Yang Ji “My success rate is 60%…ball mixing is a process of building trust with the pitcher”

Yang Zhi (36-Dusan Bears) is translated as “fox in bear’s skin” (bear-tal-yi). It symbolizes his clever and brilliant “hand-to-hand” combat skills.

Currently, the number one catcher in the KBO is Yang Ji Won. He has won the Golden Glove for catcher seven times in the last 10 years (2013-2022). He is already tied with Kim Dong-soo (now a commentator for SBS Sports) for the most all-time.

He’s also known as a “championship catcher. He won the Korean Series (KS) with Doosan in 2015-2016 and the NC Dinos in 2020. He was named the KS Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 2016 and 2020. Yang is the first catcher in history to win the KS MVP twice. Yang is also the first player who comes to mind when you think of the current “starting catcher for the national team. He has participated in six international tournaments since 2009. That’s more than any other catcher in the league.

Korean baseball catching legend Jin Gap-yong (now the head coach of the KIA) said, “He is often called ‘bear-tal-yeo’ because of his ability to keep batters on the edge of their seats with his tricky ball mix.” Another legend, Kim Dong-soo, said, “First of all, he is smart. His ability to make pitchers feel comfortable is also the best.”

In the 2016 KS, Yang led Doosan to the all-time KS record for fewest runs allowed (2). Former NC manager Kim Kyung-moon, who made Yang-ji his starting catcher in 2010 when he was Doosan’s manager, recognized Yang-ji as “the best catcher in the league against pitchers” after his “protégé” shut down his team (NC) in the 2016 KS.

Yang, who became a free agent for the second time after the 2022 season, returned to his hometown team Doosan for the 2023 season. Doosan, once considered a mid-tier power, posted its longest winning streak in franchise history (11 games) last month. Doosan head coach Lee Seung-yeop often mentions Yang’s impact.

“I’m still playing, so I think it’s best to give it to me after I retire,” Yang said of the high praise. When asked about being recognized as a catcher who can handle unconventional pitches, he said, “It’s basic to respond to the situation. That’s what I’ve been doing, and I think I’m getting a little more attention for it.”

When asked about the success rate of his ball formulations, Yang Ji said, “Under the premise of ‘pitcher’s ball,’ I think there’s a 60 percent chance that my sign will have the intended result.”

“It doesn’t mean ‘I’m confident that I’ll be right six out of 10 times,’ either. Even if I’m confident and give a pitcher a (pitch type or location) sign, I’m often wrong. Sometimes you make mistakes, sometimes you push yourself harder than you should. I often feel that there are a lot of things that data can’t cover, so I think it’s more important to always have question marks and be prepared for different situations than it is for the ball formulation itself.”

Yang was given a tablet PC with power analytics when he joined the national team for the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in February and went on a “study binge”. Even after pitching a no-hitter, he would often say, “I signed off on the data.”

Yang’s clever ball formulations are a combination of his deep understanding of data and his ability to apply it in practice. Yang often takes a “humanistic” approach to his work. When asked about the difficulty of mixing pitches, he first mentioned the chemistry with the pitcher before analyzing batters or game results. “If one side is not in sync with the other, even the most talented pitcher and catcher can create dissonance,” he said. “Sometimes a catcher who is not good at calling pitches can have a good game with a smart pitcher. It’s all about the pitcher and catcher understanding each other.”

When asked how he checks a batter’s condition on the day, Yang smiles and says, “I think it’s a positive trait of my personality,” and then adds, “Honestly, I like to observe people. “Honestly, I like to observe people. I’ve been watching their posture, how they react, and if there’s a difference, I’m suspicious. Of course, I’m wrong a lot of the time, but I intentionally try to watch a lot (of batters and games).

On his most exhilarating moments as a catcher, Yang said, “When you’re in a tight situation, a close game, and you make a bold call with the pitcher, and it pays off, you think, ‘This is what baseball tastes like. Basically, it’s always fun when (my pitches) don’t work for them (batters).”

As more data is analyzed, and as trends in the battle between hitters and pitchers change, Yang is excited. “We used to emphasize more of a level swing,” he says, “but now we see a lot of hitters trying to increase the launch angle with an uppercut swing. When the swing trajectory changes like that, you have to think about where the pitcher is going to throw and what pitches are going to work. You also have to consider what pitches are working best for your team’s pitchers right now.” “Ball mixes are fun to watch. “It’s fun to just watch the pitch mixes and think, ‘That battery thought the same way I did,’ or ‘I was right and that catcher was wrong,’ like you’re playing a game of smokey,” he laughs. He actually does that when he’s batting designated hitter, watching the bench, or watching other teams’ film.안전놀이터

Yang also has a reputation as a catcher who helps young pitchers develop. This was especially true in his last four seasons with NC (2019-2022). In the early days of his career, some young pitchers couldn’t keep up with Yang’s unique “four-dimensional” delivery. In fact, NC pitcher Shin Min-hyuk shook his head a few times at Yang’s signature, starting with his first start against the Lotte Giants on August 13, 2020.

“It’s the catcher’s job to build trust with the pitcher. Even with a young pitcher, you may not see eye-to-eye,” Yang said. “If I sign with the idea that I might get a hit or a home run, it always seems to turn out badly, so I try to sign confidently without thinking about the outcome. It’s the same with pitchers. The most important thing is to throw the ball with confidence. I tell them that more than I tell them about my pitches.”

Yang often points his right hand toward his chest to pitchers who hesitate over his sign, sending an unspoken message of ‘trust’. It’s also a way of saying that he’s responsible for the outcome.

“I don’t nag young players about the past,” Yang said. I emphasize the future, which can be better than the past or the present. I try to tell them about the life after baseball, which they can face by becoming better players.” Now in his mid-30s, Yang has found it rewarding to watch the young catchers grow not only in their skills but also as people.

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