Although he is somewhat stagnant in the fall, Ha-seong Kim (28, San Diego Padres)’s 2023 season is still highly evaluated.
On the 28th (Korean time), the American media outlet The Athletic selected the most improved player this season for each of the 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) teams and mentioned the name of Kim Ha-seong in San Diego.
The media first pointed out Ha-seong Kim’s recent slump. He appeared in 148 games this season and achieved a batting average of 0.261, 17 home runs, 59 RBIs, 83 runs, 36 stolen bases, and an OPS of 0.754. Most of his batting average and OPS showed improvement compared to last year. However, he appeared in 18 games in September and achieved a batting average of 0.162 (12 hits in 74 at-bats), 0 home runs, 7 RBIs, 7 runs, 7 stolen bases, and an OPS of 0.442.
The media that mentioned Kim Ha-seong’s recent records said, “Because of his sluggish performance in September, Kim Ha-seong’s OPS only increased by 0.046 compared to last year (0.708 → 0.754).” However, the media predicted, “Despite Kim Ha-seong’s fall in September, his WAR (contribution to victory compared to replacement) based on FanGraphs will be more than 4.” Ha-seong Kim is recording an fWAR of 4.1 as of the 28th, and according to FanGraphs, he is classified as an All-Star level player with a WAR of 4 to 5.
The media said, “Kim Ha-seong is an above-average defender who plays all infield positions,” and specifically mentioned the fact that Kim Ha-seong’s defensive index OAA (Outs Above Average, 0 is the league average) of 8 is in the top 6%. However, defense has already been consistently recognized as Kim Ha-seong’s strength since his major league debut. So what areas have improved?
The first thing the media picked was base running. Ha-Seong Kim’s attempts to steal bases have steadily increased. Ha-seong Kim, who recorded 6 stolen bases and 1 failure in 2021, attempted to double the following year with 12 stolen bases and 2 misses. He then succeeded in stealing 36 bases this year, which ranks 5th in the National League. He was the first Korean and the first Asian infielder to steal more than 30 bases. He tripled his stolen base record in one year.안전놀이터
It’s not just this. The media explained, “Kim Ha-seong has developed the ability to pick out the ball at the plate.” Ha-seong Kim’s career walk rate per at-bat was 9.8%, which was higher than the league average (8.5%) during the same period. Last year, he also recorded a respectable score of 8.8%. However, he surpassed the average this year, recording a whopping 12.1%. The media said, “Kim Ha-seong is currently recording an on-base percentage of 0.353,” and compared it to his rookie season record (0.270). He can see that he has improved over the past two years.
Although he was once listed as an MVP candidate, Kim Ha-seong’s performance has been steadily declining due to bad news in September. He showed that he was physically exhausted, and he also confessed, “The season is really, really long. I’m grinding it out” (San Diego Union-Tribune interview on the 14th). In addition, prior to the game against Oakland on the 18th, he complained of unexplained abdominal pain and missed 4 games.
However, Kim Ha-seong’s performance this season has been consistently receiving favorable reviews. MLB.com, the official Major League Baseball website, also selected Kim Ha-seong as the most improved player in San Diego this season. The media said, “Kim Ha-seong has grown into an elite leadoff player,” and “Defensively, it is believed that there is no player in San Diego who is better than him. Although he mainly played at second base, he also played at shortstop and third base to fill the void due to injuries to his teammates. He praised his versatility, saying, “I played wherever I needed to.”
In addition, columnist Jim Borden, who previously served as general manager of the Cincinnati Reds, selected 20 players who had a so-called breakout season who made a big leap forward in the major league in the 2023 season through The Athletic, and placed Ha-seong Kim in 5th place. Borden commented on Ha-sung Kim’s unexpected performance, saying, “If I had told you during spring training that Ha-sung Kim would have a higher WAR than Manny Machado or Xander Bogaerts this year, who would have believed me?”
The American media outlet San Diego Union-Tribune said, “Ha-sung Kim was one of the most stable players in San Diego throughout the season. Even as the team went through ups and downs, he was consistent in his performance throughout. Ha-sung Kim’s appearance this season is a testament to the San Diego franchise.” “It was a good sign,” he said.