“I’m going to fill in a new picture with new colors on a white sheet of paper,” said Lim Chan-kyu (31-LG) at the start of this season. He was willing to leave his old self behind, return to a new position and a new mind, and start all over again as a new pitcher.
Im, who joined LG in 2011 and started as a middle reliever before becoming a starter in 2014, was the only one of the 1990s born to be an LG ace. After LG emerged from the dark ages, Bong Joong-geun retired and Woo Kyu-min left, Im, who was almost the only young pitcher among LG’s franchise stars to be expected to start, won 11 games in 2018, his first double-digit win season, and became a 10-win pitcher again in 2020.
But he hasn’t been consistent. Last year, when he hoped to break the jinx of only pitching well in even-numbered years, he struggled mightily. He was eligible for free agency after the season, but held off on exercising his rights due to his poor performance, and this year, he was offered a starting job and returned to the middle of the order for the first time in a decade.
Five months after starting the season with the words, “I’m going to be the best long reliever,” Im has put together one of the best performances in the league as a starter. With a win against SSG on April 19, he earned his 10th win of the season (2-2), marking the first time in three years since 2020 that he has won 10 games.
The 10 wins in 2020 included one save. In July of that year, when Chau-chan, who had been a full-time starter, was removed after facing just one batter due to shoulder pain, Lim Chan-kyu came in and threw 5.2 scoreless innings to earn the save.
After starting the year as a middle reliever, Lim has only one hold as a reliever. He started the year as a middle reliever for the first four games and then moved to the starting rotation when the Korean starting lineup collapsed. Since then, he has started 18 games and won 10. He started out in the bullpen, but has already won 10 games as a starter.
Although he crossed the 10-win threshold twice, Lim was never a surefire 10-win pitcher. His ERA was always in the 4-5 range, and he only went the distance twice in 2018 and 2020. This was a major weakness of LG’s mound, as they pinned their domestic starting hopes on Lim Chan-gyu for several years, who was not a guaranteed pitcher.
However, this year, when he no longer has the desire to start, Im has been the team’s brightest spot. He has thrown 104 innings, the most since 2020 (147.2), and his ERA (3.55) is the best since his debut, while leading the league in winning percentage (.833). After narrowly missing the 10-win mark twice before, both times at the end of the season, Lim is the third Korean pitcher to reach the 10-win plateau this year, joining Ko Young-pyo (KT) and Lee Yi-ri (KIA).
While new faces like Park Myung-geun and Yoo Young-chan in the bullpen are often cited for LG’s success this year amidst the mound collapse, Im is a key part of that core. After giving up his starting job to the juniors and transforming his bullpen, he was given the opportunity to fill the void left by the juniors, 안전놀이터 and he has been in his best form since his debut as a starter. In a season where LG is on track to win the championship, Im Chan-kyu has a chance to turn his baseball career around.