“He’s gone from bench player two years ago to most valuable player”
The San Diego Padres’ Ha-Sung Kim is having his best season since joining the major leagues this year. Signed to a 4+1 year, $39 million contract ahead of the 2021 season, Kim struggled with the fastball from major league pitchers in his rookie year, hitting .202 with 54 hits, eight home runs, 34 RBIs, 27 runs scored and a .622 OPS in 117 games. He was in the starting lineup at the beginning of the season, but as time went on, he spent more and more time on the bench.바카라
However, it didn’t take long for Kim to adjust to the major leagues. He filled the void left by the loss of starting shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. to wrist surgery and a suspension for taking a banned substance. In 150 games last year, Kim hit .251 with 130 hits, 11 home runs, 59 RBIs, 58 runs scored, 12 doubles, and a .708 OPS, and his defence earned him a Gold Glove finalist for the National League shortstop award.
After being an indispensable “presence” in San Diego last year, Kim has been fully integrated into the lineup this year. San Diego’s offseason free-agent acquisition of Xander Bogaerts created competition at shortstop. However, the Padres opted to move Jake Cronenwirth from second base to first base and give Kim a shot at second base rather than keep him as a backup.
As of the end of the game on the 20th, Kim has played in 91 games with 80 hits, 11 home runs, 33 RBI, 49 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, and a .264 OPS of .768. At this pace, he’s on pace for a career-high, and could even become the first Asian infielder to join the 20-homer, 20-steal club. His defence has been nothing short of stellar. Kim is currently at the top of most defensive metrics for second basemen in the National League. He could even win a Gold Glove this year.
In addition to his defensive prowess, which is worthy of any accolade, Kim has also been making significant strides offensively lately. Until the middle of the season, Kim was batting in the bottom of the San Diego order. However, since the middle of the season, he’s been given the leadoff role, and he’s excelled in it. His 4.41 pitches per at-bat are the highest in the majors, which means he’s doing a good job of harassing all pitchers, including opposing starters.
To see how well he’s performing, look no further than his Wins Above Replacement (WAR). According to Baseball Reference, a highly position-adjusted US baseball statistical site, Kim’s bWAR of 4.5 is the highest on the team. It’s even higher than Fernando Tatis Jr. (4.0), who is second on the team. His fWAR on FanGraphs ranks third (3.2), behind Tatis Jr. (3.6) and Juan Soto (3.3).
As Kim continues to improve, the local media has been raving about him. The road to his current position was not a smooth one. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, “In the first year, every day I was thinking about the day, focusing on the day, thinking about tomorrow, because there were so many things I had to adapt to. It was a learning process for me. I was just busy trying to get through the day, and it was really hard,” he said.
Today, Kim has become an integral part of the San Diego community. “After batting .200 two years ago, Kim has gone from a bench player to the Padres’ most valuable player this season,” the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote, “The fact that this is being talked about means that San Diego is lacking in production, but that doesn’t take away from what he’s done.”
The media also provided an indication of how well Kim is doing. “His adjusted wRC+ of 116 is third on the team behind Soto (147) and Tatis Jr. (136),” the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote. His fWAR of 3.1 is third behind Tatis Jr. (3.6) and Soto (3.3), thanks to playing some of the best defence in the majors (second, third and shortstop).” “He’s also batting .282 (13-for-46) on balls over 95 mph (153 km/h).”
The San Diego Union-Tribune went on to say, “Kim wasn’t where he was supposed to be as a rookie, but he has become the player the Padres hoped he would be when they signed him to a four-year, $28 million contract,” adding, “The biggest development has been his patience and poise. As one of San Diego’s smartest and most disciplined players, he feels more comfortable, confident and aggressive when facing the best pitchers in the world.”
“I try to stay aggressive until two strikes, and then I try to be more aggressive after that,” Kim told the media. This is my third year, so I think the experience of the past two years has helped me,” he said. “When I turned pro, I wanted to be a hitter who could get a lot of walks without striking out, and that was my goal as a hitter. As I gained experience in Korea, I became that player to a certain extent, and I’m trying to do the same thing here,” he said, revealing the mindset he approaches every game.
There is still a big gap between Kim’s hitting stats in the KBO and his current performance. This is because there is a difference in level between the leagues. However, even in the major leagues, Kim has shown growth every year. He’s still a great player, but he’s becoming more valuable as time goes on.
[Kim Ha-seong of the San Diego Padres. Photo = Getty Images Korea].