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Hyun Soo Kim is proving his doubters wrong

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Left for dead after Spring Training, Hyun-Soo Kim is showing he can handle major-league pitching.

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles

"Thundering power".

Brooks Baseball uses this phrase to describe Hyun-Soo Kim's results on fastballs and offspeed pitches in 2016. That's because through Sunday's game, Kim is hitting .478/.538/.522 with a 211 wRC+. He's destroying everything in sight, or at least hitting a lot of singles, prompting a discussion about whether to start him over Joey "Boy Wonder" Rickard.

Most have forgotten his awful Spring Training, the "will he make the major league club?" soap opera, and the boos that greeted his introduction on Opening Day.

Now, Kim isn't this good. His slash line makes him look Bonds-ian, but then you realize his .524 BABIP is a mirage. No one is that good or lucky. Plus, he's had only a week's worth of plate appearances despite the fact that we're in May. For him it's still appropriate to yell "small sample size!"

But hidden in this noise are signs of a competent hitter. First, Kim has a steady approach at the plate. He lays off pitches outside the zone and makes contact when swinging:

Because of this approach, Kim's walked more than the average hitter while striking out much less:

These metrics, more than anything else, show why fans should have hope for Kim. Strikeout and walk rates are useful indicators of offensive performance that stabilize early in a season. Kim is halfway to that point and all signs are encouraging.

His ratio is 1.5, which is the elite of the elite. Since 2010 only one qualified hitter has exceeded that mark: Victor Martinez in his runner-up-MVP season of 2014 had a BB/K ratio of 1.670. No one else has cracked 1.42.

bbk correlation woba

BB/K meaningfully relates to a hitter's wOBA. The former explains .027 of the latter. That's the difference between a .289 wOBA and .316, between .312 and .339, and between .330 and .357.

Again: Kim may not finish the season at this level. But he's had a great start.

In addition to his batting eye, or maybe because of it, Kim hits the ball hard. Among players with at least 10 batted balls this season, Kim's average exit velocity of 92.8 MPH sits between that of Mike Moustakas and Anthony Rizzo. That's good company. It's also faster than the exit velocities of Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Pedro Alvarez, and Jonathan Schoop.

But until now, that exit velocity hasn't translated into much power (Brooks Baseball's description notwithstanding). You may not grasp this if you look at his slugging percentage (SLG); after all, a mark of .522 is very good. But because of how SLG is calculated, it hides the fact that he's had only one extra-base hit. SLG is defined as total bases per at-bat, so Kim's singles add up.

Instead of SLG, look at Kim's isolated power (ISO), which is a poor .056. ISO removes singles from the equation, revealing that Kim's singles-heavy result set. Babe Ruth he is not. Ruth certainly didn't hit seven ground balls for every fly ball like Kim's doing. That ratio will depress anyone's power output.

Here is that aforementioned extra-base hit. It came against Matt Latos in a 2-0 count with the Orioles trailing by a run:

Granted, Jose Abreu kinda muffed it. But he had little time to react because Kim hit it so hard. And granted, Latos missed his spot. But he was behind in the count (thanks to Kim's discipline) in a one-run game. He had to throw a strike.

Kim may not ever hit 20 home runs in a season. He may not hit 15. But if he maintains his eye for the strike zone, he'll not only take walks, but also get pitches to slap down the line. He's not Babe Ruth, but he also isn't Ben Revere.

Spring Training is over. Kim is on the major league roster. The Opening Day boos are fading into the distance. With a little more playing time, all three struggles will be forgotten.