Bad luck turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The LG Twins’ “No. 1” homegrown ace, Im Chan-kyu, 31, capped off a spectacular finale with a career-high season. Now, he’ll look to continue his dominance in the Korean Series.
In the final game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League home series against the Doosan Bears at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Friday, Lim pitched 5⅔ innings of four-hit ball with one walk and three strikeouts, allowing one run (one earned) to improve to 14-3 on the season. He threw a total of 92 pitches.
With LG’s 5-2 victory over Doosan on the same day, Lim was able to reach the regulation innings (144) and set a new career high for wins in a native start. So far this season, he is in third place on the all-time wins list behind Pedi (NC-20) and Benjamin (KT-15).
Chan-kyu Lim had a very meaningful season. In 30 appearances this season, he posted a 14-3 record with one shutout and a 3.42 ERA. In 144⅔ innings pitched, he allowed 142 hits (10 home runs), 54 walks, 103 strikeouts, 63 runs (55 earned), a WHIP of 1.35, and a batting average of .252. In the 26 games he started, he pitched seven quality starts (six innings or less). Both his career-high in wins (11) in 2018 and his career-low ERA (3.87) in 2021 were better. It was a season of a lifetime.
Before the game, LG manager Yoon Kyung-yeop emphasized the importance of starting Im in the final game of the season, saying, “There is also the aspect of honoring him as a homegrown ace.” “I’m going to let him pitch about six innings. He’s going to be a free agent next season, so it’s good to fill in the regulation innings,” he said, adding that he trusted him. And Im certainly lived up to his manager’s expectations.
After a clean start with a strikeout in the first inning, Lim gave up a run in the second inning on an infield single by Park Joon-young, but that was it. After settling down again in the third inning with a strikeout, he retired the side in order in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively. In the sixth inning, he gave up back-to-back singles to Rojas and Yang Seok-hwan before handing the mound over to Baek Seung-hyun. The LG fans lining the first base line applauded lavishly as Im Chan-kyu headed from the mound to the dugout. Im waved his hat vigorously and thanked the fans for their support.
Im became eligible for free agency last November, but he did not exercise his divine right. He decided to try again. At the time, he told Star News, “I couldn’t help the team much. I brought a lot of disappointment to the fans, and I was criticized a lot. It’s natural to be criticized if you can’t play professionally. Without contributing anything to the LG championship, I felt that I couldn’t apply for free agency without feeling sorry for myself. I felt that it was a betrayal. I really want to win a championship with LG, and that’s the first thing,” he said. “I think it’s right to apply for free agency after dedicating yourself to the team,” he said. And this season, he has kept that promise, and is now looking forward to the Korean Series.
LG’s Chan-kyu Im.
LG’s Chan-kyu Im.
At the KBO’s regular-season championship trophy presentation ceremony, Im was honored as the pitching coach. Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Im said, “I don’t mean to be modest, but I never thought of myself as an ace. I just think that my performance this year went well. I think I was able to perform as well as I did this year because of the help of my teammates.먹튀검증 I never think of myself as an ace because I did a little better this year. I think I’m more focused on the next two or three years. I’ve been preparing for this season by thinking about where I didn’t really sacrifice for the team last year, and I think that’s why I’ve been able to do so well. I think it will help me prepare for the season ahead.”
With the arrival of new head coach Yeom Kyung-yup this season, Im Chan-kyu was actually left out of the starting lineup. While he had been a regular in LG’s starting lineup, this season was a different story. Kim Yun-sik and Lee Min-ho, the young guns who replaced Im, were the starters at the beginning of the season. However, their departure from the lineup opened the door for Im Chan-gyu, and he seized the opportunity. In what can only be described as a complete turnaround, he had one of the best seasons of his career. In fact, in the first half of the season, with Kelly, Kim Yoon-sik, and Lee Min-ho all struggling, LG relied on Im and Plutko to lead the team on the mound.
“I realized that it’s not always good to think too much on the mound, whether it’s positive or negative, so I tried to keep it as simple as possible. I prepared a lot to throw each ball the way I wanted. I think that’s something that I practiced every day before the game, doing imagery training. I start with a mental image of the color of the grass, the smell of the grass, the coaches of both teams, and I try to imagine the worst case scenario. A lot of imagery training doesn’t hurt your arm, so you can do it for an hour. I think I’ve been doing a lot of research on blocking out bad situations, and that’s what led to the good results.”
When asked about his free agency, Lim smiled as he answered, “I’m thinking that (Cha Myung-seok) will take care of me a lot.”
LG’s Im Chan-kyu.
LG’s Chan-kyu Lim.
When asked about the impact of starting the season in the middle of the pack, Im Chan-kyu said, “I think it really helped me a lot. Of course, you can say that it helped because the results were good, but I think the failure last year actually laid the foundation for me to finish this season successfully. Actually, I have to admit that failure is failure. Today, I did an imagery exercise to remind myself that it’s not life or death if I don’t get a regulation inning. I’ve seen players who are really desperate and competitive get greedy, and that makes them try harder and use excessive force, but I think it’s actually helped me to relax and have good results. When I changed my position to long relief at the beginning of the season, Coach Yoon introduced me to a new way of playing baseball.”
Speaking about Doosan, Lim said, “It’s a specific team, but we’ve been beaten a lot (against Doosan), and we’ve had a lot of losing pitchers. They are a team I want to beat every time I go out there, so I tried my best, but there were times when I couldn’t, but it feels good to win today. When we were runners-up in the 2002 Korean Series, I remember watching it in my living room and crying. I remember all the players who played then, and I think it’s a great success just to be able to reach the Korean Series. Even 29 years later. It’s very emotional. I don’t know. I don’t know, I think I’ll be more emotional when the Korean Series is over. I think I shouldn’t let go of the tension because it’s the last time,” he said.
LG’s Im Chan-kyu.
LG’s Im Chan-kyu.
Im Chan-kyu, who lifted the trophy as a pitching assistant on the day, laughed and said, “It was very heavy,” before adding, “It’s been 29 years, and the club was considerate enough to let me lift it. I’m grateful to the club. I’m also very grateful to my teammates.”
“In May, the manager told me, ‘Even if my velocity drops to 135km/h, I will trust you on the mound and let you throw 100 pitches.’ He said, ‘You are responsible for 90 to 100 pitches, and you are responsible for at least five innings.’ In a way, it was the first time I heard that in my career. He gave me a pitch count and a minimum number of innings, and it was like playing a new game of baseball. I realized that he trusted me no matter how I pitched, so I was able to try different things, like throwing with less effort, and that was the key point.”
After the final home win, manager Yoon Kyung-yeop said, “Lim Chan-kyu pitched well as a domestic ace. Congratulations to him for achieving a personal best with 14 wins. I would like to praise him once again for being a pillar as a starter when the team was struggling at the beginning of the season,” and gave him a thumbs-up. Now, after a season of a lifetime, Im is looking ahead to the Korean Series and lacing up his spikes again to dedicate himself to his team.
LG’s Im Chan-gyu.