There was no season that could be seen as a brilliant peak or strong impact. However, in the history of the KBO League, there are no players who have performed this consistently. Jang Won-jun (38), who announced his retirement after completing his 20-year career, achieved great achievements of 132 wins and 2,000 innings, a mark that cannot be undervalued.
Doosan Bears Jang Won-jun stepped down from the mound he had loved for 20 years. Jang Won-jun recently expressed his intention to retire through the club. Jang Won-jun, a graduate of Busan High School, joined his hometown team Lotte as a first-round rookie pick in 2004. After the 2014 season, he wore a Doosan uniform with a four-year free agent contract worth 8.4 billion won.
In his first year of transfer, he led the team to 3rd place in the regular season with 12 wins, 12 losses, and an ERA of 4.08 in 30 games. In particular, in this year, which was the beginning of the dynasty of advancing to the Korean Series for 7 consecutive years, Wonjun Jang overcame a 52-minute rain delay in Game 3 of the Korean Series against Samsung and pitched with all his might in 7⅔ innings in the rain, allowing 6 hits, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts, and 1 run, and 127 pitches. led to victory. His 127-pitch fight in the rain tilted the direction of the series and established himself as the number one contributor to ‘V4’ after 14 years. The following year, in 2016, he recorded 15 wins, 6 losses, and an ERA of 3.32 in 27 games, taking the lead in winning the championship as a member of the ‘Fantastic Four.’
In 188 games for 9 years at Doosan, he had 47 wins, 42 losses, 1 save, 12 holds, and an average ERA of 4.49. His professional career records include 446 appearances, 132 wins, 119 losses, 1 save, 14 holds, and an earned run average of 4.28. This year, he became the 11th player in KBO League history and the oldest left-hander ever to achieve 130 wins (37 years, 9 months, 22 days), and the 9th player in history to reach 2,000 innings.
Among the figures who led the renaissance era of the KBO League and Korean baseball that began in the late 2000s, the left-handed troika represented by Ryu Kim Yang (Ryu Hyun-jin, Kim Gwang-hyeon, and Yang Hyun-jong) can be cited. The mark they left not only in the KBO League but also in Korean baseball history is bound to be highly regarded by future generations.
Ryu Hyun-jin debuted like a monster, winning the Triple Crown (most wins, strikeouts and ERA first place) with his debut in 2006, and he continued to dominate the league as a pitcher, taking responsibility for the mound for Hanwha and the national team in international competitions. Over the course of 7 seasons starting in 2006, he headed to the U.S. Major League stage with a total of 190 games, 1,269 innings, 27 complete games (8 shutouts), 98 wins, 52 losses, 1 save, an ERA of 2.80, and 1,238 strikeouts. Since 2013, he has played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays in the Major League. Although there were adversities such as his shoulder surgery and elbow Tommy John surgery, Ryu Hyun-jin became a recognized veteran in the major leagues. He has a career record of 186 games (185 starts) in the major leagues, 1,055⅓ innings, 78 wins, 48 losses, 1 save, and an ERA of 3.27.
All-Star Game starting pitcher (2019), two-time Cy Young Award podium finisher (2nd place in 2019, 3rd place in 2020). Achievements such as ranking first in ERA (2019) were awards that confirmed the competitiveness of players from the KBO League. He successfully returned from elbow surgery this year, becoming a veteran pitcher seeking another major league contract.
Gwang-Hyun Kim appeared like a comet in the 2007 Korean Series and established himself as Japan’s killer at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. His dynamic pitching form, full of unique spirit, was the driving force that imprinted the brand name Kim Gwang-hyun. He also showed competitiveness in the major leagues in 2020-2021, but returned to the Korean stage in 2022 and led SSG Landers to a wire-to-wire victory. He has a career record of 158 wins, 88 losses, 2 holds, and an ERA of 3.20 in 356 games.
Yang Hyun-jong is a rival of the same age as Kim Gwang-hyun and led Korean baseball after Ryu Hyun-jin left for the major league. Ryu Hyun-jin and Kim Gwang-hyun came to the light later, but since they saw the light later, they are protecting KIA’s mound without any major injuries. This year was a year in which Yang Hyun-jong set great records in the league. Youngest in history with 160 career wins and second in most wins (168 wins), second in history with 1,900 strikeouts, third in history with triple-digit strikeouts for 9 consecutive seasons, most starts in history, 3rd in history with 2,300 innings, most wins as a starter, first in 9 years. They shared a record of 170 consecutive innings.
Jang Won-Jun has also built a career that is just as good as these players and has continued to set records. However, compared to these players, Jang Won-jun’s name is less mentioned in the history of the KBO League. However, Jang Won-jun quietly and steadily remained on the starting mound. Although Jang Won-jun may not have been a super ace who completely dominated a game, it cannot be denied that he was an ace-level pitcher who supported the team throughout the season and made it flow stably. Although he does not have a special title, he ends his career with the medal of consistency and stability that is as good as a title.
Jang Won-Jun’s 132 career wins ranks 10th on the all-time wins list. Based on active players and left-handed pitchers, the most wins ranking is 3rd in history, following Yang Hyun-jong and Kim Gwang-hyun. 2,000 innings is also a record that only 9 players in history have achieved, including Song Jin-woo, Jeong Min-cheol, Yang Hyeon-jong, Lee Kang-cheol, Kim Won-hyung, Bae Young-soo, Han Yong-deok, and Kim Gwang-hyun. All of the pitchers mentioned before Jang Won-jun are legendary pitchers who cannot be left out in Korean baseball history.
He has accumulated great achievements to be undervalued. Although he is overshadowed by Ryu Kim-yang’s unprecedented career, Jang Won-jun is enough to be remembered as a pitcher who has left an indispensable mark in the KBO League. Above all, he was given the opportunity to pitch as a starting pitcher upon his debut in 2004, and played the role of a solid inning eater, consistently appearing in about 28 to 30 games and playing regulation innings. Except for the period of military service with the Police Baseball Team from 2012 to 2013, he was consistently on the mound as a first-team starter without any special injuries. The fruits of this consistency led to the free agent jackpot of 8.4 billion won over 4 years, and could remain as the best free agent starting pitcher transfer case in history.
Although the ups and downs began in 2018, it can be said that he was belatedly dealing with injuries because he was on the mound consistently without a break. Nevertheless, Jang Won-Jun did not give up until the end even when everyone said it was difficult, and he left the mound he loved after completing the feat of 132 wins and 2,000 innings this year.
Jang Won-jun said through the team, “The choice to leave the ground I loved was never easy. However, he made this decision because he thought it was time to quit baseball,” he said. “I am grateful to owner Park Jeong-won, who allowed me to start my second baseball life with a free agent contract and gave me more opportunities when I was having a hard time due to injury.”
He continued, “I feel relieved because I have achieved the final goals I set for myself. However, when I think about my juniors, I rarely slow down,” he added. “There are many talented juniors on our team, so I will support them to train diligently and lead the team to a leap forward.”안전놀이터
He also said, “The faces of Coach Seung-yeop Lee, the coaching staff, and my colleagues are palpable. “It was all thanks to ‘Team Bears’ that I was able to leave with applause until the end,” he said. “I will never forget the cheers of the fans, who gave me tremendous strength when I was lacking. “I am truly grateful,” he added, expressing his feelings about ending his active duty.