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(LEAD) Star left-hander voted MVP of S. Korean baseball

All Headlines 15:43 November 06, 2017

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

SEOUL, Nov. 6 (Yonhap) -- Kia Tigers' left-hander Yang Hyeon-jong was voted the MVP of South Korean baseball in 2017.

The southpaw ace, who went 20-6 with a 3.44 ERA, earned 656 points out of a maximum 856 in a media vote for the top individual award in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). Choi Jeong of the SK Wyverns, who led the league with 46 home runs was second with 294 points. Hector Noesi, Yang's Kia teammate who also won 20 games, finished third with 208 points.

The first-place vote was worth eight points, followed by four points for second place, three for third place, two for fourth place and one for fifth place.

Yang earned 68 first-place votes, followed by Choi with 14 and Noesi with five.

Yang had also won the Korean Series MVP on Oct. 30 after helping the Tigers capture their first KBO championship since 2009. The 29-year-old is the first KBO player in the league's 35-year history to earn both the regular season and the Korean Series MVP awards in the same season.

In this file photo taken Oct. 30, 2017, Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers celebrates his Korean Series MVP award at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

"This season has been like a dream, and I never want to wake up," Yang said in accepting the trophy. "It's a great honor. I am proud to be standing here representing my club."

Yang is the sixth Tigers player to win the league MVP after infielder Kim Sung-han, who won in 1985 and 1988; pitcher Sun Dong-yol, who won in 1986, 1989 and 1990; infielder Lee Jong-beom in 1994; infielder Kim Sang-hyun in 2009; and pitcher Yoon Suk-min in 2011.

This is the 14th time that a pitcher has won an MVP. The KBO doesn't have a Cy Young equivalent that rewards the best pitcher, though the top South Korean-born pitchers are honored with Choi Dong-won Award, named after a late legendary hurler, each year. Yang was named the 2017 recipient of that award last month.

Yang was one of the KBO's best starters, homegrown or otherwise, in 2017. He led all starters with 31 starts and tied for the league lead with Noesi with a career-high 20 victories.

Yang finished fifth in ERA with 3.44, a solid number in a league where no pitcher had an ERA below 3.00 and 33 qualified batters hit .300 or better -- and ranked third with 158 strikeouts in 193 1/3 innings. He had one complete game and made 20 quality starts -- going at least six innings and giving up three earned runs or fewer -- to tie for second in that category.

In this file photo taken Oct. 30, 2017, Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers throws a pitch against the Doosan Bears in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 5 of the Korean Series at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

This was the fourth straight season in which Yang reached double figures in wins and threw at least 170 innings.

Yang reached the 20-win plateau in his final regular season start against the KT Wiz on Oct. 2, holding them two runs -- both unearned -- in 5 2/3 innings.

Yang started the season on a hot streak and then had a strong finish. He won his first five starts of the year, while posting a 1.83 ERA in that stretch. Then over his last six starts, Yang was 3-1 with a 3.11 ERA.

Yang was 13-3 with a 3.86 ERA after 18 starts at the All-Star break. He went 7-3 with a 2.90 ERA over his final 13 starts the rest of the season.

Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers kisses the trophy for the MVP in the Korea Baseball Organization during the awards ceremony in Seoul on Nov. 6, 2017. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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