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(LEAD) American pitcher voted MVP of S. Korean baseball

All Headlines 16:24 November 14, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS comments; CHANGES photo)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 14 (Yonhap) -- U.S.-born pitcher Dustin Nippert was voted MVP of the top South Korean baseball league on Monday.

The 35-year-old right-hander for the Doosan Bears captured his first MVP honors in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) at a ceremony held in Seoul. He earned 642 points out of 816 maximum points to edge out Samsung Lions' outfielder Choi Hyoung-woo by 112 points.

The first place vote was worth eight points, while the second place vote was good for four points, and so forth. Nippert earned 62 first place votes to Chio's 35.

Nippert is the fourth foreign player to be named the KBO's MVP in the league's 34-year history, joining Tyrone Woods (1998) and Daniel Rios (2007), both of the Bears, and Eric Thames (2015) of the NC Dinos.

Nippert, in his sixth KBO season, led the league with 22 wins and a 2.95 ERA. He fronted the league's deepest starting rotation, which also included Michael Bowden (18 wins), Chang Won-jun (15 wins) and Yoo Hee-kwan (15 wins). They formed the KBO's first staff ever with four 15-game winners, and were collectively called the "Fantastic Four."

Dustin Nippert of the Doosan Bears gives an acceptance speech after winning the MVP in the Korea Baseball Organization at a ceremony in Seoul on Nov. 14, 2016. (Yonhap)

"I honestly didn't think something like this would happen," he said. "A lot of hitters had great seasons. "I feel like it's really a testament to my teammates. They scored runs and played great defense behind me."

With Nippert mowing down one opposing lineup after another, the Bears cruised to the league-best 93 wins in the regular season and swept the Dinos to capture their second straight Korean Series.

Nippert made 27 starts and gave up two or fewer earned runs in 17 of them. He closed out the regular season by winning eight of his last nine starts. His last regular season loss came on July 28.

He became the oldest pitcher to reach 20 wins in a season, at 35 years, four months and seven days old. He also got to win No. 20 in his 25th appearance of the season, becoming the fastest to arrive at that mark.

Nippert posted these numbers during an offense-happy season.

Teams batted at a .290 clip, the highest in 10 years, and there were 40 hitters who batted .300 or better. Pitchers' collective ERA was 5.17, the second-highest figure over the past 10 years.

Even at an advanced age for an athlete, Nippert said he still has a lot more left in his tank.

"For me to sit here now and say I am happy, that's like giving up," he said. "I have more to give to my teammates and to the sport. I am going to keep working hard. I am not out to get titles or to prove myself to anyone. I just want to go out and keep having fun for as long as I can play."

Choi enjoyed his most productive season to date, winning his first batting title with a .376 average and his second RBI crown with 144 in 138 games.

Choi belted 31 home runs for his third straight 30-homer season while leading the league with 195 hits, 46 doubles, 338 total bases and the on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) of 1.115.

Choi, however, put up these gaudy numbers for one of the KBO's worst teams in 2016. After winning the past five pennants in a row, the Lions finished in ninth place among 10 teams this year at 65-78-1 (wins-losses-ties).

Also on Monday, Nexen Heroes' right-hander Shin Jae-young was voted the Rookie of the Year in a landslide, earning 453 points out of a maximum 465 points.

The 26-year-old led all freshmen with 15 wins and a 3.90 ERA in 30 starts, helping the Heroes to a surprising third-place finish in the regular season.

He struck out 99 and issued 22 walks for a strikeout-to-walk rate of 4.71, the best among all qualified starters.

Shin also set the KBO record with 30 1/3 consecutive innings without giving up a walk to start a career.

Shin earned 90 first place votes. KT Wiz's pitcher Ju Kwon, who went 6-8 with a 5.10 ERA, was a distant second with 147 points, while earning just two first place votes. For the Rookie of the Year honors, a first place vote was worth five points, a second place vote was three points, and so forth.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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