“Bae is a black hole in the lineup,” “He’s virtually a negative player.”
The harsh words were directed at Bae, 24, Pittsburgh Pirates, after a hot start to the season. His biggest weapon, his quick feet, were taken away and he reflected, “My biggest challenge is to know when to use my feet and when not to use my feet.”
Ironically, Bae’s batting stats for the month of May make you wonder if the criticism is even warranted.
On May 27 (KST), Bae started at second base in the eighth spot in the lineup against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, Washington, USA, and went 2-for-4 with a double, a run scored, and a strikeout.
A batting black hole? Bae Ji-hwan’s bat is hot in May
His ninth multi-hit game of the season raised his batting average from 0.264 to 0.271. In May alone, his batting average was a whopping .302 (16 for 53).
The public’s reaction to Bae’s performance last month was overwhelming. His quick feet allowed him to steal 11 bases with only one error, and he impressed on defense with a super catch. At the plate, he hit a game-winning home run, and some people were starting to see him as the future of Pittsburgh.
In mid-March, local outlet Pittsburgh Baseball Now criticized Bae, calling him a “black hole in the middle third of the order” and saying that while he made up for his lack of power with his base running, his stolen base rate had dropped since May.
The next day, Bae responded with a three-hit, four-strikeout game to lead his team to victory. The next day, Bae continued to produce hits, including a 150-kilometer sinker to left field and a 161-kilometer bullet to second base in the top of the seventh inning. A high bat speed indicates power and accuracy, which means that if these metrics continue, there is a greater chance of a hit. Bae’s blast gave Pittsburgh an 11-6 victory and pulled them within half a game of the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers.
Troubled baserunning and defense, but the future is still bright
However, May was a month of stolen bases and poor defense. In contrast to April, May saw four stolen bases while adding three more. He also made a few unnecessary baserunning plays. 메이저놀이터
The rebound at the plate is a welcome one. Again, he used his quick feet to steal second base on what could have been a single. When Bae has a hit that isn’t a walk, he’s much more likely to advance a base than other players. That’s because he has quick feet, ranking in the top 3% in the majors this season according to Statcast.
“If it’s wrong, you teach it, and it doesn’t happen again,” said manager Derek Selton, “and it’s our job to teach them what’s a good opportunity and what’s not.”
There’s also the defense. On the 22nd, the Pittsburgh Prospects pointed out the team’s thin defense, saying, “You have to go all the way down to the 88th spot to find Bae (in the defensive metrics rankings),” and “Overall, Bae is actually a negative player at three positions.”
However, it’s important to note that Bae is a utility player. Bae has played a total of 325⅔ innings on defense this season. He’s played the most innings at second base (173), but he’s also played 128 in center field. 24 innings at shortstop. If Bae had perfect defense, it’s likely he would have settled into one position. On the other hand, there are no clear-cut players in that position, which is why Bae has played multiple positions depending on the team’s needs.
It’s unreasonable to expect a utility player to be so complete. However, players like Bae stand out because they give coaches more options. That’s why Bae was able to start 46 of the team’s 50 games.
This is Bae’s first time playing full-time in the big leagues. Naturally, there will be many failures. There’s no denying Bae’s talent in the field or on the bases. However, some have pointed out his lack of judgment and experience. This is something that can be improved with practice and experience. That”s why it”s important to look at the upward trend in his batting rather than his defense and fielding.