Doosan’s splendid Fantastic 4, only Jang Won-jun remained

Won-Jun Jang completed negotiations with the Doosan Bears to renew his contract for the 2022 season. 2021.5.5/News 1 © News1 Reporter Jinhwan Kim

As Yoo Hee-kwan (36) finished her career, the Doosan Bears boasted of ‘Fantastic 4’ now has only one left, Jang Won-jun (37).

On the 18th, Yoo Hee-kwan, who achieved the first 100 wins in Doosan’s left-hander, announced his retirement from active duty, saying, “It’s time to step down for the sake of my juniors.” As Yoo Hee-kwan returned the Doosan uniform, the protagonists of Fantastic 4, who commanded the KBO league six years ago, are also disappearing into history.

Dustin Nippert (41), who became the first foreigner to win 100 games in the KBO League, and Michael Bowden (36), who struck out first in 2016, left Doosan at the end of the 2017 season. Nippert was the first to retire after playing one more season with KT Wiz, and Bowden, after its heyday, is also burning the last spark in the American independence league.

Fantastic 4 was evaluated as the best starting lineup in KBO League history. In 2016, Doosan established a starting lineup of Nippert-Jang Won-Jun, Bowden-Yu Hee-Kwan, and won the combined championship with overwhelming results. Doosan set a tie record for the most wins (93 wins) in the regular season, and in the Korean Series, conceded only two points to the NC Dinos and ascended to the top.

Nippert (22 wins), Bowden (18 wins), Jang Won-jun, and Yoo Hee-gwan (15+ wins) collaborated to 70 wins in the regular season, but it was the first time in history that four 15-win pitchers were produced by one team. The four starting pitchers pitched close to perfect in the Korean Series with one run (0.25 ERA) in 36 ⅓ innings.

Following Nippert and Bowden, Yoo Hee-kwan took off the Doosan uniform, and Jang Won-jun is the only Fantastic 4 member remaining in the team. Unlike Yoo Hee-kwan, Jang Won-jun, who chose to extend his active duty, is dreaming of a rebound after completing his contract renewal with Doosan for the 2022 season.

Currently, Jang Won-jun’s position has been greatly narrowed. From 2015 to 2017, he played steadily and led the Korean Series championship twice and runner-up once, but then went downhill.

As sluggishness and injuries continued, he only appeared in 6 games (2 innings) in 2019 and 2 games (5⅔ innings) in 2020, and his annual salary was cut to 80 million won last year. In last year’s Korean Series, he was the only Doosan pitcher who did not appear in the entry.

Still, Won-Jun Jang laid the foundation for a comeback last year. He appeared in 32 games (18⅔ innings) and recorded a 6.75 ERA with 1 win, 1 loss and 4 holds. It was not a remarkable report card with a hit rate of close to 30% (0.290) and a high on-base percentage per inning (WHIP, 2.04), but it was meaningful to have a place in the bullpen as one point.

Jang Won-jun, who has not applied for a free agent (FA) for four consecutive years, is determined to restore his honor. However, it is impossible to guarantee when the opportunity will be given, and he has even thought about extending the field. With Yoo Hee-gwan’s retirement, interest in Jang Won-jun will be more focused, but will he be able to spread his wings of resurrection?

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