Chang-yong Lim

From BR Bullpen


Chang-yong Lim (임창용)
(Mister Zero)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 11", Weight 175 lb.

BR page

Biographical information[edit]

Sidearm pitcher Chang-yong Lim was a top closer in the Korea Baseball Organization for four years and a good starter for three. In 2008, he went to Japan to pitch and saved over 100 games there. Lim pitched for South Korea in the Olympics and World Baseball Classic, finishing second in each event. He reached the major leagues in 2013.

Lim debuted in 1995 with the Haitai Tigers; the teenager was 0-2 with a 5.83 ERA, allowing 37 hits in 29 1/3 IP. In 1996, he improved to 7-7, 3.32. By 1997, Lim was closing for Haitai and went 14-8 with 26 saves. He fanned 120 in 135 innings while allowing 93 hits and posting a 2.33 ERA. Sang-hoon Lee edged him for the save point lead by 3. He saved three games in the 1997 Korean Series as his team won it all.

Lim went 8-7 with 34 saves and a 1.89 ERA in 1998. He struck out 141 in 133 2/3 IP, allowing 90 hits. He led the KBO in both saves and save points that year. That off-season, he was traded to the Samsung Lions for star hitter Jun-hyeok Yang, Doo-sung Hwang and Chae-jin Gwak. He won Gold with South Korea in the 1998 Asian Games.

In 1999, Lim was 13-4 with 38 saves and a 2.14 ERA in his Lions debut. In 138 2/3 IP, he allowed just 91 hits and 36 walks while again striking out 141. He led the league in saves. Pil-jung Jin edged him by one for the save point lead. He was second in ERA, .03 behind Myung-won Jeong. Lim was on the Gold Medal-winning Korean entry in the 1999 Asian Championship.

Lim had his lowest ERA in 2000, going 5-4 with 30 saves and a 1.52 ERA; he did not pitch enough innings to qualify for the ERA lead, though. He allowed only 58 hits in 88 1/3 IP while striking out 95. He allowed two runs in five innings of work in the 2000 Olympics and had no decisions as South Korea earned Bronze. He did not pitch in the semifinals or Gold Medal game.

Becoming a starting pitcher in 2001, Lim had a 14-6, 3.90 record with one save. He was 10th in the KBO in ERA. In 2002, he was 17-6 with two saves and a 3.08 ERA. He was two wins behind the league leader, Mark Kiefer and third in ERA, trailing Narciso Elvira and Jin-woo Song. In the 2002 Asian Games, he was 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in four games for the Gold Medal winners. He got the win in the finale, working 3 1/3 innings of relieg (3 H, 1 BB, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 K) before Song closed it out.

Lim had a record of 13-3 with one save and a 3.55 ERA in 2003 and his strikeout rate fell drastically (from 160 in 204 1/3 IP to 85 in 147). He still finished 6th in the league in ERA. He pitched for South Korea in the 2003 Asian Championship. In 2004, Lim returned to the bullpen for one more year and dominated with a 2-4 record, 36 saves and a 2.01 ERA. He led the KBO in saves for the third time and save points for the second time. It was his last big season.

In 2005, Lim fell to 5-8, 6.10, allowing 110 hits and 51 walks in 91 1/3 IP. Through 2005, he was 8th in KBO history in ERA (3.10), 13th in games pitched (493), 24th in innings pitched (1,334 1/3), 3rd in saves (168, trailing Yong-su Kim and Jin), 13th in strikeouts (1,109) and 17th in wins (98).

Lim only pitched two innings for Samsung in 2006, going 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA while coming back from shoulder surgery. In 2007, Chang-yong posted a 5-7, 4.90 record for the Lions.

Through 2007, Lim was 104-66 with 168 saves and a 3.25 ERA. In 1,455 2/3 IP, Lim allowed 1,260 hits allowed, 1,171 strikeouts and 531 walks.

Lim signed with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows for $800,000 over two years with a club option for a third year, a move that surprised Japanese baseball fans given Lim's prior three seasons.

Lim started off his Japanese career excellently, allowing no runs in his first nine innings and saving six contests. He was nicknamed "Mr. Zero" by the Japanese media for his efficacy. After 32 games, he had 20 saves and a 2.03 ERA; he finished the 2008 season 1-5 with 33 saves and a 3.00 ERA. He allowed a .275 average but only walked 9 in 51 innings. He was 5th in the league in saves. Yakult refused to allow Lim to participate in the 2008 Olympics for South Korea.

Lim was the South Korean closer in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, going 0-1 with 2 saves and a 3.38 ERA in five games. Only Francisco Rodríguez had more saves in the Classic. Lim retired all five batters to save South Korea's 1-0 win over Japan in the clubs' second match. He saved South Korea's second win over Japan as well and also closed out the semifinal win over Venezuela. In the championship game against Japan, Lim allowed a double to Ichiro Suzuki but nothing else in the 9th. In the 10th, he gave up his first runs of the tournament, costing South Korea the title. He began by giving up a Seiichi Uchikawa single, then allowed a one-out hit to Akinori Iwamura. He got Munenori Kawasaki to pop up, but Suzuki drove home both runs. He let two more batters reach before fanning Kenji Johjima but the damage had been done.

Lim was voted into the 2009 NPB All-Star Game, the first Korean ever picked by the fans; Seung-yeop Lee, Sung-min Cho, Dong-yol Sun and Dae-sung Koo had all made the game as managers' picks. He finished the 2009 season 5-4 with 28 saves and a 2.05 ERA. He was 9th in the Central League with 57 pitching appearances and was third in saves behind Hitoki Iwase and Katsuhiro Nagakawa. On May 15, he was timed at 100 mph, the second NPB pitcher to hit three digits on the radar gun, following Marc Kroon.

In 2010, he was even sharper (1-2, 35 Sv, 1.46, .82 WHIP). He finished second to Iwase in the CL in both saves and save points. He made his second NPB All-Star team. He was an All-Star again in 2011 (4-2, 32 Sv, 2.17, 1.00 WHIP, 69 K in 62 1/3 IP). He was 5th in the CL in saves, tied for third in save points (with Dennis Sarfate and Shun Yamaguchi) and tied for 6th in games pitched (65, even with Shintaro Ejiro and Takehiko Oshimoto. He was excellent in nine games in 2012 (0 R in 7 IP) but then had Tommy John surgery. He had gone 11-13 with 128 saves and a 2.09 ERA in 238 games in NPB, with a 1.03 WHIP and 231 K in 233 IP.

The Chicago Cubs took a chance on the rehabbing hurler in 2013, signing him to a minor league contract; the scouts were Min-kyu Sung, Steve Wilson and Paul Weaver. He did not appear in a game until late June, appearing for rehab stints for the AZL Cubs (2 R in 5 IP), Daytona Cubs (1 R in 5 IP), Tennessee Smokies (0 R in 1 IP) and Iowa Cubs (1 R in 11 1/3 IP), with a 1.61 ERA in 21 games. The Cubs had seen enough to give the veteran a September call-up.

In his major league debut, Chang-yong relieved Brooks Raley with one out in the top of the 7th and a 4-3 deficit against the Brewers. He walked Sean Halton and gave up a single to former Yakult teammate Norichika Aoki but then got Jean Segura hit into an inning-ening double play. Junior Lake batted for Lim in the bottom of the frame.

Sources: KBO season-by-season leaders, KBO career leaders, IBAF site, KBO player page, Japanese by Michael Westbay, 2000-2004 Baseball Almanacs, Japan Baseball Daily by Gary Garland, 2013 Cubs Media Guide

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