Swinging at pitches outside the zone? There’s a reason you don’t see it in ‘ML TOP 7’ Kim Ha-Sung’s games.

Kim Ha-Sung (29, San Diego Padres) was once again limited by his nagging fastball problem. But he also showed why he has remained a major league starter despite his limitations.

Starting in the seventh spot and at shortstop, Kim went 1-for-5 with a home run, a run scored, and three strikeouts in the Padres’ 2023 Major League Baseball (MLB) home game against the Seattle Mariners at Petco Park in San Diego, California, on Monday (Aug. 8).

He broke his hitless streak in the seventh inning with a single to left off KBO alum Chris Flexen. It was a 91.5-mile-per-hour (147.3-kilometer-per-hour) fastball, and in his next at-bat, he took an 84.5-mile-per-hour (136-kilometer-per-hour) cutter from Flexen and lined it straight to the shortstop, but the pitch itself wasn’t bad.

The problem was his first three at-bats against Seattle starter George Kirby (25). Kirby is a hard-throwing pitcher with a fastball that tops out at 99 miles per hour. On this day, he induced 11 swings and misses with a fastball that topped out at 98.2 먹튀검증 mph and averaged 96.9 mph (155.9 km/h). Despite getting knocked around early by the San Diego Padres, allowing five runs on 11 hits (one home run) with three walks and five strikeouts in 3⅔ innings, Kim was strong.

Both of his strikeouts on the day were against Kim. He struck out Kim on a fastball clocked at 96.4 miles per hour (155.1 kilometers per hour) in the second inning and 96.6 miles per hour (155.4 kilometers per hour) in the third. Matt Brash, who came on after Kirby, was also a hard-throwing pitcher with a fastball that topped out at 98.8 miles per hour (159 km/h). Kim faced Brash in the fifth inning and was quickly hit by a fastball, drawing a 2-strike, 0-ball unfavorable pitch count.

Kim’s weakness against fastballs is nothing new. Even before he reached the major leagues, Kim’s ability to handle fastballs was seen as a key to his success, and it has been a consistent problem over the past two years. Recognizing this, Kim has been working with a personal hitting coach since the beginning of the year, Lee Jung-hoo (25, Kiwoom Heroes), to revise his batting form, but he has yet to see any significant results.

The recurring problem is frustrating because he has been able to perform above league average even when he can’t handle fastballs, which is how he landed in the major leagues as a starting infielder. This year, Kim is hitting above league average with a .246 batting average, five home runs, 19 doubles, 24 RBIs, 11 runs scored, a .340 on-base percentage, a .383 slugging percentage, a .723 OPS, and a wRC+ of 105 in 58 games. That’s not to mention his defense, which is considered a strong National League second baseman Gold Glove candidate, and his fan-favorite on-base ability.

Despite his inability to handle hard-hitting pitches, he’s still a starter in the outfield. This season, Kim ranks in the top 19% of the major leagues in strikeout rate and top 27% in whiff rate, according to Statcast. His rate of swinging at balls in play is extremely low, ranking in the top 9% in the majors.

In particular, Kim has swung at pitches outside the strike zone 28 times this season, which is tied for sixth in the majors with Stephen Kwan (Cleveland). Kwan is a player who has been praised for his ability to make contact with pitches, as he was in contention for the batting title upon his debut last year. That’s why you don’t see a lot of ridiculous swings in Kim’s game. Even though he struck out three times today, he let six of the nine pitches he saw out of the zone go by.

That’s why he’s performing above major league average against fastballs (batting average: .221), but he’s also picking his pitches well, hitting breaking balls (batting average: .292), and not getting fooled by pitches outside the strike zone. If he can work on his fastball command, he could combine that with his other strengths to take him to the next level.

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