Awesome Kim’ Ha-seong Kim (27, San Diego Padres) has overcome the limits of an Asian infielder and is making a big success in the American professional baseball Major League (MLB).
On the 24th (Korean time), in the home game against the 2023 MLB Miami Marlins held at Petco Park in San Diego, California, USA, Kim Ha-seong started as the first batter and third baseman and scored the final score with the 20th double of the season.안전놀이터
In the first at-bat as the lead batter in the first inning, Kim Ha-seong hit a slider from Miami ace Sandy Alcantara, who won the National League Cy Young Award last season, and made a double. It was a missed ball, but Kim Ha-seong ran to second base while it fell into an empty field with no defense. It was Kim Ha-sung’s 20th double of the season. With this, Kim Ha-seong achieved 20 doubles for the second consecutive year following last season (29).
Thanks to the follow-up hitter’s infield ground ball and timely hit, Kim Ha-seong, who stepped home, even scored the preemptive final score. Thanks to Kim Ha-sung’s performance, San Diego defeated Miami 4-0 and maintained 4th place in the National League West (61-67).
Until this day, Kim Ha-seong has played in 123 games of the season, recording a batting average of 0.280 (118 hits in 422 bats), 17 homers, 49 RBIs, 28 stolen bases, and an OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) of 0.816. He runs 14th in the National League in batting average and 5th in steals.
Compared to last year, this is a huge improvement. Ha-seong Kim hit 11 homers with a batting average of 0.251 last season. He improved his batting average by three pennies this season, and his home run already surpassed last year’s record. Compared to his 0.202 batting average and 8 homers in the 2021 season, his MLB debut season, it is a complete transformation.
There has never been a successful case of an Asian infielder in the MLB. Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, and Shin-soo Choo who have succeeded on the American stage are all outfielders. Infielders such as Kazuo Matsui, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and Hiroyuki Nakajima, all of whom are considered to be the best in Japan, have vigorously challenged the MLB, but all have tasted bitterness.
When a batter hits the ball of a major league pitcher whose fastball velocity is over 150 km on average, the batting speed increases by that much. Moreover, MLB hitters are big and strong, so they fly into the infield much faster than batted balls in Korean or Japanese professional baseball. Asian infielders need to catch and throw faster and have a strong arm to handle these balls.
So far, Asian infielders have faced these limitations and failed, but Kim Ha-seong was different. This is evident when looking at the contribution to victory (WAR) compared to substitute players, which is an important indicator for evaluating the value of recent players.
According to Baseball Reference, an MLB statistics site, Ha-sung Kim’s current defensive WAR is 2.0, ranking second overall in MLB after Wander Franco (Tampa Bay Rays). Offensive WAR is 4.4, ranking 8th overall. The fielder’s WAR, which combines offense and defense, is 6.0, the fourth highest. Shohei Ohtani (LA Angels, 9.4), Mookie Betts (LA Dodgers, 6.5), and Ronald Acuna Jr. (Atlanta Braves, 6.2) are only three players with a higher WAR than Ha-seong Kim.
Ha-seong Kim was ranked third in the MLB shortstop Gold Glove last season, and his defensive skills were already recognized. His offensive power has also improved this season, and he easily beats the fastballs of MLB pitchers. In particular, MLB’s first home run against Ryan Weathers in the game against Miami on the 22nd, and the 17th cannon of the season, was a fast ball reaching 96.6 miles (155 km) per hour.
Kim Ha-seong, who is currently recording 17 home runs and 28 steals, will join the ’20 home runs-20 steals’ club if he adds three more home runs. It is the second feat for a Korean major leaguer after Choo Shin-soo. If you add only two stolen bases to this, the first Korean ’20 home runs – 30 stolen bases’ is also possible. In terms of his defensive metric, he is also the closest to a Gold Glove for a National League second baseman. Both in name and reality, Kim Ha-seong is evolving from an offensive player to a top-notch major league infielder.