When Ha Sung Kim (28, San Diego Padres) entered Major League Baseball (MLB), many expected him to succeed, but few could have imagined that his talents would be valued more for his defense than his hitting.
Last year, Kim was a finalist for the National League (NL) Gold Glove at shortstop, but this season, he’s moved to second base, where his defensive value is still highly regarded.
The American media outlet The Athletic reported on Friday that Kim could win the Gold Glove. They said that despite San Diego’s inconsistent hitting, the team is consistent on defense, and Kim is at the center of that.
The Gold Glove is awarded to the 20 best defensive players in MLB, 10 at each position and one utility player, in both leagues. The winners are determined by a combination of votes from the managers and coaching staffs of the 30 clubs (75%) and a defensive index developed by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) (SDI-25%).
Last year, Kim was one of three finalists for NL shortstop, but was edged out by Dansby Swanson (Chicago Cubs).
This year, with Xander Bogaerts entrenched at shortstop, Kim has moved to second base and is still playing one of the best defenses in the league. The Athletic cites the fact that despite playing three positions, he has the highest DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) of 13 and OAA (Outs Above Average) of 5, which is second on the team behind Bogaerts (7).
“When he signed with San Diego, he was initially touted for his offensive potential, but he could become the first Korean player to win the big league’s top defensive award,” the publication said. “At first, I never thought I would be a Gold Glover here,” Kim said, “but as I entered my third year, I started to realize that I could win awards. If you work hard, the rewards will come,” he said.
His teammates, who play on the same team as him, feel the same way. “It doesn’t matter where he is, he wants to be the best defender he can be,” said Manny Machado, a two-time Gold Glove winner and a close friend of Kim’s. “It’s a completely different environment than what he’s used to, but he kept trying to embrace it. He’s trying to be the best and he’s learning from both of them (the defense coach and Machado), but in the end it comes from him, and that’s what he wants.”
Machado expressed doubt that Kim did not receive a Gold Glove last year. “The award goes to certain people because of what they’ve done 안전놀이터 in the past, not because of what the numbers show,” he said, adding that he’s hopeful that “this will definitely be his year.”
Earlier, San Diego head coach Bob Melvin echoed Machado’s excitement. “It’s really amazing. He’s used to playing shortstop, but now he looks like a golden boy at second base,” he said, adding, “There aren’t a lot of guys who have only played second base who can make plays like he did today.”
Kim also expressed his satisfaction with playing second base. One of the reasons is that he doesn’t have to make as many throws as he would at shortstop, so he can make throws from any position, which gives him more range on defense.
“It took a while for him to get comfortable,” Melvin said, but the team’s internal defensive metrics on Kim are as favorable as DRS.
Ichiro Suzuki (Japan-Outfielder) is the only player from Asia to win an MLB Gold Glove. Narrowing it down to infielders, there was not a single one. Last year, Kim Hae-sung became the first Asian player to be nominated. Kim is on a mission to make history in Asian baseball.