“(In Korea) An Woo-jin (24, Kiwoom Heroes), who is regarded as the best pitcher in Korea, is causing a stir. It seemed natural that An Woo-jin, who had an ace-level performance, was selected for the WBC.”
The Japanese media continues to focus on the situation in which the KBO announced the list of 30 final entries for the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) on the 4th, excluding Ahn Woo-jin. Japan and Korea were drawn in Group B in the first round of the tournament. The Japanese media seemed surprised when Korea made the decision to exclude the best ace, in a situation where all the countries participating in the WBC had the best team.
Japanese media ‘The Digest’ said on the 5th, ‘Ahn Woo-jin left a brilliant achievement of winning two crowns as a pitcher with an overwhelming record of an average ERA of 2.11 and 224 strikeouts in the Korean league. However, he was suspended for three years by the Korea Baseball Softball Association (KBSA) for assaulting his teammates and juniors in high school. Even with this punishment, the WBC could participate, but it was excluded due to opposition.”
Regarding the background excluding Ahn Woo-jin, Technical Committee Chairman Cho Beom-hyun explained, “The criteria for selecting players were based on various factors such as the symbolic meaning of being a national representative representing me, responsibility, and pride, along with the player’s skills.” In the end, it means that the past of school violence disciplinary was caught.
With Ahn Woo-jin excluded from the national team, voices are circulating that the weight of the pitching staff is dropping. Veteran Kim Gwang-hyeon 안전놀이터 (35, SSG Landers) and Yang Hyeon-jong (35, KIA Tigers) are still in a situation where they have to hold the center. Koo Chang-mo (NC Dinos), born in 1997, and Ko Woo-seok (LG Twins), born in 1998, are mostly composed of young players with no experience in international competitions to the extent that they are classified as middle-aged.
It was very important for Ahn Woo-jin, who was aiming to advance to the major leagues, whether or not to join the WBC national team this time. He started 30 games in the KBO League last year and recorded 15 wins and 8 losses, 196 innings, 224 strikeouts, and an average ERA of 2.11, surpassing foreign aces. In the strikeout category, he overtook Lotte Choi Dong-won (223 strikeouts) in 1984, set the record for the most strikeouts in a season by a domestic pitcher, and won the Golden Glove in the pitcher category. As much as he proved himself domestically, he must have wanted to test himself in international competitions.
So, after finishing last season, he was active in clarifying issues related to school violence. As some of An Woo-jin’s high school juniors announced a statement claiming An Woo-jin’s innocence, a friendly public opinion actually arose. However, it ended in a blur as there was no more content that would completely overturn public opinion.
The Digest said, ‘American fangraphs evaluated Ahn Woo-jin as Korea’s Jacob deGrom (35, Texas Rangers). I wonder what the exclusion of the WBC national team will mean to Ahn Woo-jin, who is also aiming to advance to the major leagues in the long term.”
DeGrom is a top-notch ace who won the Cy Young Award twice in the US Major League and signed a five-year, $185 million contract with Texas in this free agent market. It means that in the US, Ahn Woo-jin is highly valued enough to compare him with di Grom.
According to the rules of the competition, final entries can be modified until February 7th. If an injured player occurs, there is room for an additional selection of An Woo-jin.
However, Cho said, “Depending on whether there are injured players, including Choi Ji-man (32, Pittsburgh Pirates), there may be a situation where one or two people can move. As of now, we have selected 30 people, so we plan to go like this. He said that he is not considering additional appointments of Ahn Woo-jin right now.