball to come alive so that his changeup, slider, and other pitches can be effective.
Park Dong-won, who has started to work with Kelly this season, has a different style than Yoo. Park prefers to use his fastball over his changeup, and he’s aggressive when it comes to working the count. He signs for fastballs more often than Yoo, but Kelly’s pitches aren’t what they used to be, so he often gets hit by them. The lack of a fastball that starts off with a strike will increase his walk rate and make it harder for hitters to get outs.
Meanwhile, LG is currently in a 안전놀이터 tight race for first place with SSG. With the exception of Plutko and Im Chan-kyu, LG’s starting pitching staff has shown ups and downs, so Kelly’s lack of success as a foreign starter is a concern for LG.
Coach Yeom Kyung-yup said, “Kelly needs to play the role of an ace, but he’s still not good enough. The domestic starters also need stability, but the priority is for Kelly to come back to life and hold the center,” he said, calling for Kelly’s resurrection. Cha Myung-seok also dismissed the rumors of Kelly’s replacement, saying, “We won’t change Kelly.” As has been the case for the past four years, Kelly has shown that he believes he will play a big role as the fall approaches.
LG is in a race for the title this season, and they desperately need her back. Kelly needs to get back into ace mode sooner rather than later to anchor the LG lineup.