Kim Ha-seong (28, San Diego) is a force to be reckoned with for San Diego. He’s a big hitter, especially in the early innings when it matters the most. In recent years, he’s become increasingly important to the team’s success by hitting long balls in the first inning.
That was the case against Miami at Petco Park in San Diego, California, on April 24, when Miami started last year’s Cy Young Award winner, right-hander Sandy Alcantara, who has recently rebounded from an early-season slump. Any team that scores first has a better chance of winning the game, and San Diego needed to score first against Alcantara to take the game to their favor.
Leading the way was Kim Ha-seong. In the top of the first inning, with the score tied at 0-0, he got a hit, a long one. Alcantara’s three-pitch slider was driven up the middle, and Kim swung hard and smashed a two-run double to left field. It was the go-ahead run.
When the next batter, Tatis Jr. hit a grounder to third, Kim made a deceptive move in center field and ended up running the gap to third. The expected value of runners on first and second and first and third is quite different. This is because it is the difference between scoring a run without a hit, such as a ground ball or an outfield fly ball. The pitcher’s pitch mix is also different. In the end, Kim scored the final run of the game when Soto singled to right field.
Against Miami on April 22, Kim opened the scoring with a long ball in the first inning. With the score tied at 0-0, Kim led off the inning with a single up the middle from Ryan Weathers. It wasn’t a great pitch, but it was on a good course. After seeing the pitch and knowing it was a hit, Kim sprinted around first base and stole second. He was in scoring position. A walk to Tatis Jr. and a double steal a batter later loaded the bases, and San Diego scored the winning run on Machado’s sacrifice fly.
In the second inning, Ha-Sung Kim continued his hot streak, hitting his first major league home run. In his first two at-bats, Kim’s hot bat ultimately led to the team’s victory.
Home runs are the symbol of power, and stolen bases are the symbol of power. Second base requires a combination of bat and foot. This season, only six players in the major leagues have hit a home run, a double, and a stolen base in the same game, including Kim. He is the only one whose home run was a grand slam. It’s a record that may or may not be repeated in the league this season.
Even though the team lost, he set the tone for the game against Arizona on the 20th with a home run in his first at-bat. Kim is no longer just a leadoff man. He has become a very important player who can make or break a team.
If his numbers are any indication, Kim is proving to be the perfect leadoff hitter. In San Diego, where the team is loaded with big hitters, Kim was usually batting lower in the order. But when those hitters struggled, manager Bob Melvin started using him in the leadoff spot on June 23. At the time, Kim’s batting average was slowly improving. At first, it may have been a strategy to make the most of a player with a good bat and move on.
However, Kim’s batting power shined more in the leadoff spot, and he became a player who didn’t need to be removed from the lineup, as he was getting hits, walks, and even long balls. He was an ideal leadoff hitter because he had a good batting average and quick feet. Kim has started every game he’s played from July through August so far.
His leadoff performance is among the best in the league. In 53 games in the leadoff spot this year, Kim is batting .298 with a .392 on-base percentage, 11 home runs, and an OPS of .897. As a leadoff hitter, he has nearly a 4% on-base percentage. Only four players with more than 200 plate appearances as a leadoff hitter this season have a higher OPS than Kim: Ronald Acuña Jr. (Atlanta, 0.419), Luis Arajes (Miami, 0.415), Yandy Diaz (Tampa Bay, 0.407), and Mookie Betts (Los Angeles Dodgers, 0.399).안전놀이터
Melvin, a 1496-game major league veteran, was surprised by Kim’s decision to start him in the leadoff spot. “He scores runs, he gets big hits, he gets on base,” Melvin told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “He understands what’s required in the leadoff spot. He also plays as good a defense as anyone in the game. He has become a very good player.” Melvin praised Kim’s transformation into a leadoff hitter.
Melvin is hopeful that Kim’s performance will continue, and that it can lead to even better things. “I think the better he plays, the more confident he is in his beliefs (in the major leagues),” Melvin said. Kim has become a highly regarded player.